Lil Nas X is just out here getting cuter. In 2019, he was two-stepping, shirt tucked into jeans, next to Billy Ray Cyrus in the video for his hit single “Old Town Road.” Two years later, he donned thigh-high stiletto boots and pole danced into hell to twerk for and then dethrone Satan in the music video for
“MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” another hit single. Side-by-side, these two videos show how drastic Lil Nas X’s style evolution has been.
At the beginning of his career,
Lil Nas X had not yet come out as a gay man and took a more conservative approach to fashion. His first public looks seem tame, but still totally turned heteronormative “masculine” red carpet classics on their heads. (Not once has he ever stepped out in something as simple as a basic black suit.) Now, he’s wearing internet-breaking gowns, popping off in skirts, and wearing so many Swarovski crystals you know that he’s getting a workout just from keeping his back straight. Lil Nas X has brought a new level of queer excellence to every red carpet he steps to and he’s reached new fashion heights with impeccable ‘fits that play with gender and genre. The rapper’s style evolution is truly a thing of beauty and I’m here to walk through every breakthrough, triumph, and iconic moment. At the end of the day, Lil Nas X’s fashion sense is so unabashedly him, so bold, and so fearless that I want to jump to a standing ovation every time he steps onto a red carpet. April 2019: Old Town Road Chic Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
When Lil Nas X first began performing, he was all about the cowboy vibes and kept the flair to a minimum. On April 28, 2019, BB Lil Nas X’s concert look was very lowkey. He wore a brown coat with fringe and a shirt with some minor embellishments. His cowboy hat was simple black felt. It was a dark time.
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Even Lil Nas X went through a Harry Styles-esque frat boy phase; it’s okay, everyone does. His matching beige set and white tank top are crisp and fresh while his rings, chains, and bracelet are super icy and bright. As much as I want to love anything and everything Lil Nas X has done and worn, this look definitely isn’t for the fashion history textbooks.
May 2019: Canadian Cowboy Tuxedo Rich Fury/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images A Canadian suit is a celebrity must, and Lil Nas X used the iconic ‘fit to show off a bit more of his personal style. The blend of street- and Western wear is a vibe unto itself and the rapper is also showing a bit more skin and wearing a bit more bling than before. May 2019: First Look At The Yassified Cowboy Taylor Hill/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Just a few weeks later in May 2019, Lil Nas X upped his cowboy meets streetwear fashion with this graphic suit that paired a flame-emblazoned bomber jacket with a pair of leather joggers. The bold pairing of stripes and flames was one of the first fashion risks Lil Nas X seems to have taken. Eagle-eyed fans might also notice that he traded his usually black cowboy hat for a white one.
June 2019: Neons, Animal Print, and Florals, Oh My! Leon Bennett/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Things are starting to heat up! For his first appearance at the BET Awards in 2019, Lil Nas X’s aesthetic really started to solidify. He wore a bold neon suit decorated with both floral and animal prints. You can almost see him begin to crawl out of his fashion shell.
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Arguably, Lil Nas X’s VMAs look from 2019 was one of his fashion moments that embraced his queerness. (The singer confirmed his sexuality
in a tweet on June 30, 2019, about a month before the BET Awards.)
The sequined suit and ruffled shirt were a clear visual references to none other than queer icon Prince from his
Purple Rain era. Paying homage to an artist that broke so many gender norms was a major power move and it definitely paid off. Lil Nas X Style Evolution: Neon Green Wonder David Crotty/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images
At his first American Music Awards in Nov. 2019, Lil Nas X began his ascent to the Red Carpet Hall of Fame in a neon green suit that did not come to play. While a suit is a pretty standard dress for this event, the cropped jacket, animal print, shoulder pads, and sequin details are definitely not. The exaggerated silhouette is an homage to the power suits of the ‘80s and it’s a powerful step toward Lil Nas X’s final fashion form.
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A lot of Lil Nas X’s earlier bold looks, including this one, aligned with his country aesthetic. Since he achieved major fame through the country music genre, it makes sense that he would gravitate to it, but country music fashion also has a lot of room for playfulness.
bright colors, fun designs, and fringe have been staples in the genre since the ‘50s, making it a safe space for the young artist to experiment without stepping outside the accepted norm. This monochromatic look is obviously fierce — Red leather! Tigers! A new cowboy hat color! — but it doesn’t, at least to me, seem distinctly Lil Nas X. December 2019: Old Town Road, The Guy Fieri Remix Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Lil Nas X took fans to Flavortown at the Jingle Ball in Dec. 2019. His matching pants and button-down are fire (literally). At the time, he was still in his “Old Town Road” era so the cowboy boots are basically obligatory, but I love how Lil Nas X is beginning to subvert expectations. Case in point: The star of this ‘fit. The choker, with all the dangling chains, is definitely the edgiest accessory the rapper has worn so far.
January 2020: Eboy Extreme Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images
On Jan. 23, 2020, Lil Nas X went full-out e-boy. At the height of the e-boy movement, he wore an oversized sweater and jeans with neon stitching to give it a punk effect. While this look might not stand out among his later, more over-the-top styles, it’s a testament to how the
Montero rapper always has his finger on the pulse of fashion trends. Lil Nas X literally never misses, even when stepping into new aesthetic movements. January 2020: Hot Pink Cowboy VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images June 2021: ‘Fit For Versailles Paras Griffin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
When attending the BET Awards in 2021, Lil Nas X brought the drama. His wide-leg pants and corset looked like a gown pulled from Marie Antoinette’s own closet. As stunning as it is, this look goes even deeper than just circumventing gender norms. The pattern, designed by Italian designer
Andrea Grossi, is decorated with images of battles and religion — following Lil Nas X’s own musical questioning of those ideas. With just one look, he’s telling a whole story and getting more into how powerful his fashion can be. September 2021: Purple Train, Purple Train Jason Kempin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The gender-fluid gowns keep coming! At the
2021 VMAs, Lil Nas X stunned in a lilac suit with a long train. It’s sharp and delicate, masculine and feminine, all at the same time. His pants were tailored perfectly to his body while the train billowed around. The off-the-shoulder style also gives this look a touch of romanticism and sensuality that I just can’t get enough of. September 2021: Golden Soldier Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The Met Gala is a make-it-or-break-it moment for any style icon’s career, and Lil Nas X did not disappoint for his first time at the event in 2021. The
“Montero” rapper wore three looks, and all of them were dripping in gold. From a velvet robe fit for a monarch to the gold armor of a knight errant (or robot warrior. Pick your fighter, TBH) to the sequined bodysuit, he slayed on every single step at the Met. December 2021: Cheerleading Lil Nas X John Lamparski/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
2021 also ushered in another big update to Lil Nas X’s style. This was the year he began performing in skirts. For his 2021 Z100 Jingle Ball performance, the musician showed off his dancing skills in a plaid, metallic, pleated skirt. Given that Lil Nas X was a football player in his
“That’s What I Want” music video, this Western warrior cheerleader-inspired look really shows off just how good he is at playing the whole field. April 2022: Pearls on Pearls Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Balmain look Lil Nas X wore to the 2022 Grammys cleaned my face, did my taxes, and changed my life. It’s like he dressed up as the Pearly Gates and invited everyone to a heavenly house party. Parts of this look might also appear very familiar to eagle-eyed fans. The butterfly details on the chest and sleeves are actually references to his Montero album art. Once again, chef’s kiss, no notes. August 2022: A Literal Angel Gotham/WireImage/Getty Images Lil Nas X transformed into an angel at the 2022 VMAs. His feathered hat and hoop skirt were Black Swan dialed up 3000%. The feathery dream of an outfit, designed by Harris Reed — a queer, nonbinary designer — also acts as a kind of religious iconography in the context of Lil Nas X’s journey to self-acceptance. Visually, Montero explores the musician’s sense of damnation upon discovering his sexual identity. Almost a year after that album dropped, the rapper who once thought himself literally damned (BRB, going to go watch the “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” music video) is now walking red carpets with a literal halo behind his perfect hair. Self-actualization, you love to see it. May 2023: Lil Nas X Goes Bejeweled
There are some things you simply can’t unsee. Lil Nas X at the 2023 Met Gala is one of them. The singer wore his most transformative look to date at fashion’s biggest night, donning nothing but a metallic thong, silver jewels, platform boots, and matching body paint.
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