The backlash to Harry Styles 'shaving his head' is actually quite problematic—and it's affecting men

With rumours spreading that Harry Styles has shaved his head, social media has gone into a frenzy

Harry Styles wearing a blue suit and sunglasses
(Image credit: Getty Images/Jacopo Raule / Contributor)

As a woman approaching 30, it seems needless to say I'm a Harry Styles fan. I like his music, I like his overall vibe and I very much like his appearance. So, when rumours starting swirling a few days ago that Harry Styles had shaved his head, I was somewhat invested—as much as a run-of-the-mill person who likes Harry Styles can be, anyway.

When gossip account Deuxmoi (think modern-day Gossip Girl for Hollywood's elite) shared an image last week that reportedly showed Styles sporting a buzzcut at a U2 concert in Las Vegas with rumoured girlfriend, Taylor Russell, social media went into meltdown. The post, which you can see below, shows a very blurry image of someone who looks a lot like Harry Styles with a shaved head. My interest in this matter, as somewhat of a Harry Styles fan, stretched as far as me clicking on the image, looking at it, making a 'hmm' sound and then forgetting all about it.

Harry Styles hair cut

(Image credit: Deux Moi / Instagram)

That was until the next time I clicked back onto Instagram or TikTok. Because from that moment onwards, a large portion of my social media appears to have been overtaken by comments about Harry Styles' reported buzzcut. Harry Styles fans appear to be outraged by the notion he may (or may not) have shaved his head—and I'm finding most of the comments really problematic.

One comment I saw called for Styles to "Stick that hair back onto his head". Another commented, "A moment of silence for Harry's curls." I also sat through an entire TikTok video investigating whether or not Styles has been secretly wearing a toupé to hide his 'receding hairline', theorising that he has shaved his head to prep for a hair transplant. Some theories also suggest Styles cut it all off in protest to a Taylor Swift lyric—the conspiracy theories are out of control. 

But I would like to point out here it's not just crazed fans who are feeling some sort of way about this. When I spoke with team Marie Claire UK, it became clear that all of us had quite strong opinions about it. "I couldn't tell you why I care, but I do. I've found myself searching the internet for new images more often than I care to count. I'm kind of shocked to say I'm a bit upset—his old hair was cute," said one member of the team. 

Another told me, "I love it. There’s just something about when a pretty-faced celeb with floppy hair suddenly sheds their soft, boyish-ness and goes for a buzzcut—like David Beckham in 2000, or Tom Hardy dropping the gelled boyband spikes. Even Jamie Dornan did it, and did it well. It feels like they’re suddenly embodying this rugged masculinity and have made the transition from boy to man..."

What's so interesting about Styles' rumoured switch-up, however, is that it isn't just about appearances. A Gen-Z member of the Marie Claire UK team, who was a self-confessed 'Directioner' in her teenage years, revealed her sadness over the thought of a Styles buzzcut (can I call this #buzzgate, yet?) is down to nostalgia: "My first reaction was sadness, then confusion as to why a stranger’s haircut made me so upset. After speaking to a fellow former teenage Directioner, I came to the conclusion that my feelings of sadness have nothing to do with Harry’s hair, and everything to do with the nostalgia it brought me. It truly means that an era that I really enjoyed, regardless of how bizarre it was, is really over."

David Beckham with a shaved head

(Image credit: Getty Images/Martin Rose / Staff)

And truthfully, I totally get that we all feel something about Harry's new look—he's a celebrity we all wish we knew, after all. However, the thing that has sat so uneasy with me isn't just the number of people who are downright upset that Harry Styles might have shaved his head, it's the vocalisation of borderline disgust on social media. Even if it is shaped as a joke.

You see, I'm at a time in life where it feels like all of the men around me are feeling some sort of way about their hair—and it has proved a big topic of conversation. My fiancé decided 2023 was the year he was going to lean into his hair loss and go for a grade 3 all over. Some of my closest friends are very caught up in how quickly their hair lines are receding, and one has actually jumped on a plane to Turkey for budget transplant surgery (not something I condone, by the way—hair transplants should be well researched). And while we all talk about it in jest, there is an underlying concern that isn't being addressed in the way that it should be.

Harry Styles with his hair in a half-up bun

(Image credit: Getty Images/MEGA / Contributor)

Just like women, men have a deep-founded relationship with their hair—and many of them spend the first part of their lives hoping they don't lose it. "I'd 100% cut an inch off my height and go down to 5'5" to have a full head of hair forever," said one of my friends. "Having hair is way more important to me than being tall. If I lose it, I will 100% get a hair transplant with no regrets whatsoever," he added. Another agreed, saying he'd consider a height trade off if it meant he could have a full head of hair back.

One of my friends, who is both tall and possesses (in his words, not mine) 'a full hairline', said: "I honestly find the thought of losing my hair quite stressful. I use shampoo that supposedly encourages hair growth, and I'm considering investing more in preventative measures."

So now we come onto the question: why are men so scared of losing their hair? "It's an aesthetics issues, for sure," said one. When I asked my fiancé about it, he revealed, "It's a seemingly irreversible change to the way you look—not just in the sense that you lose your hair, but it also changes the way your face looks and the way you appear to other people. I think there is also societal shame that comes with men getting hair transplants."

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And while it might all seem quite shallow and surface level, I can assure you it's not. As a woman who works in the beauty industry, I can tell you first hand how damaging aesthetic pressures can be for mental health. We talk about unattainable beauty standards for women, but the rather large topic of hair loss in men seems to only be brought up as punchlines to jokes or via over-masculinised shampoo adverts on TV.

While I genuinely believe the way in which women's beauty standards are discussed in the media is improving with time (although, we still have a long way to go), I can't help but feel as though the current backlash to the news that Harry Styles has potentially shaved his head highlights how damaging such beauty rhetorics can be on men, too. "I'm not sure Harry Styles' fanbase are mature enough to be mindful of how what they're saying exacerbates these pressures on men as a whole," revealed one of my friends. 

Much like how, as women, we feel intense societal pressures when it comes to ageing in the right way, men too are feeling the burden of pressures when it comes to expectations around their hair. "It's losing something that you once had and liked," one friend summarised. And I think that's the crux of it. As women, we are battling to hold onto our youth—something that we once liked about ourselves and that the beauty industry tells us is desirable. With men and the topic of hair loss, the same principles apply, and I think it's worth everyone remembering the sensitivities that exist around that.

Shannon Lawlor
Executive Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is the Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire. With nearly a decade of experience working for some of the beauty industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear, Glamour UK, Stylist and Refinery29, Shannon’s aim is to make the conversation around beauty as open, relatable and honest as possible. As a self-confessed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for hard-working perfumes, fool-proof make-up products and does-it-all skincare.