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Decoding The Viral Soft Boy Aesthetic Of Frank Ocean, Harry Styles Et Al

You've heard the term, but do you know what it actually means? These 11 celebrities are here to demonstrate.
Reading time 4 minutes
Harry Styles for Gucci in 2018

This year has seen a massive resurgence in the soft boy aesthetic, but it goes beyond just style. As the term suggests, soft boys are male-identifying individuals who display the tender traits, in how they act and how they dress and beyond, that are stereotypically associated with the feminine. More in touch with their emotions and often outfitted in a cardigan or a vintage tee, soft boys challenge the concept of toxic masculinity. If you would use the word "beautiful" to describe him, then he's probably a soft boy.

The soft boy has been re-popularised on TikTok, with accounts that embrace the viral aesthetic skyrocketing to internet fame and amassing hoards of dedicated followers. Soft boys share style similarities with e-boy fashion, characterised by traditionally feminine silhouettes, painted nails and a floppy haircut. Much of the fashion trends associated with soft boys can be traced back to K-pop boy bands, which tend to explore more androgynous modes of self-expression.

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In the fashion world, you'll find soft boy equivalents on the runways of Dior under Kim Jones, Hedi Slimane's Celine and Gucci under Alessandro Michele, whose direction for the label's menswear collections is marked by designs that blur the boundaries between the masculine and the feminine. 

Reacting to the increasingly progressive ideals of society today, designers are encouraging men to explore a less rigid sense of what it means to be and to dress like a man. Fashion has never felt more fluid than now, and the soft boy style is a manifestation of this shift.

If you're still having trouble picturing what a soft boy looks like, plenty of celebrities fit the bill — think Timothée Chalamet or Harry Styles. Another trait that defines a soft boy is that he is actually a softie. For example, Styles once ordered pizza and bagels for fans awaiting his Saturday Night Live performance in 2017, and just recently, left a handwritten note for a fan (and fed her fish!) after stopping at her house after his car broke down. 

Here, L'Officiel rounds up some of the most endearing and stylish celebrity soft boys.

Paul Rudd is the original soft boy, making audiences fall in love with him since his Clueless days. 

Harry Styles often incorporates traditionally feminine elements into his fashion. Here, he pairs high-waisted trousers with a printed cardigan, a pearl necklace and colourful nail polish.

Frank Ocean's Blonde is widely regarded as a soft boy soundtrack, so naturally, the artist himself exemplifies the aesthetic. 

Playing up his waif-like look, Timothée Chalamet embodies the soft boy persona with his pastel trousers, stacks of bracelets and floppy locks.

From his emotionally wrought tweets to his mix of streetwear and soft boy style, Jaden Smith owns the aesthetic.

Don't let the frown fool you, the skinny jeans and sherpa jacket evince Evan Peters' softie status.

With witty Instagram captions that sometimes remark on toxic masculinity, Cole Sprouse is a cerebral soft boy, playing on sarcasm to reel you in.

Known for his role as Otis in Sex Education, Asa Butterfield has the soft boy aesthetic down pat.

Joe Keery of Stranger Things nails the sweet and approachable aspect of being a soft boy.

Steve Lacy knows exactly how to be a soft boy, from his music to his sweet but shy smile.

On the artsy side of the soft boy spectrum, there's Alex Lawther of Netflix's The End of the F***ing World.

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