Two lines into his first single as a solo artist, Harry Styles sings about fashion: "Welcome to the final show/Hope you're wearing your best clothes." It's a fitting ode, as Styles ventures into a new stage of his career when his overall image matters just as much as the music he produces: the oh-so-delicate transition from boy-bander to individual phenomenon. It's a journey that doesn't get quite the same painstaking over-examination as its female counterparts (think Disney stars becoming pop princesses: Miley with her foam finger; Christina Aguilera getting "Dirrty," etc.), but one that is is just a prevalent in the pop culture landscape.
Think of that solo first music video as these singers' sartorial bar mitzvahs, as boys become men. After years of sharing every stage, photoshoot, and interview with several other similarly marketed guys, this is finally the moment to shine. Sure, the song matters, but it's the look that will stick in the fans minds as who they are—and what they look like—as a solo artist. No pressure, right?
Today, Styles released his first video post-One Direction for the aforementioned song "Sign of the Times," a five minute clip that sees the 23-year-old quite literally taking flight (how's that for heavy-handed symbolism) in a Gucci ensemble. Here, a look back at what four other boy-banders gone solo wore in their debut music video.
Paul McCartney in "Maybe I'm Amazed" (1970)
After a decade in The Beatles, McCartney went solo in 1970 with the release of his first record, McCartney. The lead single off the album, "Maybe I'm Amazed," would go on to be one of his most famous hits of all time. Written for his wife at the time, Linda, the video very much relates to the adoring nature of the lyrics. Directed by David Puttnam and produced by Charlie Jenkins in 35mm colour, the clip is less of a music video (officially, it wasn't even called a music video, but a "promotional film") and more of moving scrapbook of images taken by Linda. The message, however, was clear: gone was the perfectly polished mop-top and sharp suits, and in it's place, scruffy facial hair and relaxed button-downs. A folky McCartney for some folky music.
Michael Jackson in "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" (1979)
It may not be Michael Jackson's most iconic music video look (that honor, of course, goes to 1982's "Thriller"), but his first solo video certainly had a vision: Jackson grows up, and boy is he fancy. The singer ditched his afro and colorful jumpsuits in favor of a classic tuxedo. But don't let the buttoned up look fool you: those sleeves bunched up at the elbows indicate a man who is not afraid to bust a move, a trait that would come to define much of Jackson's career.
Justin Timberlake in "Like I Love You" (2002)
With a saccharine saturated past (the one-two punch of The Mickey Mouse Club and 'Nsync's bubble-gum pop will do that), it came as no surprise the Timberlake opted to go in a completely new direction for his debut album, Justified. His strategy? Team with Pharrell Williams and feature rap duo Clipse on "Like I Love You," a track that mixed in hip-hop references to Timberlake's pop-leaning tendencies. For the video, the singer stayed far away from the turtlenecks and all-white ensembles of his 'Nsync days, in favor of leather jackets, baggy jeans, and, for whatever reason, a crocheted beanie. Other accent pieces include a 7-Eleven t-shirt (worn while dancing in front of an actual 7-Eleven), a fedora, fingerless gloves, and layered turquoise necklaces. It was a lot of look, but Timberlake has since made a very successful career on being, well, a lot.
Zayn in Pillowtalk (2016)
Soon after leaving One Direction, Zayn made it quite clear that he never much liked being in a boy band to begin with, and his first solo video said just as much. What's more anti-teen heartthrob than cutting and bleaching your beloved locks? Add in a makeout session with one of the world's most famous supermodels, and you can kiss your teeny-bopper days behind. The wardrobe choices reflected the mission: a simple black t-shirt and leather bomber jacket. Very grown-up.
Harry Styles in "Sign of the Times" (2017)
Styles's ensemble may be one of the most understated, but its also one of the most impactful. During his One Direction days, Styles made bold sartorial choices, favoring brands like Burberry and Saint Laurent. Recently, he's embraced the quirk of Gucci, wearing the label on numerous important public outings. But while some of those appearances have allowed for the more eccentric of Alessandro Michele's designs—including a pink satin blouse with a pussy-bow necktie for his Saturday Night Live promo images—the video sees a pared down Styles, dressed in a cream crew-neck sweater, blue peacoat, and skinny black pants. The message is clear: he's a serious artist, damnit. Now stop asking questions about his hair.
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