In the 17 years since Taylor Swift released her self-titled debut album, she’s gone from opening concerts for Rascal Flatts to selling out an international stadium tour. TL;DR: for newer Swifties, there’s a lot to catch up on — and there’s no time like the present, when Swift is taking over the NFL and preparing for 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Not to mention, the Eras Tour movie is coming out Oct. 13. As one person on Twitter put it, “I gotta catch up on Taylor Swift lore before going to the Eras concert movie.”
Whether you’ve been a Swiftie since “Teardrops on My Guitar” first played on Radio Disney or you’ve just joined the club after hearing Midnights, there’s plenty of Tay-lore to learn. Read on for a full lesson in all things Taylor with this starter’s guide to the Swiftieverse.
A Quick Swiftstory Lesson
Swift grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. When she was 13, her family — her mother Andrea, father Scott, and brother Austin — moved to Nashville, Tennessee so she could pursue country music. She got noticed while performing at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe and signed onto Big Machine Records in 2005. She released six albums there, before switching over to Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group (UMG), in 2018. Since moving to UMG, Swift has released four new albums and started re-recording her previous albums.
The Number 13
Swift loves the number 13, often calling it her “lucky number.” (During her early tours, she’d paint a 13 on her hand before each show.) In a 2009 interview with MTV, Swift explained the number’s significance. “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first #1 song had a 13-second intro,” she said. “Every time I've won an award I've been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter.”
Names In The Swiftiverse To Know
Swift’s current squad includes big names like Selena Gomez, Sophie Turner, Blake Lively, Gigi Hadid, Sabrina Carpenter, and the Haim sisters. But there are more names to keep on your radar.
Travis Kelce: the Kansas City Chiefs tight end and reportedly Swift’s current love interest.
Jack Antonoff: the lead singer of Bleachers and Swift’s go-to producer ever since they collaborated on 1989 in 2014.
Abigail Anderson: Swift’s long-time best friend who got a shoutout in “Fifteen.”
Tree Paine: Swift’s publicist, who fans adore for how she’s handled Swift’s public feuds (more on that later).
Karlie Kloss: Swift’s ultimate bestie from 2012 to 2018. Kloss was an OG member of Swift’s squad, but they had a rumored feud around 2019. Her name’s popped back up in the Swiftieverse recently, though, because Kloss showed up at the Eras Tour in August 2023.
Meredith Grey, Olivia Benson, and Benjamin Button: Swift’s cats, all named after famous TV and film characters.
Easter Egg: Swifties are constantly looking out for “Easter eggs,” aka any subtle hint Swift drops for them, often teasing upcoming projects. “I love to communicate through Easter eggs,” Swift told Entertainment Weekly in 2019. “I think the best messages are cryptic ones.”
(Taylor’s Version): A parenthetical added to every re-released song, showing Swift owns it.
(From The Vault): A parenthetical used for songs that didn’t initially make it onto an album, but were added back on when it was re-recorded.
Taylurking: Term to describe “Taylor lurking” on the internet, keeping tabs on her fans on social media.
Friendship Bracelets: Swifties started trading friendship bracelets during the Eras Tour, a reference to Swift’s lyric from “You’re On Your Own Kid.”
Secret Sessions: Swift held Secret Sessions, or surprise parties for fans at her home, ahead of releasing her albums 1989, reputation, and Lover. On tour, Swift held meet-and-greets, too, including T-Party, Club Red, Loft ‘89, and Rep Room.
The Scarf: In “All Too Well,” Swift sings, “I left my scarf there at your sister's house / And you've still got it in your drawer even now.” Fans think the lost scarf is a metaphor for lost innocence, which Swift alluded to at TIFF 2022.
Throughout her career, Swift has gotten into two major public disputes. Here’s the rundown of each.
Kanye West & Kim Kardashian
The Swift versus Kanye West feud started when he interrupted her 2009 VMA acceptance speech to say that Beyoncé should have won. In 2010, Swift released the song “Innocent” about West and this incident.
By the 2015 VMAS, all drama seemed to be in the past — Swift even presented West with the Video Vanguard Award. But then the rapper released “Famous” in 2016, where he called Swift a “b*tch” and credited himself with her fame. (In the song’s music video, West put a wax figure of a naked Swift in bed with him.)
When Swift got mad about the song, West’s then-wife Kim Kardashian released a video of a phone call, seemingly showing that Swift had OK-ed the lyrics. (Kardashian also shaded Swift with a snake emoji, which eventually led to Swift’s rep era motif.)
After Kardashian posted the phone call, Swift maintained that she was never OK with being called “that b*tch” in the song. She famously wrote on IG, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.” In 2020, the full phone call was released, proving that Swift didn’t know about the “b*tch” lyric.
In July 2019, Scooter Braun and his company Ithaca Holdings purchased Big Machine Records from Scott Borchetta. The sale included the rights to Swift’s masters. On Tumblr, Swift called the purchase her “worst case scenario,” pointing out how Braun’s friendship with Justin Bieber and West involved “bullying [her] on social media.”
In the Tumblr post, Swift also claimed she was denied the opportunity to purchase her masters, only offered a deal to “sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in.”
The sale prompted Swift to start re-recording all of her Braun-owned albums. Following the controversy, Braun claimed there must have been some misunderstanding due to a lack of “open communication.” He told Variety in 2021, “I asked for her to sit down with me several times, but she refused. I offered to sell her the catalog back and went under NDA, but her team refused. It all seems very unfortunate.”
Taylor Swift’s Muses
Swift writes most of her music, and many of her songs are autobiographical. (Back in the day, she even put codes in her album booklets, so that fans would know who/what she wrote each song about.)
Here are some of her most well-known muses (either confirmed or assumed), by album.
- Taylor Swift: In her debut, Swift wasn’t singing about megastars, but instead her high school crushes, including Drew Hardwick (“Teardrops On My Guitar”), Cory Robertson (“Stay Beautiful”), and Stephen Barker Liles (“Hey Stephen”)
- Fearless: Joe Jonas (“Forever & Always,” “Last Kiss,” and “Mr. Perfectly Fine”)
- Speak Now: Taylor Lautner (“Back To December”), John Mayer (“Dear John”), Kanye West (“Innocent”), Emma Stone (“When Emma Falls In Love”)
- Red: Jake Gyllenhaal (“All Too Well”)
- 1989: Harry Styles (“Style” and “Out Of The Woods”)
- Reputation: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian (“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”), Tom Hiddleston (“Getaway Car”), Joe Alwyn (“Call It What You Want”)
- Lover: Joe Alwyn (“Lover” and “London Boy”)
- Folklore: Scooter Braun (“Mad Woman”), Joe Alwyn (“Invisible String”)
- Evermore: Rebecca Harkness (“The Last Great American Dynasty”), Selena Gomez (“Dorothea”), Joe Alwyn (“Willow”)
- Midnights: Joe Alwyn (“Sweet Nothing”)
Essential Items For Swifties
There are a few must-haves that most Taylor Swift fans agree on. These Swiftie-approved essentials range from an Etsy version of the highly-coveted Folklore cardigan to Swift’s signature red lip (a long-lasting formula that holds up through all 44 songs of the Eras Tour set list).