At Harry Styles concerts, young gender-nonconforming fans celebrate the freedom to be themselves. (Photo: Harry Styles, Twitter)
This article was originally published as a New York Magazine feature.
In 2017, one year before he released his breakout album, Harry Styles announced he was changing his name from Liam James to Harry Styles. The singer had gone on the record six months earlier in an interview with Rolling Stone saying, “I feel like I can’t be myself or not be myself. It’s like there’s two different people at the same time.” The rest of the press reported his new name in an uncategorizable fashion: “ Harry Style? Harry Styles?” The same old Harry Styles.
It was the start of a cultural shift that seemed to be in full effect, with multiple news outlets celebrating his decision to change his name. An article in the New York Times was titled “The Harry Styles Effect.” And a piece in Vanity Fair was titled “ Harry Styles as a New Name: Part One.” The former article was about the singer’s decision to change his name after decades of being known as Liam James. The latter was about the long-rumored decision to marry someone of Harry’s same gender and name (who may or may not exist).
So, was there really a “Harry Styles Effect”? To be clear, there’s no actual proof of this name-change phenomenon. It’s a theory that gained traction almost entirely because Harry Styles was an outspoken champion of his own name, and he wanted to share the process of his decision with the world.
“I grew up in my name,” the musician says in an interview with the New York Times. “That was one of the biggest issues being a young queer person.” In the year before he announced his name change, Styles, who turns 24 on