In August, we introduced our short series on Queer Coding. If you remember, coding is when a person manifests their queerness in ways other than saying the words outright. This month, we’d like to focus on some of the ways we believe Louis and Harry queer code through the way they dress and their songs.
Louis and Harry tell fantastic stories through their lyrics. And sometimes, if we move beyond the surface, we open ourselves up to discover a whole new level of meaning in their songs. Obviously, everything must be left to personal interpretation (they have both stated that they want the fans to find their own meaning in their music) but we’d like to pull out two songs that many in the fandom believe are so loudly coded: Only The Brave and She.
While Louis tends to be more lyrically direct in much of his music, Only The Brave gives us an opportunity to experience him on a more nuanced level. It’s a short song, only 1 minute and 46 seconds, but that’s all it takes to hit you hard. On the surface, you could assume it’s maybe just a song about a broken heart, but think about some of the lines from the perspective of a queer person who cannot come out, someone who is deeply closeted in an industry that provides no support:
- I’ve never cared for love
- It’s a church of burnt romances
- Tall stories on the page/It’s a tall tale
And then our hearts break even more when we are confronted with the line that we’re sure was used so many times in an attempt to silence him; keep him on a tight leash; break his spirit enough that he felt he wouldn’t be accepted as a queer artist:
And they’ll say, “I told you so.”
There is optimism in this song, though! The line “Come on, when you know, you know” gives us a sense that he knows who he is and he knows he can’t/won’t change no matter what gets thrown at him.
And then the penultimate phrase that is said twice in less than two minutes:
It’s a solo song
And it’s only for the brave
We can see hope in those two lines. A solo song does not have to be sad. It can allude more to the fact that everyone must chart their own individual path. The world can spout nonsense and try to make you fit a certain mold, but each of us individually must figure out who we are. Louis is using queer coding in his music to say, WE ARE BRAVE for being authentic. WE ARE BRAVE for accepting that what we are might not be mainstream, but WE ARE BRAVE for being it authentic.
The song She is incredibly multi-layered. On a first listen, you can interpret the song simply as a man living his life and dreaming about a woman. He doesn’t know who “she” is, but thoughts of her invade his waking and sleeping mind. It’s simple, mysterious, and has a phenomenal guitar riff. But, we do not take the easy route in this fandom. We like to read between the lines, don’t we? One of the most debated paths of interpretation related to this song focuses on the idea that the “she” being sung about is actually Harry singing about…well…Harry. Speaking to his feminine side, maybe revealing a bit of his thoughts related to how he views his own gender identity. So many others have done a full deep dive into this concept, and we encourage you to seek those out – they are so well written. We’d like to just pull out a few lines and phrases that speak to the queer coding topic.
*Now, before we go any further, please remember that this is personal interpretation, not actual fact. There are some big feelings associated with this topic. Just because we believe Harry is queer coding through these lyrics does not mean you have to believe the same. If you don’t agree, that’s okay, feel free to move on*
To begin, Harry was once asked in an interview about when he felt most beautiful. After a beat, he stated that maybe it was when he was asleep. While this may just be him simply stating that he thinks he’s a cute sleeper, we encourage you to keep this statement in mind as we point out some lines in the song that may bring a little more clarity to his thought process.
Take the chorus, for example. “She lives in daydreams with me, she’s the first one that I see.” This is a person who is constantly in his head. He daydreams about her. She lives in his mind. She is possibly the first thing he “sees” (thinks about) when he opens his eyes.
The bridge on this song is also so telling, if you’re willing to give it a chance:
Lives for the memory
A woman who’s just in his head
And she sleeps in his bed
While he plays pretend
Casually, this could be seen as him thinking about the woman he left behind in his bed that morning while he goes about his life. But there are coded clues here that cannot be ignored. He says she’s just in his head. This indicates no physical form…but she sleeps in his bed? How does that work?
And then we hear the lines that are so simple but hold so much meaning when you consider they may be coming from someone living a public life that may not be in 100% alignment with their private feelings or identity. He says, “While he plays pretend, so pretend.” The implication here is unmistakable: there is a mask being presented to the world. He is, at the very least, performing an act to appease the masses while inside, he is living more authentically. At least while he is daydreaming, or asleep.
This just touches the surface, but the next time you listen to the song, allow yourself to be open to asking a few questions: If the woman is just in his head, who is it that sleeps in his bed? Could it just be him? And while he’s asleep, he gets to be “she” (and feel most beautiful)? And why is he pretending? WHAT is he pretending? Finally, he always states that “she” lives in daydreams, is just in his head, and he doesn’t know who or where she is. Give that a think. And let yourself be open to what you may find when you do.
Harry’s clothing isn’t so much queer coded as blatantly queer.
He has treated us to updated versions of Freddy Mercury concert outfits, specifically at Coachella when he wore a rainbow jumpsuit. (Harry Picture from ) (Picture: Waring Abbott/Getty Images)
He’s been sighted wearing the infamous Keith Haring safe sex shirt during an interview. (Picture: News Hub/YouTube)
And let us not forget the Fine Line album booklet where Harry showed his love for George Harrison. I’m not allowed to post a picture of this one, sorry.
It’s not all celebration of men loving men.
Harry also treated us to a gender-bending references with his “But Daddy I Love Him” shirt – a reference to The Little Mermaid. Mermaids have been linked to gender fluidity and aspects of the queer community for a long time. Read here to learn more. Not to mention the blue bandana- more of a Larry specific code than queer specific, but still one we love to see.
Polari, a unisex clothing label, was blessed with a Louis Tomlinson photoshoot. The name Polari is one of the rare brands we’ve seen Louis in that links directly to the LGBTQIA community. In 1950’s England, when homosexuality was still illegal, the gay subculture would use a coded language to talk hit on other people. That language was Polari. It was a safer way to ask someone for a date, a dance, or whisper to a friend that you’d like to “head to the cottage to plate your cart because you have a nice dolly basket.”
Polari was one of the loudest items of clothing Louis wore. At least in the direct sense. Like so many things with Louis, his clothing is queer coded in a way that isn’t direct and is only obvious to people who are used to looking for codes. People like the LGBTQIA community and Larries.
With Fred Perry the relationship to the LGBTQ community is quite specific but not technically endorsed by the brand. Here’s a fun little article about some of the history. Not to mention the Larry coding laurels.
Stone Island is another Larry coded treasure, with the Stone Island logo being a compass. We know Louis Tomlinson has a compass tattoo on his arm which points to Home instead of North. Check out this article for more on Home and Larry.
Sometimes Louis wears clothing brands that have designed specific lines just for the LGBTQ community, such as Aries.
(pic from @BandwagonAsia)
This clothing line is more than “just gay for Pride month” brands that we get inundated with every year in June. Aries is a genderless, unisex label and they have done collaborations with Polari. Here is a fantastic interview with Sofia Prantera, the designer and co-founder of the Aries clothing line, explaining her journey into fashion.
Vetements began in an LGBTQ club in Paris and rose to fame with a “gay, lesbina, and fetish” line in 2016. Louis wore a Vetements and Reebok winbreaker, not from the fun collection.
A few notable mentions- Lacoste, and Raf Simons- also taught me that many people view polo shirts as a cue to the LGBTQIA community as well.
Finally, this lovely blue green long-sleeved polo featuring a checkered design spilling down the right side of the shirt. Louis wore this Ahluwalia polo for his interview and performance with the Elvis Duran Show.
I’m not sure a polo could be more Larry coded without blatantly designing it based on their tattoos. Speaking of, if you want something fun to look up check out the Prada line modeled by the very heterosexual Tom Holland.
No Stunts did a guest appearance on The Larry Weekly podcast about queer coding! Check it out here.
Queer coding is such an important topic to thnk about, discuss, and look for in the world. Sometimes it is the only way someone can show their authentic self. In this article, we focused on some of the ways Louis and Harry code, but in a couple weeks we’ll be delving more into the history of the concept and how it has been used heavily in the entertainment industry. We’ll also speak on queer coding versus queer baiting, a hot topic these days. Join us for more!