Teen Culture

The Evolution of Harry Styles: From Boy Band to Boundary Breaker

Harry Styles is having a moment. Well, more like a decade. 

From his days debuting with the boy band One Direction to his current endeavors as a one-man pop star, Harry Styles has spent the last ten years making young women swoon while they sing along to his tunes. What a guy.

His long tenure as a leading man in music is proof that he is not likely going away any time soon. While millennials can still claim Harry (as he was born in ‘94), he has all the qualities of a Gen Z superstar — all of which are glaringly obvious as he debuts brand new singles in anticipation of his latest album “Fine Line” set to release on December 13, 2019

Here’s what you have to know (and your teen probably already knows) about the man himself, Harry Styles:


Harry Styles first came onto the music scene via the British singing competition show, “The X Factor,” through which he eventually was grouped with four other boys (Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, and Liam Payne) to form the boy band responsible for the revival of boy bands: One Direction. Though the group didn’t win the competition, they got a record label deal out of it, soon finding worldwide success. The group stole the hearts of teen girls everywhere with songs like “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Story of My Life,” and “One Thing.”

Six years and five successful albums later, One Direction announced a hiatus starting in 2016. However, Harry’s place as the de facto leader of the group made fans certain that they hadn’t seen the last of him. They weren’t wrong.


Harry Styles quickly signed a record deal with Columbia Records as a solo artist, and in May 2017 released his debut, solo, self-titled project. The major single off the album was “Sign of the Times” which took his already existing Mick Jagger-esque, effortless cool factor and elevated it to serious singer-songwriter status. The glam-rock power ballad is, according to Harry himself, a reflection on the hard times the world is facing, and how it isn’t the first nor the last time. Other songs from the album like “Sweet Creature” and “Kiwi” not only found popular success but also demonstrate the musical versatility Harry possesses.

As if it weren’t enough, in the midst of writing and recording his debut project, Harry also found the time to star alongside an ensemble cast in the critically acclaimed film, “Dunkirk.” Directed by the renowned Christopher Nolan — who wrote, produced, and directed the film — Nolan claims that he didn’t realize how famous Harry was until after casting him

These days, Harry has released one single and teased another in anticipation of his forthcoming album. The date for his newest album was just released, December 13, 2019, and devoted fans are loving “Light’s Up,” a bold, individualist anthem about knowing who you are. The music video has already stirred up a great deal of talk given the way that Harry dances with/on both men and women throughout — an on-brand move in the world of fluidity. Plus, a promotional website has gone up dedicated to giving people a “personalized” note from Harry about who they are to accompany the new single and build up anticipation for the music still to come (basically, your teen can enter their name into the website, and it generates a note from Harry based around that — check it out here if you must!).


Harry Styles’ priorities as a performer and public figure resonate loudly with what we understand to be the concerns of Gen Z. Though he began as a teenage heartthrob, Harry quickly found his way to notoriety as a pop star with a message. Harry can definitely be considered a politically-minded performer, often donning Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on stage, and even performing with an anti-violence sticker on his guitar. In a long-form cover story for the August 2019 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, Harry shared this sentiment behind his music as a solo artist: “Most of the stuff that hurts me about what’s going on at the moment is not politics, it’s fundamentals … Equal rights. For everyone, all races, sexes, everything.” 

In addition to lending his voice to what he believes matters, Harry has famously pushed boundaries with his appearance. Take his 2019 Met Gala look as an example: it was not the first time Harry opted for an androgynous look. He leans in confidently to outfits that include mesh, frills, lace, sparkles, nail polish, and heeled shoes — all typically considered to be feminine fashion elements. In a conversation with young movie star Timothée Chalamet for the British magazine i-D, Harry expressed the pressure he has experienced as a man in such an image-conscious industry: “Today it’s easier to embrace masculinity in so many different things. I definitely find … that some of the times when I feel most confident is when I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable.” 

Overall, Harry would probably say his message is one of kindness. Since his solo breakout, his merchandise has been branded with the slogan “TPWK”, which stands for “treat people with kindness.” When fans purchase something at one of his shows, proceeds are shared with local charities with missions that are oriented toward kindness. 


At the very least, we should be convinced that Harry Styles’ long run of fame means he will be around for a while longer. If you have a teen daughter or son that is a fan, help them identify the good that Harry stands for, like his TPWK campaign and his desire to celebrate vulnerability and authenticity. Ask them to share examples of how they have seen him do this throughout his career, or for as long as they’ve been following him.

Take advantage of the fact that Harry is asking the question, “Do you know who you are?” and have that dialogue with your daughter or son. Invite her or him to reflect on their answer to the question, and be willing to share your own. Seize the opportunity to talk about our identity, the various factors that make us who we are, and the fact that our truest identity is found in Christ, our loving Savior

About the Author

Stephanie Espinoza

Stephanie started ministering to teens when she was just a teen herself. When her community at her parish growing up lacked a youth ministry effort that addressed the needs of Hispanic teens, she and her siblings and friends started their own. After years of volunteering her time as a teen, the Lord led her to study the New Evangelization at John Paul the Great Catholic University and to work in ministry at the very parish where she grew up. Today, she happily serves as the Coordinator of Hispanic Ministry Resources and Outreach for Life Teen, enjoys getting lost in a good book, appreciates the art of curating the perfect music playlist, and is learning to uncover the underrated perks of desert life.