When One Direction first formed on X Factor there was one moment captured during their selection process that showed an insane amount of trust between two boys who were near strangers. As the band was announced and it was advised that they were going through to Judges Houses, Louis Tomlinson leapt into Harry Styles’ arms. This was a defining moment for One Direction and would later become a pivotal moment in their history as a band.
As the weeks on X Factor progressed viewers watching the video diaries got to witness first-hand the closeness and developing friendships of all members of the band, but most notably the relationship between Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. Fans watching noticed these boys grow closer and saw what looks to me, as an adult, like two teenagers falling in love.
This sweetness continued into the very early days of One Direction as most of us know and Harry said that his very first, real crush was Louis and confirmed that it was a mutual attraction. From the early days on we saw these two adorably, sweet boys tease each other and touch each other in ways that push the limits of friendship into a more romantic place. As fans began to notice these things, management saw an opportunity and, at first, embraced the ‘Larry’ phenomenon. The boys had magazine interviews together, would sit together in interviews and had many beautiful moments captured by cameras.
However, by late 2012, management changed its tune and as their view turned stateside, interactions with the boys on camera or in public was reduced to the point that they barely even looked in each other’s direction while on stage or in public. Harry and Louis, however, managed to find ways around this, employing subtle touches, sign language that only they knew the meaning of, and singing to each other on stage.
With this change in direction, management also put out the rumour that Harry and Louis were so unsettled by the scrutiny and the obsessive observation of the interactions between them that it irretrievably broke their friendship beyond repair, but before this happened the boys were asked time and again to deny their relationship. The blame of this friendship breakdown, according to ‘sources’ close to the band, was fans and after late 2012/ early 2013, there were rarely any instances whether in interview, on stage or out in public where Harry and Louis would interact.
Each denial was made by Louis, with Harry only denying it once when confronted in an interview with kissing images, however Harry didn’t actually deny the relationship, only that the photographs he was shown weren’t real. Harry seemed to find denying his relationship with Louis more difficult with Louis often comforting him during these onscreen denials.
The first denial took place during an interview in Dallas and the boys were flirty, with Louis biting Harry’s back, and Harry tapping Louis inner thigh with his palm. The move spoke of intimacy, comfort and familiarity with each other’s bodies that goes beyond that of what teenage boys would be comfortable with.
The denial was given with Louis stating that some people ‘genuinely believe’ that Harry and Louis were in a relationship, to which Liam responded, “you are though, aren’t ya?” While stating this Louis had his arm around Harry’s shoulders and appeared to be in some way offering support to Harry and while this wasn’t a denial, at least they tried, right?
Wrong! Management weren’t happy about this non-denial and tried again to get Louis to deny that there was any romance between them. He explained to the interviewer that as a fan, he wouldn’t want Harry with Louis or vice versa, he’d want Harry to be with whoever the fan was and he seemed surprised when the interviewer pointed out that fans loved the idea of them together. This was clearly something that had been drummed into their heads time and again by management and their label bosses because it would, potentially, impact their bottom line and cause the boys to be less popular if their most popular member and the ‘womaniser’ of the group turned out the be in a relationship with another member of the group.
There was another denial that sticks out in my mind, and it was when the boys were on an Irish Talk show. They, again, were asked about ‘Larry Stylinson’ and the answer given was that it was a conspiracy theory with fanfics and that Louis and Harry were together and that Louis girlfriend wasn’t real. This is odd because it’s exactly what the fans believe (without the conspiracy theories) and answering this way keeps the person from lying which makes the deception easier.
Since then, there have been a few more opportunities for denials, such as in a 2015 interview with Ben Winston when the boys were asked about the craziest rumours fans made up about them. This was the perfect chance for Harry or Louis to deny their relationship was anything more than platonic, but instead they said that they’d been dead a few times.
Another denial was posted on Twitter in September 2012, but fans are well aware that the boys aren’t the only ones with access to their social media, since at times tweets were sent while they were in the air, or on stage. The denial by Louis said that ‘Larry was the biggest load of bullshit’ and that he was ‘happy, why can’t you accept that.’ This was posted on Twitter and while it made Louis out to be highly offended by even the idea of him and Harry being more than friends, it also said that he was happy, as though if he was a gay man, he wouldn’t be. At least that’s my interpretation of it which if true would make Louis incredibly homophobic and if it was all management as fans suspect then it would serve to further alienate Louis from his own community.
Over time Louis became more and more stoic and to me, it seemed he lost a bit of his spark as he towed the line to the point that he couldn’t even comfort Harry while Harry was notably upset (Radio Disney interview 27th of June 2012). It was heart-breaking to see this once incredible young man tone down his flamboyance to the point that it was rarely evident at all anymore. Part of it undoubtedly was due to the changes in growing up, but part of it seemed deeper and much more insidious.
The final Larry denials came in the form of an interview with Dan Wootton, Sun columnist and close friend of both Simon Cowell and Simon Jones (Louis current PR manager). The on-camera denial was one that amused many larries and turned many neutrals into larries because of how Louis answered the question about the ‘Larry Conspiracy.’. Note to Louis: if you wanna deny something just say no, it’s not true, rather than repeating the same word over and over again, and then going off on a tangent about iPhone conspiracies.
Louis said and I quote:
‘I’ve never actually been asked about it directly
It’s a funny thing
People can believe what they wanna believe
I just think it comes across sometimes a little bit
Um… a little bit disrespectful to the ones that I love
You know like, Eleanor
Erm, sometimes it comes across a bit disrespectful
It’s like anything
You could genuinely…
If you google a conspiracy on iphones
Your gonna get a conspiracy
But obviously there’s no truth to it
This denial was ridiculed far and wide by larries because as you can read, it isn’t actually a denial of anything, and when you watch it, you’ll see why it was taken down shortly after it was posted, but it’s still available on the internet and I’ll make sure to link the denials so you can watch if you like.
Management clearly asked Louis to address the Larry rumours once more and although Louis agreed or was coerced into it or decided to do it for whatever reason, it still didn’t end the theories about closeting in the music industry or the fact that many, many fans of both Louis and Harry believe they are together, still going strong in 2023. Every time they attempt to deny this long-standing theory, more people begin to look into it and find reason after reason to believe that the boys are together and are signalling through their clothing, lyrics, videos and during their live concerts that they are together.
For example, while on tour last year Louis sang an incredible cover of the song 7 by Catfish and the Bottlemen where the very first word of the song is Larry. The song in and of itself isn’t much proof, but if you consider that for the previous twelve years of Louis professional career, he’s been plagued by rumours of a relationship with the ship name Larry Stylinson then you can see why this would cause fans to pause and take note of the obvious lyrical nod to this so called ‘conspiracy theory.’
Harry, on the other hand, is the king of metaphorical music, but also the king of lyric changes and was heard over and over again on his tours over the past two years changing the lyrics to Lou instead of you, and blue eyes instead of your eyes in Adore You. Harry is also in a clearer glass closet where he can raise Pride flags and help fans to come out, something he’s never been able to do for himself. Harry himself has stated that he’s unlabelled, but many of his solo fans infer from this that he’s straight since he’s never publicly dated a male, and the only relationship he’s ever confirmed was with Louis at a signing in the very early days of One Direction.
To understand the denials, we have to look at the music industry and how many artists are closeted. Many lgbtqia artists feel that, to succeed, in the music industry they have to be straight, especially at the beginning of their careers. This idea doesn’t come out of nowhere, management companies and music labels push the narrative that only straight people can succeed, and this is evident in many artists not coming out as a part of the queer community until they are established, or until their careers are slowing down.
Artists like Madonna, Sam Smith, Mark Feehly, Steven Gately, Elton John, George Michael, Prince, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Lance Bass, Ricky Martin and many, many more have all been closeted in this unforgiving industry. Would it be so surprising to find out that Harry and Louis have also been not only forced into the closet, but worse, forced to deny their relationship to sell records to teenage girls?
Even now, years later, we have anecdotal evidence from other participants of the X Factor that the contracts last for over twenty years and some clauses that were signed by a sixteen and eighteen year old were to last forever. These boys fought back in the only way they could, but to people reading this, ask yourself what’s worse, two boys in love or two boys barely old enough to figure out their sexuality being forced by adults they were supposed to trust, to go on TV and deny their relationship over and over again?
This is, in part, what’s wrong with the music industry and we need to fight back. We need to show music labels and homophobic people that it doesn’t matter if someone is queer, if they have talent then it should be about that and not their private lives. We need to share the story of these incredibly brave men and draw attention to the fact that they were abused by management, forced into many situations that caused them discomfort and were made to deny their love to make money. In their songs they show they are both desperate to be free and Harry, for example, in If I Could Fly, has stated that he’d give it all up for love.
All we can do now is hope that one day they’ll have the freedom that’s been denied to them for so many years and, if they so choose to come out, together or apart, then they should know they have the love of so many fans in all corners of the world, supporting them and holding them up, having their backs and enabling them to fight back.
Love is love and at the end of the day, Louis and Harry have a love story that shows incredible resilience, beauty and strength.