Words: Eline Joling
Contributions: Colette Fahy, Nathan Flaskett, Erin Brewer
Today, marks global megastars One Direction’s 10th birthday.
A decade ago, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and former member, Zayn Malik, became a group on Simon Cowell's 'X Factor' after first trying out as solo performers.
Little did they know back then, that they'd become a multi-million-pound-selling phenomenon with 70 million records sold worldwide and almost 200 awards to their name, before each going back to what they all set out to be in the first place: successful solo artists.
Photo: Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson @ The BRIT Awards 2018
While the band have been on indefinite hiatus for almost five years now, the One Direction fandom is yet to fade out, and instead proven that the band is bigger than ever before by crashing their anniversary website just after it launched.
A single tweet on July 22 was all it took:
Breaking their silence with the cryptic tweet not only broke the internet and caused a technical glitch as the stampede of fans tried to access the site, but it's also inspired many to jump straight back into their old ‘Directioner’ habits.
Young or old, new fans or fans who thought they would be over them by now, anybody who ever liked One Direction rushed online to celebrate one of the biggest boy bands to ever have walked this planet.
As a former – let’s be honest, current – One Direction fan myself, the 10-year anniversary brought up countless memories of days spent online on websites like Twitter and Tumblr, Wattpad and Vine.
Even when the boys themselves weren’t actively posting online, there was always a constant buzz and people to speak to.
Years of memories of making friends that live on the other side of the world, who then introduce you to their friends in your own country, who, in turn, end up being your friends, and groups of ‘One Direction friends’ slowly turning into just ... ‘friends’.
For myself and many others, One Direction represented a community where you could feel at home, and be yourself, surrounded by people that would feel the same. It was a place where no matter your gender, sexual orientation, nationality or skin colour - you were accepted just as you are.
Photo: Harry Styles @ The O2 April 2018
One Direction have always shown themselves to be strong allies of the LGBTQ+ community throughout their careers.
From massive involvement in individual cases of coming out, such as when Harry Styles helped a fan come out to their mother live on stage, to more general support of the community by broadcasting about it to their global audience, the boy band have always been a pillar for young queer people to learn it is OK to be yourself.
Photo: Louis Tomlinson and Nathan
To mark the anniversary, Nathan, 27, looks back on his experiences as a young gay man and long-time ‘Directioner’.
He tells Lizzie's Lowdown: "One Direction have always been strong allies of the LGBTQ+ community. Harry has shown tremendous support to the community over the years.
"One stand-out action that I will always remember is when he single-handedly helped a fan come out to her mother whilst live on stage, getting the entire crowd to proclaim, ‘Tina, she’s gay.’
"Liam, meanwhile, defended the community on social media after President Trump banned transgender troops.
“And the importance of this was huge, especially when in some countries homophobia is unfortunately not yet extinct.
"I, for one, as an 18 year old going to University after just coming out as gay - felt that the music made by One Direction and their lyrics helped me be myself, stay positive and, all in all, live my best life."
The impact One Direction had didn’t end on just a personal level, they massively impacted the way in which we experience music and fandoms as a whole by utilising the internet.
Where preceding boy bands such as NSYNC* and The Backstreet Boys had a similarly dedicated following, One Direction were lucky enough to arrive at a time when social media had just taken off.
This meant their fans didn’t have to rely just on magazine articles and posters (not to say we didn’t all have our walls covered from floor to ceiling anyway), but they had access to an almost constant stream of content that was accessible to anyone with an internet connection, no matter where in the world they lived.
The internet helped One Direction reach out to an enormous audience, and it only seems fitting that with their 10th anniversary their fans returned the favour by breaking the internet (or at least the anniversary website...)
Showbiz Editor and boy band connoisseur Colette Fahy has been following One Direction’s success since the start of their career, both as a fan and as a writer.
She tells us: “Considering One Direction were the first boy band to really harness the power of social media, through their video diaries, Twitter, Tumblr and Vine, the online fan activity surrounding the anniversary is really not surprising.
#10YearsOf1D was trending on Twitter the day before their 10th anniversary on July 23, 2020, and the first tweet on the band's account in two years quickly reached 1 million retweets and 1.9 million likes.
“Fans have been making do with minimal One Direction content over the past few years as the guys embarked on solo careers, and they've been counting down to this anniversary for months, so any new content was always bound to break the internet,” Colette continues.
“It's also not surprising that One Direction are still massively popular 10 years on. Their first two albums, 'Up All Night' and 'Take Me Home', comprised of sweet, catchy pop with some rockier elements, but, as the group matured so did their music and third album 'Midnight Memories' was the beginning of a new direction for the boys as they took on more songwriting duties.”
“'Four' leaned even further into this new sound, with echoes of 1970s and 1980s rock, drawing comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, The Beach Boys, and David Bowie. 'Made In The AM', their fifth and (so far) final album embraced a folkier sound, showing One Direction were never afraid to experiment musically. There really is a One Direction song for every mood.”
Sharing her predictions for the band’s future, Colette adds: “Even though the ‘indefinite hiatus’ has no end in sight and new boy bands are coming on to the scene all the time, I can't see One Direction's influence waning at all. Infact, I would confidently predict that they, and their fans, will still be breaking the internet on their 15th, 20th anniversaries and beyond.”
I, for one, hope she’s right, as do ‘Directioners’ worldwide.
Photo: Super-fan Erin
Erin, 17, a die-hard fan to this day, still has high hopes for a reunion.
She says: “I hope and pray they will reunite, I would be at all the tour dates I could be!
“Being a part of the fandom is incredible, I’ve never seen such passionate fans! Twitter still to this day has people talking about 1D, everyone is still obsessed and we want more!”