Love On Tour: How Harry Styles’ biggest fans turned his concerts into personal fashion shows
On Saturday night, the streets of New York will be filled to the brim with costumed faces ready to celebrate the weekend of Halloween in their best finery. But outside of Madison Square Garden, almost 21,000 artfully-dressed Harry Styles fans will clog the streets, dressed to the nines in what can only be described as disco/70s chic, ready to dance and sing the night away. The event: Harryween.
Marketed as a black tie, fancy dress occasion, Harryween is a collection of two Madison Square Garden shows celebrating the end of Harry Styles’ Love On Tour, a 41-show national tour for “Fine Line,” Styles’ sophomore album. But Styles’ fans haven’t just been waiting around for the Halloween dress code. Instead, each tour stop has been filled to the brim with fans in black tie, psychedelic streetwear and anything that reminds them of their favorite artist. After spending almost a year uncertain their dates with Styles would ever happen due to the coronavirus pandemic, these fans aren’t just dressing for the singer.
Now, they’re dressing for each other.
The tour was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 following the December 2019 release of “Fine Line.” But the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered all planned tours, leaving fans uncertain when things ever went back to normal. With nothing but time on their hands, Styles’ fans turned to what they could control: their outfits.
“I really think if it wasn’t for quarantine, there wouldn’t have been this level of commitment by everyone to go all-in on their outfits,” fan Bailey Stabler told CBS News.
The 22-year-old attended a show in Detroit and planned to wear a tailored mint green suit — four months before she secured tickets. Her outfit’s main inspiration came both from Styles’ fashion and the looks she saw from other girls on social media.
“There’s always been a handful of girls that dress up as either their favorite song or singer, especially in the One Direction days,” Stabler said. “But I’ve never seen it to this level, where almost the whole arena dressed up.”
Stabler called the interest in dressing up for the concerts a “domino effect,” first with fans posting what they would’ve worn to their shows, the costumes going from simple outfits to elaborate get-ups. Once the tour dates were officially rescheduled, “everyone just fully committed,” Stabler said. “I think it’s a pretty amazing thing to see. Honestly, I’ve never seen a better-looking crowd.”
The fashion that dominates Styles’ concerts, while different, somehow cohabitates a specific aesthetic. Many of the easily identifiable themes center around 70s era fashion.
Overall the looks are a contradictory, cohesive mishmash. There are feathers, cowboy hats, sequins, bell bottoms, boas, high heels, the occasional full banana suit, sunflowers, cherries, watermelons, “But Daddy I Love Him” Little Mermaid t-shirts and re-imagined Styles outfits from award shows, past concerts and even paparazzi shots. To put it frankly, there’s a vibe.
And Stabler’s not the only one who took inspiration from time off and a TikTok feed.
Hailee Miller, an assistant fashion designer, spent almost three months making matching outfits for herself and her husband to attend a Love On Tour show. Miller, who lives in Las Vegas, bought the tickets in anticipation of her 21st birthday. Now 22, she said the process of hand making her outfits gave her something to look forward to while she was stuck at home. Miller even flew to California to pick the perfect Emilio Pucci-inspired print for their matching looks, an idea she told CBS News she manifested during quarantine.
“From there, I kind of just drew up an inspiration board, and then I made the pattern, cut out the garments and sewed them,” Miller told CBS News. “I know it sounds silly, but I literally tried to manifest these outfits and manifest a good vibe towards them.”
Miller credits Styles’ role as a fashion icon for encouraging a sense of freedom and artistic expression at his shows. “He’s paved the way for so many other people to freely dress how they want. I feel like his fans feel comfortable and then want to match his energy and be there with him, with his music and his fashion.”
While Style’s fans may be taking concert attire to new heights, this type of influence is common surrounding pop stars — especially artists who appeal to younger and female audiences, according to style expert Michelle Washington.
Washington cites artists like Elton John, Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson and even pianist Liberace as stars whose direct or indirect influences can all be seen in Styles’ looks.
“Music is always telling the zeitgeist of the times,” Washington said. “Musicians will dress a way, and that will trickle down into how we socially represent ourselves. So during the 60s and 70s, that was the space race and we definitely saw that in mod fashion. And now we have a different time and era, and Harry is being reflective of the zeitgeist of our times.”
Washington also points to an increased frenzy of inspiration that can come from artists with primarily young audiences. Styles, who got his start in the boy-band One Direction, has maintained a majority teen and young adult audience, even as his music has expanded with larger themes of drug use, heartbreak and sexual identity.
Gabrielle Saydee, a 24-year-old designer, has attended almost eight shows this tour alone and is still planning on trying to find tickets for Styles’ last performance in Los Angeles.
She and her friends planned different matching outfits for every show they attended, sewing tops and additives to their costumes to look their best. Her 70s inspired looks are her favorites, according to Saydee, because they are so similar to the aesthetic of “Fine Line.” Her efforts paid off at one concert — Styles sang “Happy Birthday” with the crowd at Madison Square Garden for Saydee’s friend, a moment that went viral on TikTok.
Since the tour was first postponed, hashtags relating to Styles’ concerts and style have millions of views, with girls even workshopping which of several planned outfits they should end up wearing.
Perhaps some of the most fervent participants are those who didn’t get concert tickets, still commenting and making “what if” videos on TikTok, or waiting hours in box office lines for a chance to enter the venues.
This intensity is matched online, with fans desperately consuming clips of the concert and snapshots of what people wore, including Styles himself.
Emma Smart, a 28-year old Styles fan, was in awe of this intensity when she created a viral TikTok roundup of Love On Tour outfits called “I Adore What You Wore To Love On Tour.” The videos, which are posted after each concert ends, feature some of the best outfits from each city and have received tens of thousands of views.
“The response that means the most to me are the ones where people thank me for showcasing a variety of styles, body shapes, and representations,” Smart said. “I think the reason this has been so warmly received is because it’s almost like we’re all showing up to these little videos I make online to give each other permission. Permission to be ‘extra,’ or excited. Permission to just feel good about ourselves for a moment.”
“Harry Styles uses fashion as an outlet for joy and after living through the unprecedented times we’re currently in, I think the fans are bursting at the seams to have an excuse to be joyful,” she said. “We’ve waited almost two years for this tour to happen, why not show up in a floor-length gown with a feather trim?”
Roughly 30 hours before Harryween begins, the streets are already beginning to show signs of the coming crowd. A four-block queue has emerged on 34th Street, as fans without tickets try to score some of the merchandise from the concert. Others from out of town have shown up early to take photos in front of the famous Madison Square Garden sign, which displays a poster of Styles with the words “Sold Out” in bright lights.
But beyond the bustle, the most interesting thing about the crowds is the energy. Fans can be heard discussing outfits they saw on TikTok the week before, stressing whether their high-heeled boots will hold up on the rain-slicked streets or if the extraordinarily long line at Party City is worth getting a backup boa.
Whether the fans have been listening to Styles since his One Direction days, or first heard his voice in his latest radio hits, all the concertgoers and fans that spoke to CBS News agreed that one of their favorite things about Love On Tour — and the major driving force behind their outfits — was the sense of community they received from those around them.
“All you heard walking around the arena was people complimenting each other’s outfits and saying how good they looked and how everyone loved each other’s outfits,” Stabler said. “Other concerts I’ve been to, no one really speaks or stops someone to compliment them. It was one of the nicest and kind of heartwarming things I’ve witnessed recently. I think most of the fans take Harry’s stance of ‘Treat People With Kindness’ to heart and spread as much kindness around as they can.”
For Saydee, Styles’ concerts have become more than just an event, but the place where she’s met some of her best friends. Even for the fans she’s never met, the time they’ve spent creating outfits makes her feel connected to people even across the world.
“Never in my life have I been complimented like I was at my concert,” Miller said. “I felt like my work was really appreciated. Everybody in line was just talking to each other and it was just amazing. It’s a huge community and it’s the people I always want to be surrounded by.”
Smart said one of the things she enjoys the most about the concerts will always be how many people Styles manages to bring together with his music.
“My favorite thing is seeing how all of these different people, that live in different states, that grew up in different ways, in different generations, that hold different truths, are all people that love the same thing,” Smart said. “They’re all gathering together in arenas across the country, with their masks on and their favorite outfits, to listen to their favorite music, to experience the same thing together. There’s something so beautifully human about that.”
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