Harry Styles Is Being Canceled?

Harry Styles's Gucci ad is being accused of using inappropriate, childlike imagery.

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

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British pop star Harry Styles coming under heavy fire for starring in a Gucci ad in which he poses in a shirt emblazoned with a pink teddy bear while carrying a small mattress. According to The Independent, the ad is being compared to the recent, highly controversial Balenciaga ad campaign involving children holding teddy bears in BDSM-themed outfits, which many considered to be highly sexually suggestive. It will have to be seen whether this Harry Styles incident rises to the same level of outrage as that.

The Gucci ad featuring Eternals star Harry Styles is described in an Instagram caption as being a “performance piece” from the new HA HA HA campaign and was developed by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele in November. Michele has since left the company after 20 years, though it is unknown whether it has anything to do with this increasingly controversial Harry Styles ad, and, to date, no new creative designer has been announced by Gucci. In an interview with GQ, Michele described Harry Styles as the “most eccentric and free guy on earth” and the ad concept as being inspired by rock and roll stars of the 1970s.

However, many people see this particular Gucci Harry Styles ad as less evocative of 1970s rock and more utilizing inappropriately child-like imagery. Similar to the Balenciaga ad, it is being accused of inserting sexual-themed tones into advertising; this comes during a time period in which allegations of child abuse have become a major part of culture, with conspiracy groups like QAnon regularly accusing major political and entertainment figures of being part of enormous rings of child-abusers. Even more mainstream figures like Twitter owner Elon Musk are regularly utilizing implications of child abuse as part of discourse.

It is also worth noting that Gucci is owned by the French multinational corporation Kering, which also owns other major high fashion companies like Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga. For whatever reason, it seems there is a trend in fashion right now to be utilizing this kind of imagery, whether it speculatively could be to appear edgy, childlike, or simply referential to pop music of the past in some odd way. 

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Harry Styles is best known as a pop singer and songwriter, originally as part of the boy band One Direction (which itself was formed to compete on the British reality competition show The X Factor). Since starting a solo career, Styles’ star has only risen, with each of his albums breaking records in sales and receiving critical acclaim. He has also branched out into acting, appearing in the Marvel Studios film Eternals in a post-credits scene as the character Eros and starring in the Olivia Wilde science fiction thriller Don’t Worry Darling with Florence Pugh.

For at least the moment, it does not appear that Harry Styles or his representatives have commented about the flack he is receiving for this Gucci ad. However, it certainly is not a good look for the pop star or the fashion house.