Frequent visitors may know that over the past few years, we’ve put together In Appreciation posts for Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, and Liam Payne. And we’ve been asked more than once when it would be Niall’s turn. When we decided — after 2015’s vote went to his bandmate Harold — that Nialler would be a nominee for Most Handsome Young Man this year, we figured this was a very likely outcome. And we can’t be sorry that it’s taken us this long to get to this thirst post, because the kid gave us SO MUCH MATERIAL to work with over the past year. Niall Horan is your choice for 2017’s Most Handsome Young Man, and he truly did the most to earn it over the last 12 months.
Yeah, he’s hot and he’s talented and he has a crazy-endearing accent. But what makes Niall Niall (and a perfect entry into the MHYM hall of fame) is that he’s good people. He’s been in the spotlight for seven years and hasn’t failed us once. The world has watched him grow from a platinum tipped troublemaker into a polished singer-songwriter, but he’s still so recognizably himself. We love him — and put him on your ballot — for so many reasons, but we’ve culled it down to a top 10 for these purposes. (Okay, plus a bonus round.)
So thank you to those of you who voted, shared, and campaigned for this year’s competition. Without you, we wouldn’t have a perfectly timely excuse to finally unload our Niall appreciation onto the world. –Sage
1) He IS a Handsome Young Man
Listen. I don’t know what happened either. One minute I’m like “I love Niall so much, he’s this adorably gawky little ball of Irish Sunshine with lil chicken legs, I could never be attracted to him” and then the next minute my most used tag on Tumblr is “What the FUCK Niall” because my thirst cannot be contained. Personally, I blame this moment from the Capital Summertime Ball in 2015 that has literally haunted my dreams.
I also blame Carpool Karaoke.
So yeah, Niall started coming into his own handsomeness in the Made in the AM era. But then 1D went on hiatus and he freaking LEVELED UP. He fulfilled all our hopes and dreams by letting the blond grow out and truly embracing his true brunette self. I mean…I knew I wanted it to happen but I was in no way prepared for it. The dark hair makes his already sparkling blue eyes EVEN BRIGHTER and the constant stubble is just…something else. Combine that with a seemingly new-found sense of confidence and poise (because that adds a LOT) and you just have one HANDSOME young man. No wonder he’s the first member of One Direction to get a modeling contract. (More on that in the next section.)
Confession: I spent most of this year’s CMA Awards shouting “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BLUE STEEL REALNESS?” at my computer. Seriously. All of his red carpet pictures looked like he was carrying his own personal instagram filter around with him because who the hell actually looks like this in real life?
Also RIP Chicken Legs because sweet JESUS, check out his thighs now.
Honestly, it’s like he KNEW we were nominating him this year. And while we CAN’T give him the Grammy nomination he wanted (and deserved) oh so badly, we CAN bestow our Highest Honor on him. Congratulations on being the Most Handsome Young Man of 2017, Nialler. We know you will wear the crown handsomely, because you keep giving us new material every damn day. –Kim
2) One Stylish Mofo
One of the many, many reasons to love One Direction and their solo career-enabling hiatus is the light they’ve shown on menswear, in many of its forms. I can confidently speak for Kim and the Head Over Feels board to say that they’ve given us a new appreciation for dude style. Each of the guys has always had his own distinctive look, and Niall’s has been evolving organically — and deliciously — in this solo era. It’s deceptively low-key. It’s huggable. And yet, when you’re least expecting it, it’ll punch you RIGHT IN THE FACE.
Our style correspondent Maggie has called out Niall Horan’s undercover chicness, so I’ll let that post do most of the talking. Suffice it to say that this year’s Most Handsome Young Man has cornered the market on unassuming, easy-to-wear, yet totally put together ensembles that fully suit his mature singer-songwriter aesthetic. And didn’t you hear? He’s also expanded his portfolio to include modeling.
What we love about Harry’s exuberant style is what we also love about his brother Niall’s. They both look at home and comfortable in what they choose to put on their bodies. For Niall, that includes a lot of basics: white t-shirts, dark-wash jeans, brown laced boots. But he also loves a detail, our Niall. Take the embroidered black long-sleeved Ralph Lauren tee he wore to perform on the AMAs or this green-dipped button down he was snapped in by the paps.
He can often be found rocking a masculine accessory or two. #GlassesNiall incapacitated a chunk of the fandom when he made his debut, and he also doesn’t hate a fashionable — or slightly less fashionable — hat. Look at this Clark Kent motherfucker right here:
Personally, I’m hoping he sticks with the natural brunette look when the band makes its triumphant return. A full bleach job requires a lot of upkeep, and this more chestnut-y Niall look (ESPEC. with the stubble) goes so well with his wardrobe of well-fitting classic basics and bits of pop star flair. But above all, I want Niall to just keep doing Niall. Because whether he’s in a three-piece suit (*drool*) or denim and a plain tee, he looks self-possessed and confident as shit. And that is the DEFINITION of handsome. –Sage
3) He’s the Future King of Ireland
Okay, it’s Saoirse Ronan. And my dream is for those two to get married and take their rightful place as the #1 Irish power couple, representing their motherland to the rest of the world. If you’re reading this, Nialler, call her. I truly feel like you two would get along.
So there’s a running joke on Tumblr that all of Ireland is proud of Niall Horan to an absurd degree. I thought that might be an overstatement until I ran into it in the wild. I was hosting 1D trivia at an Irish pub in New York (I AM AN ADULT) and having a chat with the Irish bartender before the whole thing got started. “The Irish one,” the bartender said, “he’s done well for himself, alright?” Indeed he has.
If Niall WOULD be to rule Ireland at some point in the future, we have confidence that he would be fair and just. His politics, as he sees fit to share them, are all about kindness, acceptance, and equality. I have a feeling, though, that he’ll settle for being one of the country’s favorite sons. He’s doing his part with his solo tour to promote the voices of his fellow Irish nationals, from members of his backing band to his opening acts. (Y’all need to Spotify Gavin James if you haven’t yet. UnbeLIEVable voice.) I whispered to Kim during Niall’s first song in the Flicker Sessions stop we caught that he’d be a perfect Guy, the Irish troubadour, in a revival of the musical Once. She told me to go fuck myself.
What this all boils down to is that Niall is proud of where he comes from and proud of who he is. He proclaimed his Irish identity surrounded by a band of English idiots and he’s still doing it today. That’s why he’s Ireland’s most important unofficial ambassador. –Sage
4) His Songwriting
Let’s talk about Niall’s songwriting, shall we? When it came to One Direction, Niall was clearly more comfortable writing with the whole group; he had the least amount of solo/duo writing credits among the boys. (I swear to GOD, I thought he wrote “Act My Age” because it fucking SOUNDS like him, but alas, he did not.) But let’s not diminish his individual contributions to the 1D songbook: “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” is Niall in a nutshell with its sweet nostalgia and longing for home (that boy really does love Ireland) while “Never Enough,” “Temporary Fix,” and “Wolves” are all BANGERS that are meant to be performed live. (And WILL BE some day because I cannot live in a world where I haven’t heard Liam Payne riffing like CRAZY in “Never Enough,” okay?) (Also, “Temporary Fix” changed me as a woman.) So needless to say, Niall’s work with One Direction gave us very little insight into what his solo songwriting style would be.
“This Town” was both a massive surprise and exactly what I expected from Niall all at the same time. It made perfect sense that Niall would go with a guitar driven singer-songwriter sound (it’s essentially part of his DNA). But what made me sit up and pay attention (well, more attention than I was already paying) was the bittersweetness of the LYRICS. They showed depth and maturity and a whole new side of Niall that we’d never seen before.
“Yesterday I thought I saw your shadow running ’round. It’s funny how things never change in this old town so far from the stars. And I want to tell you everything, the words I never got to say the first time around. And I remember everything from when we were the children playing in this fairground. Wish I was there with you now. If the whole world was watching, I’d still dance with you…”
Um. Holy shit? WHO HURT YOU NIALL?
And Niall’s not done breaking our hearts. His debut album Flicker more than its fair share of JAMS (many of which Sage will touch on in the next section) but what really draws me into the record (to the surprise of NO ONE) are all those heartbreakers…
“I forget you’re not here when I close my eyes. Do you still think of me sometimes? And oh, love, watch the sun coming up…Don’t it feel fucked up we’re not in love? (OMG YES. YES IT DOES.) My shadow’s dancing without you for the first time. My heart is hoping you’ll walk right in tonight and tell me there are things that you regret. Cause if I’m being honest I ain’t over you yet. It’s all I’m asking…Is it too much to ask?” (WHO HURT YOU NIALL?)
“Then I look in my heart, there’s a light in the dark. Still a flicker of hope that you first gave to me that I wanna keep. Please don’t leave.” (What the fuck you guys?)
“We held our cards, built them high but way too close to the light. So turn your head, and let us go. I’ll learn to breathe on my own. And our paper houses reach the stars ’til we break and scatter worlds apart. Yeah, I paid the price and own the scars. Why did we climb and fall so far?” (I need to lie down.)
I think what my favorite thing about all these songs is that yeah, they are about a very real heartache and deal with raw emotion and pain but yet they never come across as angry or bitter? They never blame the other person; they never talk about how the other person did them wrong and how could they do this to him or how they need to suffer for what they did. (Such a better break-up song writer than other artists who shall remain nameless.) Niall’s songs simply say “Wow, this fucking hurt, I can see where it went wrong…and isn’t it awful that it did, cause man we really had something.” Honestly, the lyrics are a testament both to Niall as a songwriter and a human being and I can’t WAIT to see what he gives us further on down the line.
But nobody else better hurt him like this again. I don’t care how good the songs are. — Kim
I truly feel that One Direction is an honest-to-god group with no lead, official or otherwise. And yet, I also feel like Niall lapped whatever expectations even fans had for his solo career. Remember that he was the first member of 1D to drop a single as a solo artist. And “This Town” sent a message about who he wanted to be and what he had to say. There was nothing groundbreaking or egotistical about it. Nialler simply wanted to pick up his guitar and write some tunes, and who were any of us to stop him?
I wrote a little bit in the nomination post about what it was like to see Niall flourishing as a musician in his own right. Now, I don’t think that being in a group has to be stifling, if it’s a democratic situation. And yet it’s albums like Flicker that put me at peace regarding the 1D hiatus. Because it’s been so good to get to know Niall as a person through his songs. He has regrets (“Paper Houses”), he knows the value of a good ear (“Fire Away”), and he’d rather be drunk alone than in a relationship (“On My Own,” and hard same). Mainstream success isn’t the be-all, end-all of a musician’s worth, but it’s also been such a treat to watch the masses respond to Niall’s music and his worldview. He’s always seemed, to me, like a great connector. So it totally tracks when he performs a crossover song at the Country Music Awards and otherwise slots perfectly into Americana.
Still, it was “Slow Hands” that caught me by surprise. (And I don’t know why, because is the guy who spearheaded “Temporary Fix.”) Seemingly out of nowhere, Niall came through with a second single about dirty laundry and wandering digits and “we could do this baby all night.” I don’t think any of us saw Niall the same after that, and it only gets worse when you see him do it live. For the first time all night, he puts the guitar down and does some A+ strutting around the stage, punctuated by the occasional pelvic thrust, naturally. Watching Niall Horan perform “Slow Hands” live is like seeing a Pokemon fully evolve in front of your eyes, and I want to murder him for sharing with the world exactly what it sounds like when he wants to take you home. I could have lived without that information. –Sage
6) Still 1D’s Biggest Stan
The 1D hiatus has involved a lot of fear mongering, thanks to the way it’s been covered in the press. Well, if the band never does make their promised comeback, no one will be less distraught than Niall Horan, #1 One Direction fan on planet Earth.
Minus some minor lyric fails (“Now I’m out free?” Come on, Lima.), all of OT4 have been super positive in their comments about the band and its future. But it’s Niall’s strident insistence that One Direction is not over until he says it is that’s been the lifeblood of fans these past two years. And it’s nothing new. He’s always been forthcoming with his stanning of his own band beyond what can reasonably be considered promo. This isn’t fan service; it’s honesty.
So thank you, Niall, for keeping those home fires burning while you’re all out doing your own thing. We love you more for loving 1D as much as we do. Probably more. –Sage
7) Social Media Game Strong
Don't wana see a single person today , thanks ! really really fun night with everyone but today , don't talk to me
— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) August 31, 2015
Niall’s twitter has always been pure (see above for quite possibly his greatest tweet of all time; Niall is all of us) but my favorite thing about it is how there is really no need for any Niall update accounts because he basically runs his own. Want to know where Niall is today? Check his Twitter, he’s probably told us. How is Niall feeling today? Listen, I know whenever his sinuses are acting up or his acid reflux is bothering him because I have him set on tweet notifications. I realize social media is a big old game, and with celebrities there tend to be lots of people posting for them on their social accounts, but what I love so much about Niall’s social media is that it all manages to sound like him.
Niall has also fully embraced Instagram stories, where he’s done everything from recording himself jamming to Liam’s “Get Low” (twice. he’s done that twice) to posting many a shirtless selfie as he gets ready for bed (including one where he SANG ALONG to “Flicker” whilst ruffling his hair. @ Niall WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS) to doing a livestream of his soundcheck where he decided to bust out with “Uptown Funk” because he wants us all dead.
But perhaps PEAK social media Niall is when he decided to do an hour-long Instagram live. The man didn’t talk. He sat there listening to a playlist and singing/humming along to Fleetwood Mac, “From Dusk till Dawn,” and “New Rules” among many others while signing CDs, fluffing his hair, and checking himself out in the camera as he read the comment stream. HE DID THAT.
amem niall horan cantando new rules pic.twitter.com/LagoJxaNV6
— laura ◟̽◞̽ saved by 5sos (@leightning) October 26, 2017
Was it perhaps the most riveting 30 minutes I ever sat staring at my phone? You bet your sweet ass it was. (It was the same for at LEAST 30,000 other people too, so I don’t feel alone in my choices.) My greatest regret in life is not watching the first half if I’m being honest. THAT, my friends, is good social media game. — Kim
No One Direction Member Appreciation Post would be complete without talking about the way each boy relates with his bandmates. We already talked about how Niall is the biggest 1D stan on the planet, but I’ve got news for you. He’s also the biggest Louie, Harrie, and whatever it is we call Liam stans too. That’s just a fact, and we all have to deal with the knowledge that we all come second to him.
Louis Tomlinson is Niall’s favorite person in the world and that’s the tea. Nouis has been the gift that keeps on giving during this interminable hiatus, from their constant banter on Twitter, to the Instagram selfies of nights out at the club together, to the outright GIFT that Soccer Aid was in 2016. Niall loves Louis so much that he couldn’t even keep a straight face when they were trying to take a menacing “IMMA TAKE YOU DOWN” picture. There was trash talk, there was rough housing, there was Niall and Louis being the mascots of their respective teams. It was pure and it was good and I wish every day that we could have that week over and over again.
I don’t know if this is true or if I’ve just read too much fan fiction, but it seems like there’s always been a bit of a hero-worship dynamic between Niall and Louis, in the best and healthiest way possible. Niall always seems to be a little bit in awe of Louis (I mean, me too, Niall. Me too.) and the fact that they are friends. Meanwhile, Louis has always treated Niall like he’s one of his lion cubs. He loves dragging his Irish Buddy to the moon and back at any opportunity, but he’s also clearly protective of him and admires him JUST as much, if not more. He just tends to express it through impish nipple twists, hair ruffles, and the occasional derpy Instagram post. Cause that’s what big brothers do.
If you need any more evidence in regards to how much Niall love Louis, just look at his face during his solo show at the Troubadour with Louis in the audience.
That face? That face says “Louis! Look at me! Up here by myself! Isn’t this SICK? I’m so glad you’re here for this!” Meanwhile, Louis was beaming at him from his seat like the proud big brother that he is. He WAS glad to be there for that. (I’m gonna cry.)
Then we have Niall and Liam. The closest in age of the group (their birthdays are a mere 15 days apart), Niall and Liam are true compatriots and they are each other’s cheerleaders. It has been nothing short of delightful watching the two of them root each other on as they work the radio festival circuit together, watching each other’s performances and spending their downtime playing video games in their hotel rooms. When Niall hit #1 with “Slow Hands,” it seemed only fitting that the one who dethroned him was Liam’s “Strip That Down.” My favorite thing was how TICKLED Niall was when that happened. It was very “Go Best Friend! That’s my best friend!” and my heart grew three sizes that day.
Is there a purer love than that between Niall Horan and Harry Styles? I really don’t think so.
When Harry won this very poll on 2015, I wrote that Niall Horan was clearly one of the great joys in Harry’s life, and I feel like the exact same goes for Niall. The Narry dynamic, to me, is like the perfect blend of the Nouis and Niam dynamics. There’s the element of “This is the coolest guy I’ve ever met and he’s my FRIEND” element to Narry and there is also a bit of a “two peas in a pod” aspect to their relationship. I think Niall and Harry share the same outlook on life; they have the same joie de vivre, very similar senses of humor, and the same cheeky charm. Which often just results in them dissolving into a pile of giggles that could melt even the coldest of hearts.
My favorite thing of ALL TIME about Niall and Harry’s relationship is how Harry constantly crowds Niall’s space in order to fluster him or provoke some sort of reaction. There’s a reason Niall recognized Harry’s Mick Jagger impersonation on Saturday Night Live — because that was Harry’s signature stage move with Niall…and it was always a highlight of every show.
Look how offended/amused Harry is when Niall admitted that he stole Harry’s tooth brush. Niall’s cackle here adds ten years to my life.
The one thing I HATE about WHATEVER is contractually going on with these guys is that Niall and Harry haven’t been pictured together since the hiatus. (WHY? WHHHHHY?) Niall’s praised Harry’s album, calling it the closest to his own musical tastes. Niall went to Harry’s LA show and jammed in the audience. It’s clear they are still in constant contact (as Harry is with all the boys) but for some reason, they haven’t allowed us to see it. That’s fine. To quote Harry’s fave Nicholas Sparks, “Love is like the wind; you can’t see it, but you can feel it.” One day we’ll get those pictures of them hanging, when we least expect it, and Tumblr will implode. It’s fine. I’ll wait. — Kim
9) Niall + Sportz = OTP
If we were matching them up with their girl group equivalents, Niall would be Sporty Spice.
I grew up as the sole holdout in a golf house and have always found the entire game extraordinarily boring. It’s taken Niall’s proselytizing — including opening up a golf division of Modest Management — for me to have any appreciation for it. Kim and I even watched the golf final in the Summer Olympics so we could root for his buddy Justin Rose. That’s love.
Niall’s crush on golf has led to many memorable moments, particularly his outings with Harry, plus some very cute outfits. And one of the biggest gifts that 2016 had for us was his participation in another kind of match. Soccer Aid saw Louis Tomlinson and Niall facing off on the pitch (pitch?? idk) in a celebrity football game that also included players like Robbie Williams, Michael Sheen, and Jack Whitehall. (All of whom, I’m beholden to say, were a little in love with both of them.) Kim covered this memorable week and the exquisite Nouis of it all in a previous section, but allow me to say again how it lit up our world like nothing else. Look at this action shot:
The only thing Niall enjoys more than playing sports is watching them, and Liam is often his date for these things. The former’s expressiveness cannot be contained when he’s rooting for someone or some team, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in his stress and joy, even you — like me — usually couldn’t give less of a shit about any of it. –Sage
10) He has NO Chill
Before we go, let’s take a moment to appreciate how Niall has ZERO poker face when he gets a question he’s not expecting, despite years in the spotlight. It’s my absolute favorite thing.
Here’s Niall snapping his neck to look at Louis when they were asked to explain RBB and SBB…
Here’s Niall giving us a CLASS on micro-expressions when Ryan Seacrest asked if Louis was on vocal rest like Harry was and that’s why he was missing the interview…
Here’s Niall being told a ridiculous tabloid rumor about Liam and Cheryl…
And here’s Niall totally ruining a DJ’s ridiculous game…
Never find your chill, boo. Your lack of it is one of my favorite things about you. — Kim
OH YOU DIDN’T THINK WE COULD DO THIS POST WITHOUT DISCUSSING PERHAPS THE GREATEST MEME OF ALL TIME?
https://t.co/AY9lfdMP81 – ooohh noooo, Niall !
— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) April 13, 2015
(See this is the perfect example of how Louis expresses his vast love for Niall.)
Guys, our new Handsome Young Man is a BIT of a human disaster and we wouldn’t have it any other way. At LEAST he is fully self-aware of it? It’s part of his charm.
The unfortunate thing about growing up in the spotlight in the age of social media is that EVERY single fail is likely to be preserved forever on the internets. Please enjoy a compilation of Niall’s greatest hits. I laughed so hard I cried. (One of my favorite things, again, is how LOUIS cackles whenever Niall falls. Falling is funny, okay?)
We tease because we care and we RELATE, Niall. — Kim
Congratulations to our New Most Handsome Young Man! May his reign be long and handsome. If by any circumstance Niall cannot complete his reign, the runner-up, Diego Luna, would take his place. But come on. If anything, Niall’s going to get MORE handsome over the course of this year.
EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS GIVEAWAY:
We have two brand new Flicker CDs to give away! Every reblog, Facebook share, and retweet of this post counts as an entry. So get to sharing for the chance to win a hard copy of Nialler’s debut album.