Taylor Swift and Harry Styles haven't been an item since 2012, but their brief romance continues to live on in the hearts of their fans.
Why was their relationship so short-lived? What effect did it have on their music? Can Taylor Swift and Harry Styles ever be on good terms again, or—to take things a step further—give things a second chance down the road?
We're digging deep into the former celebrity romance that fans will forever mourn.
Taylor Swift and Harry Styles' relationship was over faster than it took to figure out they were even a couple.
There were months of speculation before the two were first seen together in public. It started in March 2012, when the pair met backstage at the Kids Choice Awards (after introductions, Swift was spotted dancing with pal Selena Gomez during One Direction's live performance.) A month later, Justin Bieber revealed to the Daily Mirror that "one of the biggest artists in the world thinks Harry is so hot, but I have been sworn to secrecy."
By fall, in a November 2012 issue of Seventeen, Styles had named Swift one of his celebrity crushes. The same month, the American pop star was spotted in London wearing a silver airplane necklace that was identical to one Styles owned. Matching jewelry looked like strong evidence that they were linked, but neither would confirm any rumors.
The pair were finally photographed together for the first time in December 2012. Swift and Styles stepped out in New York City’s Central Park, where they spent an afternoon strolling the grounds and visiting the zoo.
Once things were no longer under wraps, Swift and Styles went full throttle. Weeks later, they were spotted on a double date ski trip in Park City, Utah with then-couple Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. And after performing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest, Swift shared a midnight kiss with her new boyfriend for the entire world to see.
But by the first week of January 2013, the couple was finished. Swift and Styles broke up over a quick jaunt to the British Virgin Islands. It was reported that she left the island of Virgin Gorda by herself and headed back to Nashville, while Styles continued his holiday at Richard Branson's private resort on Necker Island.
“He wore her down," a source told Vanity Fair. "He was all, like, 'You’re amazing—I want to be with you. I want to do this' ... But the whole time she says she feels like he’s looking at every girl."
Years after Taylor Swift and Harry Styles' split, rumors persist.
For starters, there is the never-ending hope that they will eventually get back together. But as far as we can tell, "Haylor" is definitely a thing of the past. Styles has since been seen with countless women by his side, from on-and-off fling Kendall Jenner to Victoria's Secret model Camille Rowe. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to a series of relationships with DJ Calvin Harris, Avengers superstar Tom Hiddleston, and, most recently, English actor Joe Alwyn.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are skeptics who suspect that there's bad blood between the two.
In July 2017, there was speculation that Swift was "seething with jealousy" over her ex-boyfriend's successful crossover into the film world. Styles had received positive reviews for his Hollywood debut in director Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. Word was that Swift had tried her hand at auditioning for roles, too, but her efforts were a bust.
Not that she was the only one deemed petty—Styles was also charged with being bitter over the break-up. In September of that year, an outlet floated a rumor that the British singer shaded his former flame during a performance on her home turf (Nashville). His offense? Covering the Little Big Town song "Girl Crush" to get under her skin.
Styles prefers to keep the details of his private life just that: private. When asked about Swift in a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, he said, "I gotta pee first. This might be a long one. Actually, you can say, ‘He went for a pee and never came back.'”
But one thing he has occasionally commented on is his inevitable role as a muse for Swift's music.
“It would be hypocritical for me to say she couldn’t do it because everybody writes songs based on personal experience,” Styles told Us in August 2013. “I can’t say I’d have dated someone less famous to avoid it.”
His prediction that he'd be referenced in her work was spot-on, and Swift fans obsessively studied lyrics for her take on their doomed relationship. "I Knew You Were Trouble," from her 2012 album Red, was "one hundred percent about Harry." Swift alluded to Styles while accepting the award for Best Female Video at the 2013 MTV VMAs, saying, “I also wanna thank the person who inspired this song, who knows exactly who he is, because now I got one of these!”
It wasn't her only act of petty behavior, either. Earlier in the show, while One Direction was presenting an award, cameras cut to Swift, who appeared to whisper “Shut the f**k up” to Selena Gomez.
Three songs from her follow-up album, 1989, also drew inspiration from their brief time together. There's "All You Had to Do Was Stay," about a guy whom she can't get to commit ("Had me in the palm of your hand/Then, why'd you had to go and lock me out when I let you in"). In "I Wish You Would," she sings, "You always knew how to push my buttons/You gave me everything and nothing." And of course, there's the hit single "Style," which romanticized their image as a couple ("You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye/And I got that red lip, classic thing that you like/And when we go crashing down, we come back every time.")
“I mean, I don’t know if [her songs] about me or not …” Styles told Rolling Stone. “But the issue is, she’s so good, they’re bloody everywhere. I write from my experiences; everyone does that. I’m lucky if everything [we went through] helped create those songs. That’s what hits your heart."
Styles may have taken his own shots at Swift in the One Direction song "Perfect," which he co-wrote. (“And if you like cameras flashing every time we go out/And if you’re looking for someone to write your breakup songs about/Baby, I’m perfect.”)
For the most part, it looks like the two have moved on and arrived at a place of mutual respect. In an interview with The Sun, he revealed that he remains on good terms with many of his exes. “Everyone should be friends, right?” he asked.
He reiterated that take three years later on a March 2020 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, When Stern asked Styles how he felt about Swift's songwriting, the 26-year-old replied, “It doesn't upset me... I think it’s flattering. Even if the song isn’t that flattering, you’ve still spent time on it and, ultimately, using Taylor as an example, she’s a great songwriter.”
Styles has postponed a tour to support his 2019 album Fine Line until 2021. And in July, Swift released Folklore, which was recorded during the COVID-19 lockdown. Neither albums seem to suggest they are still hung up on one another. Perhaps the next step will be a collaboration between the two? You never know what the future holds.