by Natalie Finn | Sat., 1 Feb. 2020 7:00 AM
Getty Images; Pacific Coast News; Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration
Many of you know the basic story of Harry Styles‘ life by now.
But the enviably coiffed singer, who went solo in 2016, has packed a lot of living into his 26 years and, as it turns out, 6-foot-tall drinks of water run deep.
With millions of albums sold as a member of one of the biggest boy bands of all time and on his own, a well-received part in a World War II epic, a budding career as a late-night host and at least 1,000 suit patterns to his name, the devoted Stylers of the world have earned a maximum return on that investment they made a decade ago.
“While I was in the band,” he told Rolling Stone last summer, “I was constantly scared I might sing a wrong note. I felt so much weight in terms of not getting things wrong. I remember when I signed my record deal and I asked my manager, ‘What happens if I get arrested? Does it mean the contract is null and void?’
“Now, I feel like the fans have given me an environment to be myself and grow up and create this safe space to learn and make mistakes.”
If he ever makes a mistake, surely we’ll hear about it, but until then, these are 26 essential things to know about birthday boy Harry Edward Styles:
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1. Tuesday’s Child
Harry Edward Styles was born on Feb. 1, 1994, in the Worcestershire town of Evesham, to Anne Cox and Desmond Styles. He has an older sister named Gemma, who was born in 1990.
The family moved to Holmes Chapel, in Cheshire, when he was a baby and, according to Anne, her son’s first word was “cat.”
Styles called the village of about 5,000 people that he grew up in “quite boring,” but “picturesque.”
2. Modern Family
In the 1D biography Dare to Dream, Harry recalled crying—not a normal occurrence for him—when his parents told him and Gemma that they were splitting up. He was 7.
“I guess I didn’t really get what was going on properly, I was just sad that my parents wouldn’t be together anymore,” he said.
Des and Anne continued to live together for another two years before he moved out and Anne moved Harry and Gemma to Northwich, in the Cheshire countryside. By the time Harry was a teenager, they lived back in Holmes Chapel.
After being together for over a decade, Anne married Robin Twist in 2013. Harry walked his mom down the aisle and was best man at their wedding.
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
3. Fresh Out of the Oven
By all accounts, Harry was an attention-loving, creative little boy and a born entertainer (whether it was singing or streaking through a train station in his boxers). He got a rush from doing school plays, and the music he’d listen to with his dad on weekends—classic rock like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Queen—helped shape his own taste.
According to Louisa Jepson’s 2013 biography Harry Styles—Every Piece of Me, the first recording he made, using a karaoke machine that was a present from his grandfather, was Elvis’ “The Girl of My Best Friend.” As he got older, Coldplay, John Mayer and Noel Gallagher joined his roster of favorites.
When he first got into a band at around 14, Harry intended to learn the bass, but they already had a guy who played bass, so he ended up being the singer. They called themselves White Eskimo and ended up winning their school’s Battle of the Bands competition, which came with a £100 prize and helped them score their first gig, playing a wedding.
“He’s certainly not shy about himself,” Anne told Now magazine about her son in 2010. “Ever since he was young he’s made people smile. I always thought he’d end up on stage.”
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4. Making Real Good Bread
Harry earned a little extra scratch—£6 an hour—working at W. Mandeville bakery on Saturdays.
“He was the most polite member of staff we’ve ever had,” his former boss, Simon Wakefield, told the Mirror in 2013, when Styles returned to the shop to shoot scenes for One Direction: This Is Us. ”Customers really took a shine to him.”
Wakefield continued, “The shop suddenly had an influx of girls when Harry worked here. Sometimes there would be 12 of them pouring in at one time. Even now, a group of 20 girls will sometimes come in and start taking photos of the shop. He was a really hard worker. His jobs were serving in the shop, cleaning the back, scrubbing the floor, washing the trays and cleaning the counter.”
5. Pussycat Doll
Anne was the one who ended up sending Harry’s X Factor application in when he got cold feet.
“People tell me I’m a good singer. It’s normally my mum,” the 16-year-old said, already the charmer, when he auditioned for The X Factor in the spring of 2010, performing Stevie Wonders‘ “Isn’t She Lovely” a cappella. “Singing is what I want to do and if people who can make that happen for me think I shouldn’t be doing that, then it’s a major setback in my plans.”
Well, they did and they didn’t. Harry didn’t make it through to the final Boys group, or even to the penultimate Boys group, but the show didn’t want to let him go.
Fatefully, Simon Cowell and Nicole Scherzinger, who was a guest judge filling in for Cheryl Cole, thought to group Harry together with fellow aspiring solo artists Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson.
“Come on, I’m not going to take credit, but I’m going to take credit,” Scherzinger says in the 2013 documentary One Direction: Going Our Way about her usually uncredited role in capturing lightning in a bottle. (Louis Walsh, meanwhile, was the other judge, the one who infamously didn’t get Harry at all.)
It was Harry, however, who came up with the group’s name.
“I thought it sounded good,” he recalled on CBS Sunday Morning in 2017. ”We threw around names for a little bit, and I honestly don’t know. I suggested it and everyone was like, ‘Yeah, we like that,’ and then it kind of stuck, and that was what it was.”
“Basically we just came up with the idea to make loads of names up,” Zayn said on Phoenix’s Hot 97.5 FM in 2012, “and it was one of the first names Harry came up with. He just texted it to us and we were like, ‘Yeah, I like that, it’s cool.’ There were some really embarrassing ones that Liam came up with…What was the other one? USP—Unique Selling Point.”
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
In October 2010, One Direction hit the X Factor stage live for the first time.
“I know I’m his mum, but he really is a lovely young man and he’s coming across exactly as he is at home,” Anne praised Harry to Now during his run on the show.
“But when he went off to the X Factor house I said to him, ‘Keep true to who you are, Harry, don’t turn into an arse. You’ll still have to unload the dishwasher when you get home.'”
Even though he was born to do this for a living, once the live shows began, Harry started having panic attacks before going onstage, per Alice Montgomery’s Harry. One time he threw up in the hall first, and he eventually took to drinking sparkling mineral water and doing breathing exercises to settle himself.
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7. Third’s the Charm
Before moving on to win at life, One Direction didn’t actually win The X Factor in December 2010. In fact, they came in third, behind series seven champ Matt Cardle and runner-up Rebecca Ferguson.
8. Girl Magnet
“I used to be friends with girls as well as boys,” Harry once said, remembering his primary school days, according to biographer Louisa Jepson. “I wasn’t one of those boys who thought girls were smelly and didn’t like them. I was kind of friends with everyone.”
His White Eskimo bandmate Will Sweeny told the Daily Star, “I know it sounds funny but, even in primary school, he had a few girls on the go. It was rather amusing. From Year Four, when he was about 10, Harry started with proper girlfriends. He just had this unbelievable way with girls all his life.”
Louis Tomlinson once told The Sun, perhaps needling his pal on purpose a bit, that the only problem with sharing a flat with Harry “is the constant stream of women he is getting through our door. It’s relentless.” (Surely Louis could’ve gone toe-to-toe with his roommate, but he was in a relationship with Eleanor Calder.)
Dad Desmond assured Jepson, however, that when his son was serious about a girl, he was a one-woman bloke.
Harry also took safety seriously. “The first time I had sex, I was scared I got the girl pregnant,” he told OK! in 2012. “And that was despite the fact we were safe. Luckily, we were fine. To get lazy and say you’ll be fine is selfish.”
Ian Gavan/Getty Image
9. Age Is But a Number
After One Direction won The X Factor, in 2011 Harry publicly set his sights on 22-year-old Frankie Bridge of The Saturdays and 31-year-old Caroline Flack, host of the X Factor supplement The Xtra Factor.
“I’ve been in love with Frankie since I was about 8 and she was in S Club Juniors,” he told the Daily Star Sunday. “I even had posters of her. I’d love to kiss her. Frankie and Caroline Flack are my favorites, they’re both hot.” After the interview, he commented on The X Factor website, “If Caroline Flack is reading this, say ‘hi’ from me. She’s gorgeous!”
In October 2011, Harry and Caroline came face to face at a show after-party at London’s W Hotel and they left together (though, according to Alice Montgomery, nothing in particular occurred between them that night).
“We were both single, we got on well and we had a laugh,” Flack wrote in her 2015 memoir, Storm in a C Cup. ”It was only when it become public knowledge that things turned sour. At the beginning it was all very playful. He joked about being attracted to older women.”
Even while they insisted they were just friends, One Directioners came out in force to lay claim to Harry, resulting in Flack tweeting, “I’m close friends with Harry. He’s one of the nicest people I know. I don’t deserve death threats.”
“Flack off, Caroline,” read a banner on display at a 1D concert.
Meanwhile, neither fans nor critics would lay off the 14-year age gap. “What’s hard for me to get my head around is people saying it’s disgusting,” Flack told Now. “I don’t think it is. Some people tend to see the negative immediately and that’s what I find strange. If two people like each other and get on, why does anyone else find a negative in it?”
With 1D on the verge of international super-stardom, however, the pair quietly stopped seeing other in early 2012.
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10. Just Being Himself
Harry appeared with the rest of 1D on a 2012 episode of iCarly, in which the band is due to perform (as themselves) but Harry catches, um, “jungle worms” after drinking out of Carly’s water bottle, shortly after the doctor warns her she could still be contagious and to not go around kissing anyone yet. And even after he’s better, Harry insists he still has that mysterious affliction so that Carly will keep taking care of him.
Those crazy kids! Eventually Harry gets better and 1D can go ahead with singing “That’s What Makes You Beautiful.”
This brief moment in history lives on on YouTube and in the form of tweets like this gem from 2013: “If you feel rejected just know- Harry Styles refused to kiss Miranda Cosgrove in the original script of the One Direction episode of iCarly.”
11. American Beauty
“I already know one of the biggest artists in the world thinks Harry is so hot,” Justin Bieber told the Daily Mirror in 2012, after the Kids’ Choice Awards that brought Taylor Swift and Styles together, “but I have been sworn to secrecy.”
“She’s a great girl and she’s extremely talented,” Harry told Seventeen appreciatively that summer about Swift. “Honestly, she couldn’t be a sweeter person.”
Though it wasn’t meant to last, Taylor was at 1D’s Madison Square Garden debut that December (Harry was pelted with bras, undies and, inexplicably, an iPhone) and they were the prince and princess of pop for a few shining months, from their public date in Central Park, to their whirlwind trip to Harry’s old stomping grounds of Northwich, to their ill-fated trip to the Caribbean that ended with Taylor on a boat, alone.
“When I see photos from that day,” Styles told Rolling Stone in 2017, about their NYC park date, “I think: Relationships are hard, at any age. And adding in that you don’t really understand exactly how it works when you’re 18, trying to navigate all that stuff didn’t make it easier. I mean, you’re a little bit awkward to begin with. You’re on a date with someone you really like. It should be that simple, right? It was a learning experience for sure. But at the heart of it—I just wanted it to be a normal date.”
Referring to Swift’s songs “Out of the Woods” and “Style,” assumed to be about him, Styles said, “I’m lucky if everything helped create those songs. That’s what hits your heart. That’s the stuff that’s hardest to say, and it’s the stuff I talk least about. That’s the part that’s about the two people. I’m never going to tell anybody everything.”
Asked if he had anything to tell Swift, he mused, “Certain things don’t work out. There’s a lot of things that can be right, and it’s still wrong. In writing songs about stuff like that, I like tipping a hat to the time together. You’re celebrating the fact it was powerful and made you feel something, rather than ‘this didn’t work out, and that’s bad.’ And if you run into that person, maybe it’s awkward, maybe you have to get drunk … but you shared something.”
12. Snow Days
Harry likes snowboarding.
“They’ve been having fun,” a source told E! News in January 2014 after Harry and Kendall Jenner were spotted in Mammoth Lakes together. “We’re friends. He’s cool,” added Kendall at the 2013 American Music Awards that November.
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13. Bathing Beauties
Harry also likes swimming.
Not naming names but noting a more recent relationship than Taylor that could have been Kendall, Harry told Rolling Stone in 2017, “She’s a huge part of the album. Sometimes you want to tip the hat, and sometimes you just want to give them the whole cap…and hope they know it’s just for them.”
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
14. Fan Fiction
No, any photos you might have seen over the years in which Harry and Louis—or “Larry,” as some took to calling them—appeared to be kissing were fake.
“That is Photoshopped,” Styles explained on Australia’s Sunrise, looking at a picture in an actual magazine in which he and Tomlinson were puckering up toward each other. ”There was a lady in there.”
“They’ve actually done this to me and Niall as well,” Louis added. “When somebody’s in the middle, they just take the person out from the middle. It’s very clever, actually.”
Yui Mok – WPA Pool /Getty Images
15. Unmaking the Band
In 2014, it was Harry who suggested while they were in the studio in London (very Beatles-esque) that One Direction might want to take a break.
“I didn’t want to exhaust our fan base,” he told Rolling Stone. “If you’re shortsighted, you can think, ‘Let’s just keep touring,’ but we all thought too much of the group than to let that happen. You realize you’re exhausted and you don’t want to drain people’s belief in you.”
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Cooper Neill/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
16. Scattering to the Four Winds
His mates agreed, and then Zayn, who had been struggling with anxiety and having issues with fiancée Perrie Edwards (in that tabloids were reporting that he was cheating on her) got a jump on the break in March 2015 and left the group.
The rest of One Direction soldiered on, preparing their devoted fans for the inevitable with an announcement in August about their planned hiatus. Their last concert was on Oct. 31, 2015, a scary night indeed for the 1D faithful, at Britain’s Sheffield Arena.
17. About That Zayniness…
In response to Zayn Malik calling One Direction’s music uncool—or at least nothing he would play on a date if he was trying to impress a girl over dinner—Harry stayed diplomatic.
“I think it’s a shame he felt that way, but I never wish anything but luck to anyone doing what they love,” Styles told Rolling Stone.
“If you’re not enjoying something and need to do something else, you absolutely should do that. I’m glad he’s doing what he likes, and good luck to him.”
Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
18. Balancing Act
“I didn’t want to write ‘stories,’ ” he explained to RS about his 10-song debut solo album, fittingly titled Harry Styles. “I wanted to write my stories, things that happened to me. The number-one thing was I wanted to be honest. I hadn’t done that before.”
That being said, the game was on when it came to figuring out what, or who, he was singing about.
“I like to separate my personal life and work,” Harry said. “It helps, I think, for me to compartmentalize. It’s not about trying to make my career longer, like I’m trying to be this ‘mysterious character,’ because I’m not. When I go home, I feel like the same person I was at school. You can’t expect to keep that if you show everything. There’s the work and the personal stuff, and going between the two is my favorite s–t. It’s amazing to me.”
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images
19. “Sign of the Times” Is More Heartbreaking Than You Thought
“The song is written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there’s a complication,” he told RS. “The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.'”
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
20. Mane Man
Harry Styles’ hair, at any length, has long been one of his most fetching physical attributes. In 2017, British Vogue dissected a photo taken of Harry’s dressing table before he went onstage in Paris one night and counted seven hair products, plus a bottle of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, a Diptyque candle and Sunday Riley face oil.
“I find it quite amusing that Harry has the regime of a very brand-savvy beauty editor—props to him for the Ouai hair products (which I love) and the Sunday Riley oil in particular,” Vogue beauty editor Lisa Niven noted. ”And who wouldn’t put a Diptyque candle on their rider?”
Before he returned to the spotlight to start promoting his solo music, only a few million people noticed that he had cut his hair.
“I felt very naked for a while,” he admitted to Vogue. “I was like yeah, I’ve gotta shave my hair off. It wasn’t a hard decision, it got made into a wig.”
21. Your Eyes Don’t Deceive You
It’s true, Harry has four nipples, two supernumerary ones located beneath his two regularly placed ones.
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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for HS
22. If the Suit Fits
While Harry rocked tight pants and a rumpled T-shirt like no other while part of One Direction, he’s been sporting fiercely tailored suits, or at least slacks and a dashing jacket, ever since, and has starred in two Gucci campaigns.
“I think both music and fashion, main influence was probably Shania Twain,” Styles told Entertainment Tonight. “Yeah, I think she’s amazing.”
Well, mom Anne did play a lot of Shania, along with Norah Jones and Savage Garden, in the ’90s, while dad Des was home-schooling his son in rock ‘n’ roll.
Starmax/Newscom via ZUMA Press
23. Storming the Big Screen
Simultaneously juggling his musical ambitions, Harry made his feature film debut in Christopher Nolan‘s sweeping World War II action drama Dunkirk, which came out in July 2017 and went on to be nominated for eight Oscars, winning three.
Asked who it was harder to audition for, Nolan or Simon Cowell, Styles said on ITV’s This Morning that it was probably Nolan, ”in that he doesn’t say anything. Like at all. He just sits in the darkness in the back of the room… It’s so intense because you do the audition and go home and obsess over whether people liked you or not.”
At least he could rest assured that Nolan wasn’t giving him special treatment.
“I don’t think I was that aware really of how famous Harry was,” the director told the Associated Press. “I mean, my daughter had talked about him. My kids talked about him, but I wasn’t really that aware of it. So the truth is, I cast Harry because he fit the part wonderfully and truly earned a seat at the table.”
Styles admitted that walking onto the set of a big-budget war epic was a bit intimidating at first.
“The first surprising thing was the scale of the production,” he told The Big Issue. You walk onset the first day and get taken aback by everything.” And for his first film, he had to figure out how to keep his head above water—literally.
In one of many harrowing scenes, Styles’ character, British Army soldier Alex, almost drowns. “While you’re down there filming and acting out the scene, you’re also thinking, ‘I cannot breathe for much longer than this’ which obviously helps the situation,” Harry recalled to USA Today. The day before he arrived in France to start shooting, “they were asking if I could swim. And it was a lot of swimming. It was more like, ‘If we make you swim forever, will you drown?'”
24. Thanks, I’ll Be Here All Night
And…he’s funny, too.
While ubiquitous in 2017 promoting his music, Harry also convincingly filled in for James Corden as host of The Late, Late Show (he even pulled off the American political humor), and did the job again in 2019. Coincidentally, back in England some years ago, while house-hunting in Hampstead Heath, Harry spent almost two years staying at the home of Late, Late Show executive producer Ben Winston and his wife, Meredith. He slept on a mattress in the attic.
He was away a lot, being a major pop star, but still.
Styles told RS that he was too afraid of Meredith to bring anyone home, but Winston insisted, “He wasn’t always alone, but it was exciting seeing the array of A-listers that would come up and sleep in the attic. Or he’d come and lounge with us. We’d never discuss business. He would act as if he hadn’t come back from playing to 80,000 people three nights in a row in Rio de Janeiro.”
Also in 2017, Styles played Mick Jagger (because, obviously) on Saturday Night Live when he was the musical guest when Jimmy Fallon hosted, and then in July 2018 on The Tonight Show he told Jimmy he wouldn’t mind hosting that show, too. His wish was Jimmy’s command, as Fallon promptly keeled over and Harry sat down comfortably behind the desk.
Styles returned to SNL as host and musical guest in 2019 and crushed it.
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25. Nobody’s Perfect
CBS’ Happy Together, Styles’ first foray into U.S. network TV as an executive producer, was canceled after its initial 13-episode run.
Handout/Helene Marie Pambrun via Getty Images
26. Good to the Last Mic Drop
When his first solo tour concluded in July 2018, selling almost 1 million tickets between 89 shows, $1.2 million had been donated to various charities from a portion of his proceeds and contributions from promoter Live Nation and the GLSEN PRIDE campaign.
And that’s what makes him beautiful. Happy birthday, Harry!
(Originally published Feb. 1, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)
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