• Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
The Evolution of Taylor Swift

At the little town of Wyomissing, in Pennsylvania, there is a particularly comfortable Christmas tree farm. There are, indeed, many Christmas tree farms, for the growing of trees is the business of the place, which, as many travelers will remember, is seated upon the edge of a remarkably windy river—a river that it behooves every tourist to visit.

It is here on this river that many a family has raised their children. One of these children, however, is famous, distinguished from many of her fellow locals by both an extraordinary musical talent and an early sign of maturity well beyond her age. It is hardly known whether it was her particular affinity for the guitar or her spirited personality that was already too big for one Wyomissing, Pa., but before long she left that particularly comfortable Christmas tree farm and moved to Nashville to begin her journey to stardom.

It was there that the real Taylor Swift was born, and there that our study begins. 10 years ago today, the world was introduced to this ringletted ingenue with the release of the eponymous album Taylor Swift. She serenaded one Tim McGraw, she hated pickup trucks, she made us all hate Drew more than we knew we could. 

But in that decade since her big debut, Taylor Swift has grown and evolved and created new sounds and gotten edgier and angrier and cut off her curly hair and stopped wearing hoop earrings and discovered the lost art of the crop top and completely reinvented herself over and over. Every second October, with the release of another album, we usher in a new era of Taylor. She changes her outfits, she changes her makeup, she changes what she sings about.

Now sometimes the changes are for better, sometimes for worse, but they're always entertaining and worth a study. 

Part I: The Taylor Swift Era

The Evolution of Taylor Swift, Gif 1

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

1 part heavily-ringletted hair
1 part acoustic guitar (accompanying teardrops optional)
1 part hand hearts

 

The year was 2006, and the raison d'etre was country music, with a side of having a horrible time in high school. Heartache, feeling left out, and spending hours locked up in her room scribbling Drew's name in a notebook were the diversionary preferences of a 16-year-old Miss Taylor Swift. She unironically rode in pickup trucks, she unironically wore cowboy boots, she was just happy to be anywhere but history class. 

Part II: The Fearless Era

The Evolution of Taylor Swift, Gif 2

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

1 part hair still in ringlets, although professionally done ringlets by now
1 part blue eyeshadow, the frostier the better
1 part prom dresses
1 part Disney Channel cast member squad

Shakespearean, both in material and in aesthetics, was this period. Romeo took her somewhere they could be alone: The dressing room of a satin emporium. While on the way there, he instilled in Taylor a driving affinity for star-crossed lovers. It must have been a really long drive, because it translated into more than a few lyrical accounts of grand romance. She said this ain't a fairy tale, but what's wrong with pretending for a couple years until your next album, right?

It's a love story, baby just say yes. 

Part III: The Speak Now Era

The Evolution of Taylor Swift, Gif 3

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

1 part thirst for lyrical revenge
1 part hatred for John Mayer
1 part eyeliner
1 part plaid shirts
1 part leather boots
1 part exploration of independent coffee shops

What happens when you take a Nashville girl and drop her right into the heart of Brooklyn? The same that would occur to any of us should we find ourselves surreptitiously exploring the finer things in life, like free trade roasteries and cooperative grocery stores and exposed brick and crisp fall weather: You go a little hipster.

In this region, in the month of October, it is customary to trade one's handkerchief tops for anything that looks like it came out of a J.Crew catalog. One begins curating their outfits, they begin curating their beverages, they begin curating their relationships.

Perhaps it is also these winds of change that usher in a realization that it's time to start, in your songs, standing up for oneself in the face of bullies, whether that perpetrator be an overly critical musical blogger or a former teen wolf or a singer whose identity doesn't even deserve to be lyrically shrouded. Your flannel gives you courage, and your eyeliner helps you feel like a bad ass. 

Part IV: The Red Era

The Evolution of Taylor Swift, Gif 4

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

1 part straightened hair
1 part bangs
1 part red lipstick
Minus 1 scarf
Minus 1 maple latte

We receive impressions of people from all sources. We take in their appearances, their expressions, the words they so carefully choose. The human mind is designed to read signals, and then interpret those signals to tell a story. The utmost way to change the impression is to change the signals—when you are about to release your first mainstream pop album after several heavily-critically-acclaimed and commercially popular country albums that have helped to seal your place in the hearts of fans the world over, you take away everything we know about country singers and replace it with what we know about pop singers. 

Enter the red lipstick.

Part V: The 1989 Era

The Evolution of Taylor Swift, Gif 5

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

1 part crop top
1 part empty purse
1 part crop top
1 part Karlie Kloss
1 part crop top
1 part New York pride

New York City. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. The Empire State. It's a place of wonderful reinvention, of never ending excitement, of camaraderie and new experiences. Where you can drop your bags on your apartment floor and forget about Harry Styles. Where you can get your own fancy new apartment where you will bring your fancy new model BFF to bake cookies and take selfies and pretend that you're not thinking about your breakup at all. 

Where you can find dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are your side that it's totally whack to steal someone else's backup dancers. Where you should be getting back into your love of independent coffee shops but also can't but visit your Starbucks lover. 

Where you finally reinvent yourself to something that feels just right. Where you're freaking empowered for the first time ever, and you wear short shorts and sparkly tops and show off your awkward dance moves and answer to no one. Where you change your hair with every new moon. 

Where you inspire your legions of fans not to give hand hearts, but middle fingers. Where you will gain the strength to take on the world's evils, like Kanye West and Spotify and anyone who doesn't care enough about their fans to visit them in the hospital. 

In New York, you keep cruising.