On Oct. 22, 2012, Taylor Swift fans everywhere took one big, collective gasp when they listened to "All Too Well" from the album Red for the very first time.
The heartbreak anthem is almost six minutes long and chronicles Taylor’s anguish over her relationship with ex- boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal.
Taylor was just 20 years old when she started dating the then-29-year-old Hollywood actor in 2010, and they were together for three months before they broke up in early 2011.
It didn’t take long for “All Too Well” to become one of Taylor’s most beloved tracks. When it was revealed that the original version was up to 20 minutes long, Swifties were understandably desperate to hear what had been cut.
During a 2012 appearance on Good Morning America, Taylor said that “All Too Well” was “the hardest to write on the album.” Explaining why, she said: “It took me a really long time to filter through everything I wanted to put in the song without it being a 10-minute song, which you can't put on an album.”
“I wanted a story that could work in the form of a song and I called my cowriter Liz Rose and said, 'Come over, we've gotta filter this down,' and it took me a really long time to get it,” she added.
But Liz remembered it being even longer and said in 2016 that “All Too Well” was “probably a 20-minute song when [Taylor] called me.”
After years of petitioning for Taylor to share the uncut version, her fans’ wish was granted last year when she released the rerecording of Red.
In case you missed it, the singer announced in 2019 that she will be rerecording her first six albums after her old label, Big Machine Records, sold the masters of her original recordings to her nemesis, Scooter Braun.
Taylor vowed to rerelease all of the songs that had been recorded with them to devalue the originals and prevent Scooter from profiting and also so she can legally own them.
In addition to recording her own versions of songs that fans already know and love, Taylor has also been sharing some songs “from the vault,” which had originally been written for the albums but didn't make the final cut.
And in the instance of Red, Taylor answered her fans’ prayers when she included the extended and explicit version of “All Too Well,” released with the title “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)” in her rerecord, which came out on Nov. 12 last year.
But Taylor didn’t just stop with the song’s release; she made use of its length by creating an accompanying music video in the form of a short film that she directed herself.
The film starred 19-year-old Sadie Sink and 30-year-old Dylan O’Brien as lovers, and it didn’t take long for fans to notice that the age gap between the two actors was reminiscent of the one between Taylor and Jake.
But just in case there was any doubt over who the song was inspired by, Dylan could also be seen sporting similar facial hair to Jake in the video, and even wore a beanie eerily similar to the one that Jake wore in paparazzi shots of him and Taylor, which were taken during their relationship.
In addition to painting Dylan’s character in a bad light, with him shown constantly belittling a visibly distressed Sadie, Taylor draws attention to a seemingly inconsequential line in the song about her leaving her scarf at the house of Jake’s sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
She sings in the opening verse: “I left my scarf there at your sister's house / And you've still got it in your drawer even now.” She later revisits the theme with the line: “But you keep my old scarf / From that very first week / Because it reminds you of innocence / And smells like me / You can’t get rid of it.”
In the film, Sadie can be seen pointedly leaving a red scarf draped over a staircase, with the camera zooming in on it even after the actor has left the frame. Toward the end of the video — and years later within the storyline — Dylan is wearing the same scarf while looking through a window at his ex.
Reiterating just how significant the scarf is to Taylor, she even sells an “All Too Well” red scarf on her merchandise website.
And on Saturday, Taylor was asked about the importance of the scarf during an appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival, where she joined its CEO, Cameron Bailey, for a screening of the short film as well as a discussion about the making of it.
When quizzed, Taylor became visibly flustered as she explained the scarf’s meaning.
“The scarf is a metaphor, um… And… We turned it red because red is a very important color in this album, which is called Red,” she began.
After some awkward laughter, Taylor continued: “Um… And I think when I say it’s a metaphor, I’m just going to stop… And I’m going to say thanks for the incredible question to whoever asked it, you’ve really taken us for a ride with that one, thank you.”
Taylor’s awkward reaction — combined with the confirmation that the scarf is a metaphor — actually ties into a longstanding fan theory that the scarf represents her virginity.
“I do not care what anyone tells me i'll always believe that the scarf represents taylor's virginity,” one fan tweeted last November. And in 2020, someone else wrote: “The scarf taylor was talking about in all too well was her virginity and in this essay i will.”
And in 2014, two years after the original release of “All Too Well,” a source told RadarOnline that Taylor had indeed lost her virginity to Jake, which is why she took their breakup so hard.
The insider claimed that Taylor had initially been waiting until she was married to have sex but changed her mind while with the actor. “She thought she was going to marry Jake, that's how in love she was with him,” they said.
But shortly afterward, Jake failed to turn up to Taylor’s 21st birthday party at her family home in Nashville. The source added at the time: “The day before - all was set - he was coming, no issues. But the day of, she doesn't hear from him at all. No texts, no calls. Taylor thought maybe he was planning some sort of surprise. Nope. He didn't show up and she locked herself in the bathroom and cried the entire night.”
This moment is featured in the All Too Well short film, with lyrics added in the 2022 extended version referencing the incident. It was also the inspiration behind Taylor’s song “The Moment I Knew.”
“Standing there in my party dress / In red lipstick / With no one to impress / And they're all standing around me singing / ‘Happy birthday to you’ / But there was one thing missing / And that was the moment I knew,” she sings in the 2012 track.
This, coupled with Taylor’s reaction and comments at TIFF, has left many fans convinced that their theory was correct and that the scarf symbolizes Taylor’s virginity.
“She stopped herself before saying what the metaphor was but girl we know,” one person commented on a video of Saturday’s interview. A second tweeted: “Taylor swift pretty much confirming the scarf is a metaphor for her virginity is NOT something I expected.”
Someone else wrote: “I cannot believe she confirmed it 😂”
Others were preoccupied with the location mentioned in the lyrics, with a fan writing: “AT HIS SISTERS HOUSE THOUGH?” Another joked: “maggie gyllenhaal watching this: 👁👄👁”
A third person commented: “No the way that people asked Maggie if she still has the scarf and she has no idea what it is.”
And this has literally happened numerous times, with Maggie admitting that she is constantly asked about Taylor’s scarf during a 2017 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.
“I never understood why everybody asked me about his scarf, what is this?” Maggie said in response to a question about it on the show. “I am in the dark about the scarf. It’s totally possible. I don’t know, but I’ve been asked this before, and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
Meanwhile, Jake broke his silence on the scrutiny that he has faced off the back of “All Too Well” earlier this year, when he told Esquire that he doesn’t “begrudge” Taylor for writing about her personal experiences, but he later suggested that she shouldn’t let her fans troll him over it.
“It has nothing to do with me. It’s about her relationship with her fans,” Jake said of the rerelease of Red. “It is her expression. Artists tap into personal experiences for inspiration, and I don’t begrudge anyone that.”
“At some point, I think it’s important when supporters get unruly that we feel a responsibility to have them be civil and not allow for cyberbullying in one’s name,” he added.
And Jake isn’t the only one of Taylor’s exes to have got a bad rep after inspiring her songs, with John Mayer previously responding to a death threat that one of her fans had sent him on social media.
On the other hand, Taylor’s ex Joe Jonas has recently dropped hints that he and Taylor are now on good terms following their messy 2008 split.
Other celebrities whom Taylor has likely written about over the years include Harry Styles, Tom Hiddleston, and her current partner, Joe Alwyn.