Back in 2012, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles briefly sparked romance rumors.
They were spotted together a few times, but reportedly split in early 2013.
Many fans speculate that Styles inspired Swift's "1989" breakup songs, though she has never confirmed this.
Taylor Swift and Harry Styles may have been a short-lived couple, but "Haylor" will live forever in the zeitgeist.
The two superstars were linked back in 2012. Although neither ever clarified their relationship status, they seemed to confirm something by taking a stroll in Central Park together.
Swift and Styles reportedly split just two months after that infamous outing, but lyrical references and music video clues have kept theories about their romance alive. Ahead of the release of "1989 (Taylor's Version)," naturally, Swifties have been rehashing the details of her James Dean daydreams and monsters that look like trees.
Here's a complete breakdown of "Haylor" and everything we know — or think we know — about their relationship.
Fans speculate that Swift and Styles met at the 2012 Kid's Choice Awards
Both musicians attended the Nickelodeon-hosted award show on March 31, 2012, where Swift received the inaugural Big Help Award from First Lady Michelle Obama. During One Direction's performance of "What Makes You Beautiful," Swift was filmed dancing with her best friend Selena Gomez, although there's no footage of her interacting with Styles directly.
"Every girl in the audience — including Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Ashley Tisdale and their posse of ladies — knew all the words and sang along," MTV News wrote at the time.
"I already know one of the biggest artists in the world thinks Harry is so hot, but I have been sworn to secrecy," he told The Mirror.
Some tabloids claim that Swift and Styles had a brief fling in April 2012
Just a few weeks after the 2012 Kids' Choice Awards, One Direction went back on the road for the Oceania leg of the Up All Night Tour.
According to outlets like The Mirror and Radar Online, Styles had a brief "fling" with Swift before he left the country — but she ended up "heartbroken" when he was photographed kissing a model in New Zealand.
While on tour in Australia, Styles confirmed that he had recently met Swift, but downplayed their relationship. He told the Herald Sun, a local newspaper, that he and Swift had been texting platonically.
"We met in America, she's very nice, yes," he said, per Taste of Country. "She is very talented... She's very nice... We're friends."
Later, in a 2013 cover story for Vanity Fair, Swift declined to go into detail about her dating life, though she did "authorize someone who knows her well" to clarify personal details, according to reporter Nancy Jo Sales.
This friend said that Styles "chased" Swift for some time, so they spent a weekend together in spring 2012: "They got really close, and he was all, like, 'You're amazing — I want to be with you. I want to do this.'"
"Soon after that, when Styles was on tour in Australia with One Direction, he allegedly texted Swift to alert her to a picture of himself on the Internet 'kissing a friend good-bye,' but said, 'It's no big deal,'" Sales wrote. "When Swift searched online for the picture, however, she found that they were 'making out like with their hands all up in each other's hair.'"
According to producer Jacknife Lee, Swift and Styles wrote 'a few songs' together during a studio session for 'Red'
Around this time, Sheeran invited Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol to join them in the studio.
"She was making her 'Red' album. Her and Ed were recording the song they did on the record together in Santa Monica," Lightbody recalled to Under the Radar. "Ed invited me, with Taylor's permission, to come into the studio and say, 'Hi.'"
That day, Swift and Lightbody cowrote their "Red" duet "The Last Time."
Jacknife Lee, who had worked with Snow Patrol in the past, is also credited as a cowriter and lead producer on the song. It was recorded at his home studio, The Garage, in Topanga Canyon, California.
In 2018, Hot Press magazine ran a cover story titled "The Making of Taylor Swift," for which they interviewed Lee.
"We met through Gary's friendship with Ed Sheeran," Lee said. "Taylor came to Topanga. Body guards, big black car. We wrote a song in a couple of hours and sang it sitting on the sofa. She had a handheld microphone. Then we had pasta for dinner and hung around with my kids."
According to Lee, Swift invited Styles to join them for a session because they were "seeing" each other.
"Taylor was nice and very professional. She knew what she wanted and there was no fucking about," he said. "She was seeing Harry Styles at the time, so he came to Topanga on her recommendation. She wrote a few songs with him, and it was the same thing — quick. But this time it was more directed by the management and label. They were after something specific."
However, Styles is not credited as a cowriter on "Red," nor anywhere else in Swift's discography.
Swift released 'Red' on October 22, 2012
Swift began writing her fourth album in early 2011 and decided to name the album "Red" in September 2011.
Although it's safe to assume that most of the songs were written well before Swift was linked to Styles, there may still be a nod to their romance in the liner notes.
In the album's lyric booklet, Swift included secret messages for fans to decode. For "Treacherous," she wrote, "Won't stop till it's over."
This phrase is taken from The Temper Trap's 2008 indie anthem "Sweet Disposition," whose chorus ends with the couplet, "Won't stop 'till it's over / Won't stop to surrender."
This could mean the song has the same muse as "All Too Well," in which Swift sings, "Oh, your sweet disposition / And my wide-eyed gaze / We're singing in the car, getting lost upstate."
However, it could also be a nod to Styles, who tweeted lyrics from "Sweet Disposition" on April 23, 2012 — the very month that Swift and Styles were rumored to have their first fling. He also got a slightly incorrect version of a lyric tattooed on his arm.
On April 11, 2012, Swift shared a photo with the caption, "Recording the next album. So happy." This would've been around the time Styles left the country; two days later, One Direction kicked off their Oceania tour leg with a concert in Sydney.
"I wrote 'Treacherous' with Dan Wilson, and we came up with a way to say, you know, 'This is dangerous and I realize that I might get hurt if I go through with this, if I move forward with you. But… but I want to.' You know?" Swift told Taste of Country. "It's like that kind of conflicted feeling of it being a risk every time you fall in love — especially with certain types of people."
Reports of their romance began picking up steam in November 2012
Swift and Styles, 22 and 18 at the time, respectively, began to generate headlines just a few weeks after she released "Red."
Rumors swirled when Swift stepped out in Paris wearing a necklace with a paper airplane charm, identical to one that Styles had worn repeatedly, including in a photo shoot with Cosmopolitan UK. He also told the magazine, "There's someone I like... but this girl... isn't my 'type.' It's more about the person. How they act, their body language, if they can laugh at themselves."
"I find ambition really attractive too," he added, per Digital Spy. "If someone's good at something they love doing. I want someone who is driven."
—kass (@paininthekass1) December 27, 2012
Shortly after, on November 15, 2022, Swift was spotted holding hands with Styles backstage at "The X-Factor," where she gave the debut performance of "State of Grace."
"I had to literally do a double-take," an anonymous onlooker told People. "He was smiling at her while she rehearsed. When she was done he jumped up on stage, picked her up, put her over his shoulder and carried her off stage. The whole crew was really surprised."
These reports were seemingly confirmed by "X-Factor" host Mario Lopez, who said that he asked Styles what brought him to the show, and in response, Styles pointed at Swift.
Styles fanned the flames by naming Swift as one of his celebrity crushes
During an interview with Seventeen magazine, apparently conducted over the summer, Styles described Swift as "a really lovely girl" and "genuinely a nice person."
"Honestly, she couldn't be a sweeter person. She's a great girl and she's extremely talented," he said. "Some people you meet and they are not as nice as you make them out to be, but she's one of those people who's really just amazing."
Styles also shut down the media's portrayal of him as a "womanizer."
"That isn't really me. But I am quite flirty, maybe too flirty. I'm an 18-year-old boy, and I like to have fun," he said. "I'm quite old-fashioned. I like going out to dinner. You have the chance to talk to somebody and get to know them better."
The interview was published on November 19, 2012.
Swift reportedly called Styles her boyfriend at the 2012 ARIAs
On November 29, 2012, Swift took the stage in Sydney to perform her single "I Knew You Were Trouble." Australian band The Temper Trap was also in attendance, winning awards for best group and best rock album.
According to the band's guitarist, Joseph Greer, Swift approached them backstage at the award show, to say that both she and her boyfriend were big fans of their music.
"We were doing an awards ceremony in Australia and Taylor Swift was playing at it and she was dating Harry Styles at the time," Greer told Daily Hive in 2016, adding that Swift asked the band to write the lyrics to "Sweet Disposition" as a present for Styles. "And so we were thinking, 'Shit, do we write the right one?'"
On December 2, 2012, they were photographed taking a stroll through Central Park
Swift and Styles — two of the brightest stars in the world, at the time and still today — surely knew they would be photographed in the country's most famous park. So many fans took this as a deliberate confirmation of their relationship status.
The iconic Central Park stroll has been widely reported as their "second date." As E! News later wrote, the outing "threw two of the world's biggest fandoms into pure chaos and turned the young couple into one of the paparazzi's most popular subjects."
A few weeks later, Swift and Styles were spotted on vacation together in Utah. They were joined by Swift's brother Austin Swift, according to the Daily Mail.
They reportedly spent her 23rd birthday together in England
The co-owner of Custom Cupcake Company, located in Chapelford Village, told E! News that Styles purchased 23 cupcakes on December 13, 2012 — the day that Swift turned 23 years old.
Styles was a "genuine, down-to-earth, funny, easy-going guy," the owner said.
Swift and Styles were also spotted holding hands while strolling through town, People reported at the time.
Swift and Styles celebrated New Year's Eve together in New York City
On December 31, 2012, Swift was booked to perform in Times Square for "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" on ABC.
As the clock struck midnight, fans caught Swift and Styles sharing a kiss. Photos were shared on social media and quickly went viral. Later that night, they were seen heading back to a Manhattan hotel together.
News of their split broke in January 2013 after a romantic holiday gone wrong
Swift and Styles reportedly took a New Year's trip to the Caribbean, but they went home separately.
On January 7, 2013, the Daily Mail published a photo of Swift leaving the island on a boat alone. An anonymous source told the tabloid that she'd split from Styles after they had "an almighty row." Sources confirmed the breakup to People.
Swift's performance at the 2013 Grammys sparked speculation that 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' was inspired by Styles
Swift took the stage at the Grammy Awards on February 10, 2013, for a circus-inspired performance of her No. 1 hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
In the bridge, Swift seemed to adopt a fake British accent while delivering a line of dialogue: "So he calls me up, and he's like, 'I still love you.' And I'm like, 'I'm sorry, I'm busy opening up the Grammys, and we're never getting back together, like, ever."
Given the recent news of their split, this was reported as a not-so-subtle jab at Styles.
But even if Swift intended to send a message, it's highly unlikely that Styles was the original inspiration for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." It was one of the first songs Swift wrote with Max Martin, whom she met in early 2012. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" was released as the album's lead single in August 2012, several months before Swift and Styles stepped out as a couple.
In an interview with USA Today to promote "Red," Swift explained that while her songs tend to be diaristic, by the time they come out, the experiences usually aren't recent.
"My fans don't feel like I hold anything back from them," she said. "They know whatever I'm going through now, they'll hear about it on a record someday. They'll hear the real story. There's a little bit of lag time. It's not as instant as going on a gossip blog. But it's much more accurate."
Swift addressed rumors about her love life in an interview with the UK's Sunday Times Magazine — but avoided mentioning Styles by name
Swift was interviewed by Sunday Times reporter Stefanie Marsh on February 21, 2013, the day after she performed at the BRIT Awards.
Marsh asked Swift about her passionate rendition of "I Knew You Were Trouble," in which she ripped off a wedding dress mid-song. Styles, who accepted the BRITs global success award with One Direction, was seated in the audience.
"I tell her I think I would die if I had to perform in front of my ex-boyfriend," Marsh wrote.
"Well," Swift replied, without naming names, "it's not hard to access that emotion when the person the song is directed at is standing by the side of the stage watching."
The media ran with this quote as "confirmation" that Styles was the original subject of the song, but once again, given the creative timeline, this seems unlikely. According to Swift's diary excerpts, "I Knew You Were Trouble" was written in June 2012.
Some fans speculate the song was incited by their rumored "fling" in April 2012, though it would be ironic for Swift to accuse a man of soulless indifference ("And the saddest fear / Comes creeping in / That you never loved me or her / Or anyone, or anything") just to publicly date him a few months later.
Indeed, Swift said she believes a man should have "one" chance to prove he's serious. If he shows signs of ambivalence, "I would always walk."
"I don't like to scream and yell and I don't like it to get messy. And I don't like to have the phase of, 'Oh, we're still talking all the time, but we don't know where we are,'" Swift said. "I really don't feel like pursuing something that isn't real or isn't going somewhere, so if it's established that someone's commitment-phobic, I'm sorry — go be commitment-phobic with someone else."
Marsh also asked about the rumor that Swift wore a beanie in the "22" music video to imitate (or mock) Styles' fashion sense.
"I just like to wear a hat sometimes," she replied. "I mean, sometimes I do things symbolically, as a dig. Other times, I'm just wearing a hat."
When Swift released '1989,' fans were convinced it was inspired by Styles
Swift released "1989" on October 27, 2014. The album loosely follows a breakup narrative, which is outlined in the liner notes.
Fans immediately began to speculate about "Style," which describes an irresistible, on-and-off relationship. The secret message for the song reads, "Her heart belonged to someone who couldn't stay."
In an interview with Rolling Stone, published one month before the album's release, Swift was asked about the semantic similarity between the song title and her ex-boyfriend's surname.
"We should have just called it 'I'm Not Even Sorry,'" she replied — though she also told the magazine that she and Styles had become friends.
Swift has never explicitly confirmed who any of the songs on "1989" are about, but several clues also point to Styles as the muse behind "Out of the Woods," a song about frantically protecting love from prying eyes.
"Every day was a struggle," Swift said of the relationship that inspired the song. "Forget making plans for life — we were just trying to make it to next week."
In the second verse, she sings, "Your necklace hanging from my neck / The night we couldn't quite forget / When we decided / To move the furniture so we could dance / Baby, like we stood a chance / Two paper airplanes flying, flying, flying."
This seems like an explicit reference to the silver necklace with the paper airplane charm that both Swift and Styles were spotted wearing in 2012.
In the bridge, Swift told Rolling Stone, she sings about a snowmobile accident that landed the ex-couple in the ER: "Remember when you hit the brakes too soon / Twenty stitches in a hospital room."
Back in December 2012, Styles was seen in public with a bandaged chin. The Daily Mail reported at the time that he "injured himself on his recent skiing holiday with Taylor Swift," though a hospital trip did not make the news.
Indeed, Swift acknowledged in her interview with Rolling Stone that her private life is not an open book; it involves plenty of NDAs and secret rendezvous.
"People think they know the whole narrative of my life," she said. "I think maybe that line is there to remind people that there are really big things they don't know about."
Fans also believe that One Direction's song 'Perfect' was inspired by Swift
One Direction released "Perfect" as a single on October 16, 2015. Styles is credited as a cowriter on the track.
In the chorus, the boys sing about "secret little rendezvous" and "midnight driving with the windows down," both prominent motifs in "1989."
In the bridge, Styles sings, "If you like cameras flashing every time we go out / And if you're looking for someone to write your breakup songs about / Then baby, I'm perfect / And baby, we're perfect."
In an album review, Digital Spy's Lewis Corner described "Perfect" as a "delicious retort" to "Style."
In April 2017, Styles reflected on the media frenzy that surrounded his relationship with Swift
During an interview with Rolling Stone, Styles was asked about his walk with Swift in Central Park and the aftermath of those photos being published.
"When I see photos from that day, 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," he said. "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."
According to Rolling Stone, Styles is aware that fans think he inspired "Out of the Woods" and "Style," but he doesn't know whether those theories are true.
"The issue is, she's so good, they're bloody everywhere," he said. "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. 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 ever told Swift that he admires those songs, Styles replied, "Yes and no."
"She doesn't need me to tell her they're great," he added. "They're great songs … It's the most amazing unspoken dialogue ever."
They shared a sweet interaction at the 2021 Grammys
Both Swift and Styles were in the small crowd at the Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021, which was scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During a commercial break, cameras caught Styles and Swift chatting amicably at her table.
—HSD Media (@HSDMedia) March 15, 2021
Later that night, Styles won his first-ever Grammy for "Watermelon Sugar." When the cameras panned to Styles in the audience, it also caught Swift on her feet, giving him a standing ovation.
Styles denied that his 2022 song 'Daylight' is about Swift
"Daylight" was released on May 20, 2022, with his third solo album, "Harry's House."
Styles told Howard Stern that "Daylight" was born out of a stream of consciousness — a rumination about a relationship with a woman who brushed him off, leaving him frustrated.
Stern asked if the song has any connection to Swift, who released her own song titled "Daylight" in 2019. (Swifties also noticed that Styles' "Daylight" was placed at track five, which is a sacred spot on Swift's albums.)
"You're reading too much into it," Styles replied. "You know I'd love to tell you that you're spot on, but I can't. No, sorry."
Shortly after, Styles referenced Swift during a concert in London
While Styles was interacting with the crowd at his "One Night Only in London" concert, he noticed a fan who was celebrating their 22nd birthday.
In response, he sang a short bar from Swift's "22" into the microphone, causing the crowd to erupt in cheers.
They shared another interaction at the 2023 Grammys
Styles won big at the Grammy Awards on February 5, 2023, taking home album of the year for "Harry's House."
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