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Two brave men recreate Harry Styles’ controversial Vogue shoot by wearing dresses in New York City

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Harry Styles made history this month as Vogue‘s first ever solo male cover star in the magazine’s 127-year history – but the achievement took a back seat to the controversy surrounding the ruffly blue dress he sported on the front of the publication, and the other skirts and gowns he donned for his shoot inside its pages. 

Following the magazine’s release, right-wing commentator Candace Owens blasted the gender-neutral shoot, warning that it represents the ‘steady feminization of our men’, while calling for a return of ‘manly’ guys.   

Ben Shapiro, another right-wing commentator, agreed with Owens, writing on Twitter: ‘The POINT of Styles doing this photo shoot is to feminize masculinity.’

Further criticism poured in on both sides of the Atlantic, with DailyMail.com’s editor-at-large Piers Morgan saying the shoot was ‘all a bit weird’, prompting others to leap to Harry’s defense, with actress Olivia Wilde branding Owens ‘pathetic’.

So, do people really care if a guy wears a dress, and more crucially – does it really make you less of a man?

DailyMailTV’s AJ Cataldi and commercial strategy director Chaz Meabon took to the streets of New York wearing frocks inspired by Harry’s shoot to find out once and for all…    

Recreation: Two brave men, including DailyMailTV’s AJ Cataldi (left), stepped out onto the streets of New York City in dresses in order to see how they felt about wearing the kind of look modeled by Harry Styles on the cover of Vogue (right) 

Nothing to see here! AJ found that most people walked past him without so much as shooting an inquiring stare in his direction, and many were totally unfazed to see a man walking around in a dress 

Confusion: His blue ASOS ball gown, which was inspired by the dress worn by Harry, 26, on his Vogue cover, attracted a few questioning looks, but for the most part, people didn’t seem surprised to see a man walking around in a dress 

‘Empowered’: Despite attracting some stares, AJ said that he felt emboldened by his dress and Desigual blazer look, noting that he felt as though he was proving to members of the public that men can wear whatever they want and still be ‘normal’ 

AJ CATALDI, SENIOR PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR AT DAILYMAILTV 

Personally, I am all for men wearing dresses in public. I think in today’s society, people are becoming increasingly influenced by what they see on magazine covers, Instagram, Twitter, and all other forms of social media, and guys adding dresses into their daily wardrobes is something we are seeing more and more.

Living in New York City, it’s certainly something that I have witness becoming more common; whether they are male, female, or non-binary, most people in the Big Apple dress however they want, for the most part. The culture here in in the city is more open to playing around with fashion and gender identity, and the truth is ‘we’re all born naked and the rest is drag’, as RuPaul would say. 

I myself haven’t ever chosen to wear a gown in everyday life before – although I did wear a dress out in public one Halloween, when I dressed up as Katy Perry in a grey sequined design, with a blue and black wig and sparkly heels. I certainly wouldn’t wear the heels again, and the outfit I chose was far more revealing than the blue Harry-inspired dress I wore today, but it didn’t put me off the concept of guys ‘dress’-ing up at all.   

My biggest concern before I changed out of my jeans and T-shirt, and slipped on the tulle number I was given to model was that the design wouldn’t fit properly. Despite more and more men wearing dresses these days, they still aren’t really tailored to a more masculine physique. 

Once I got it on however, I was pretty surprised. Despite some gaping in the chest area, the fit wasn’t bad, and adding a tuxedo jacket over the top made it look slightly less in-your-face. Even more surprising was the number of compliments I received while walking around the office; more than one person said the dress was incredibly flattering, and several colleagues said I looked better than ever. 

I wasn’t overly thrilled with the lack of pockets. I’m used to wearing jeans everyday that come ready with several places for me to store my phone, my keys, my wallet, and this outfit was woefully lacking in that kind of handy storage. 

Hello? AJ said that he was surprised by just how little people seemed to care about his look, and admitted that he actually tried to catch the attention of those around him at one point, just to see if he could elicit some kind of reaction 

Moving on: ‘Candace Owens may have found some like-minded critics on social media, but here in New York, it seems like those people are very much in the minority,’ AJ said of the right-wing commentator’s criticism of Harry’s Vogue shoot

Future: AJ added that he was surprised how many people in the Daily Mail offices actually complimented his dress, with some even going as far as to point out how flattering the style was on him 

Wardrobe addition: ‘For my part, I would absolutely consider wearing a dress like that again, maybe for a party of some sort. It gave me confidence to be totally honest,’ AJ said, pointing out that New Yorkers are largely unfussed by such looks

The Harry Styles’ Vogue photoshoot controversy 

Harry Styles Vogue cover shoot caused outrage among right-wing commentators.   

Candace Owens took umbrage to the singer’s shoot on Saturday, writing: ‘There is no society that can survive without strong men … bring back manly men.’ 

She called the photos a ‘steady feminization of our men’ in a thread of tweets on Monday morning.  

She later doubled-down after her tweet went viral.  

‘Since I’m trending I’d like to clarify what I meant when I said ‘bring back manly men,’ she wrote in response to the backlash Monday. ‘I meant: Bring back manly men.

Candace Owens has doubled down on her criticism of Harry Styles, renewing her calls to ‘bring back manly men’ after she slammed the former One Direction star for wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue over the weekend

‘Terms like ‘toxic masculinity’, were created by toxic females. Real women don’t do fake feminism,’ she continued. ‘Sorry I’m not sorry.’

Many hit back at Owens, with Olivia Wilde branding her ‘pathetic’. 

Ben Shapiro, another US-based right-wing commentator, agreed with Owens, writing on Twitter:  ‘The POINT of Styles doing this photo shoot is to feminize masculinity. 

‘Otherwise why would it be headline-worthy for Styles to don a dress?’

He went on to say: ‘Pretending that men dressing like women does not feminize men is ridiculous, particularly coming from the same people who are celebrating Styles BECAUSE he is feminising masculinity. 

Piers Morgan branded the dress ‘weird’ during a debate segment on Good Morning Britain following Owens’ comments.     

‘I’m not saying I’m against it, I’m not saying I’m for it, I’m just saying it’s all a bit weird,’ the journalist said. 

His co-host Susanna Reid objected that women could wear trousers, Morgan added: ‘But Harry Styles looks weird here, it’s all a bit weird. He’s not going to go out for dinner like this.’ 

Piers continued: ‘He’s pushing the boundaries of fashion. The question is, some women say he looks great – how many women would like it if their husband turned up for dinner in a dress? That’s the question.’    

Even the blazer, which I’m told was part of a gender-neutral collection, only had one very small pocket that served only as a place to keep my hand warm, rather than a place to keep my belongings.  

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stepped out onto the street, but being a born-and-bred New Yorker, I was fairly certain that my outfit wouldn’t cause too much of a stir; people in this city are accustomed to seeing far stranger sights than a man strolling along the sidewalk in a ballgown. 

I wasn’t worried about people staring, in fact I encouraged it. I wanted to see what people thought about my choice of outfit, and whether I really was going to cause the outrage and upset that we saw on social media in response to Harry’s Vogue shoot. 

As it turned out, I got even less attention than I had been expecting. Other than the occasional double take from passersby, nobody really seemed concerned or even surprised by the dress, and most people walked straight past me without giving my outfit so much as a glance. 

There were a few yells in my direction, and one guy told me he ‘liked my dress’, but other than that, people didn’t seem very fazed by my look.  

When people did stare I felt like it gave me the opportunity to prove that because I was in a dress, and I am a man, what I choose to wear doesn’t define my gender in its entirety. I felt the more people that looked at me, the more people I could show that gender isn’t based off what kind of clothes you have on your back. 

All in all, I didn’t feel any different than if I was in my everyday attire of jeans and a sweater, although it was definitely harder to walk around in a long dress; I had to hitch it up around my knees to get over a patch of water on the sidewalk at one point, which is not an issue I’ve ever had while wearing pants. 

But, if anything, I felt uplifted by the idea of wearing a dress in public. It gave me a chance to show people that what I wear doesn’t define my gender, sexuality, or masculinity. 

The experience showed me that – at least here in New York – people aren’t concerned with what you wear. 

At one point while out and about, I passed two guys doing a photoshoot in the middle of the street wearing mini skirts and high heels, and twirling umbrellas in the air. Most people strolled right on by without flashing so much as a curious look in their direction, and I think that just goes to show that the city is the ideal place for anyone and everyone to experiment with their look. 

Candace Owens may have found some like-minded critics on social media, but here in New York, it seems like those people are very much in the minority. 

The reactions of ‘woke’ New Yorkers certainly doesn’t represent the opinions of everyone across the country, but calling out Harry so publicly seems unnecessary, and judging by the unimpressed responses of the people I saw out and about in the street, it feels to me like those people are standing on the wrong side of history. 

The issue with that is, when public figures say something and speak out against societal progression, people listen. That’s the message that is being sent to those who feel gender can be defined by what you wear, and that clothing is only male and female.

Listen, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but when you have a massive following I think you need to have to take some responsibility in the message you create. Our society is changing, and going against moving forward with gender norms will only isolate and polarize your audience moving forward as well.  

For my part, I would absolutely consider wearing a dress like that again, maybe for a party of some sort. It gave me confidence to be totally honest. 

I don’t think the question is about normalizing dresses men, I think the bigger question is taking out the societal stigma that gender has specific clothing choices, however someone chooses to dress should not be associated with the gender they identify with. I think that people should wear whatever they feel comfortable with and confident in.  

Over-the-top: Commercial strategy director Chaz Meabon, from Queens, wore a slightly more flamboyant design by Apotts (left), which was inspired by a shot from inside Harry’s Vogue issue (right)

Anyone care? Chaz took a ride on the subway in his orange gown, and said that few people seemed to care that he was wearing such a vibrant ensemble  

Hmmm? Unlike AJ, Chaz’s voluminous dress did prompt more stares and questioning looks, and he admitted that a few people he walked past seemed ‘disgusted’ by the sight of a man wearing a dress 

Compliments: ‘But there were also some who told me, “I love your dress,” and seemed genuinely excited to see a guy rocking such a bold look,’ Chaz revealed 

CHAZ MEABON, COMMERCIAL STRATEGY DIRECTOR 

If you look back at history, some of the articles of clothing that kings, emperors, etc were wearing definitely resembled modern day dresses, so if a man wakes up and feels like picking out a dress and throwing it on to take a stroll down the street or go to brunch, let him be. 

I think it’s awful that anyone can project their opinion on the ‘norms’ or definition of a ‘man/masculine’ on society. 

We are all individuals and are entitled to our own views and opinions. Nobody should feel that they have a right to tell me what I can do – that’s the motto I live by. 

If you don’t like my style, personality, or just me, then that’s your issue. My personal message for Harry is, ‘Thank you for paving the way for every individual who was nervous to be themselves in public.’ 

Unlike AJ, I have actually worn a dress in public before, and the thought of people staring at me has never been something that I’ve allowed to put me off wearing whatever I want to wear. I hate to blend in and get lost in a crowd, especially in New York City, and I ensure I stand out in any way I can, whether it’s with a dress, or with my larger than life personality.  

Bold: The community strategy director admitted that he likes attracting attention, and he wasn’t deterred by the fact that people were staring at him as he walked around Manhattan’s Union Square

Important: ‘At the end of the day, the dress is a great conversation starter – and this is a conversation that we should be having. If a guy wants to wear a gown, what’s to stop him? How does it negatively impact anyone else?’ he said 

Easy breezy: Chaz’s eye-catching gown seemed to draw stares for all kinds of reasons, however he pointed out that New Yorkers are used to seeing more outlandish fashions being modeled in the city  

Hitting back: ‘I think it’s awful that anyone can project their opinion on the ‘norms’ or definition of a ‘man/masculine’ on society,’ Chaz said of the criticism of Harry’s Vogue shoot

The dress that I wore today was certainly eye-catching, and it was interesting to see people’s very different reactions. While AJ’s dress was a bit more subtle, and didn’t really elicit too many stares, the gown that I had on was very hard to miss, and that meant more people ended up staring. But not everyone was staring because they didn’t like the look. 

Sure, there were some perplexed and confused looks, and there were some onlookers who couldn’t hide how disgusted they were to see a man wearing such a flamboyant dress. 

But there were also some who told me, ‘I love your dress,’ and seemed genuinely excited to see a guy rocking such a bold look. 

People staring is never going to stop me from wearing or doing what I want, and in this case I actually enjoyed seeing everyone’s different reactions. At the end of the day, the dress is a great conversation starter – and this is a conversation that we should be having. If a guy wants to wear a gown, what’s to stop him? How does it negatively impact anyone else? 

Harry wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue is just the beginning, and I will gladly support him by rocking my own versions on my Instagram grid in the future.  

And in London… one MailOnline reporter dons his own ruffled blue frock to test how masculine he feels while strolling the streets in a dress 

BY RORY TINGLE FOR MAILONLINE 

While two men tested Harry’s dress look on the streets of the Big Apple, across the pond, MailOnline reporter Rory Tingle took to the streets of London in a frock, to gauge people’s reactions and see how it really feels to adopt feminine style… 

Today I arrived at the office, had a cup of tea, and walked around London wearing a dress. 

Harry Styles, 26, shook up the entertainment world last week by donning a ball gown on the front cover of US Vogue – prompting right-wing pundit Candace Owens to fume ‘bring back manly men’.

She claimed the ‘steady feminisation of men’ represented by Styles’ clothing choice showed modern males could no longer be relied upon as the ‘strong’, dominant sex, and that most people support traditional understandings of gender.

Reporter Rory Tingle (left) modelled a similar dress to the one worn by Harry Styles (right) on the cover of Vogue to find out if the average man really feels ‘weak’ dressed in women’s clothing 

On that basis, it was decided someone would have to put her theory to the test.

Would they feel less of a man going out in a dress? Would it affect their sense of self-worth or how other people perceived them? 

One clumsy outfit change later, I moved down the escalator, blathered an explanation to the baffled security guard, and strode out into a grey Wednesday afternoon.

Waiting briefly by the entrance for the photographer, I steeled myself for the challenge ahead.

My stage was High Street Kensington – the high-end shopping district at the heart of London’s second richest borough.

Lack of pockets aside, the baby blue ball gown was fairly comfortable, ignoring the minor annoyance of having to lift it off the ground while walking over a puddle. 

The same could not be said for the black jacket – modelled on Styles’ Gucci number’ – which was several sizes too tight and cutting into my forearms.

Unbowed, I crossed the road and joined the crowded pavement – glancing up at passers-by to gauge their reaction.

The majority avoided eye contact and stared straight ahead, while others giggled or gave a bemused smile.

The most common reaction was to ask what I was doing (a forensic awareness of pop stars’ clothing choices clearly not being common among the good folk of Kensington).

During his stroll around town in the dress, Rory attracted some baffled glances from builders as well as a few wolf whistles  – and even a marriage proposal 

Sauntering around Kensington Palace, joggers glanced and smartphones emerged from behind palms to take a not-so-subtle photos of Rory

Rory headed out along Kensington High Street, the high-end shopping district at the heart of London’s second richest borough, with many onlookers getting a glance

There was plenty of love out there too.

A ‘nice dress’ here, a ‘you look beautiful’ there, a wolf whistle from a passing truck driver – and what I took to be a marriage proposal.

Buoyed by the praise, I popped into the local M&S to browse the selection of seasonal knitwear before treating myself to a hot drink from a cafe.

My next call was High Street Kensington Tube station, where I tapped in at the gate and got on the next eastbound Circle Line train.  

At Gloucester Road I encountered the only bit of marginal hostility, with an elderly man asking ‘Are those your normal clothes’, before rolling his eyes when I said yes.

(My cover was maintained).

I walked down the road to Kensington Palace Gardens.

Sauntering around Prince William and Kate Middleton’s stomping ground, joggers glanced and smartphones emerged from behind palms to take not-so-subtle photos.

It was now time to re-enact the Styles cover shoot, so I traipsed up a muddy hill – feeling not entirely cover material – and did my best impression ready for the money shot.

Instructed to ‘look powerful’ by the photographer, I puffed out my chest, lifted my head slightly and stared at the lens, trying not to grimace.

A snap of the lens and a satisfied nod. 

Right-wing pundit Candace Owens fumed that we need to ‘bring back manly men’, after seeing Harry Styles in a series of dresses, which inspired Rory’s look 

The first reactions were muted – the odd glance or a sly snap on a camera phone – and most people didn’t give him a second look at the tube station 

Rory is pictured on the underground wearing his tiered blue dress with a blazer and face mask, most people on the tube didn’t give him a second look

My work was done.

So what did I learn? Apart from how difficult it is to change into a ball gown inside a cramped gents’ cubicle…

Firstly, that while Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro might be outraged about men wearing dresses, most people really aren’t bothered.

Yes, one man rolled his eyes, but otherwise the reaction ranged from mild amusement and playful banter to complete indifference.

Other people were just intrigued and asked me what was going on.

No surprises there – this is 2020 and we are in liberal London.

And of course, men wearing women’s clothes isn’t exactly that revolutionary – who could forget the stunning Mandy (played by Terry Jones) in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. ‘He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!’

What about me… could dressing up as a pound-shop Styles be the start of something greater?

I might not have felt a sudden surge of elation or power, and yes, it was a pretty bizarre and sometimes awkward experience. No finding a new ‘me’ then.  

Did I feel as manly as I would in my normal outfit? Well, no, but I suspect that’s not the point.

There are probably more reliable ways to demonstrate your masculinity than dressing up in a flowing, three-tier ball gown.

I certainly didn’t feel weak or ‘unstable’ as Owens suggests cross-dressers tend to be.

That said, I’ll be sticking with a shirt and chinos for now…

Unless Vogue comes calling. 

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