Tom Hiddleston is on the cover of the March issue of GQ alongside the line, “TOM HIDDLESTON IS HERE TO CONQUER AMERICA.” But the thing is, he already conquered America. Last summer. It wasn’t exactly a triumphant moment for him, but it was a major event. He made headlines. He dominated the national conversation (back when we were allowed to be distracted by such things) for at least, oh, 12 hours? You remember. It was when he wore a tank top that said “I <3 T.S.” on it while swimming with T.S. (Taylor Swift) and her friends off the coast of Rhode Island.
We all laughed at the image of a thirtysomething British man (some, including myself, might even call him a “fancy man”) swimming with his younger American pop star girlfriend while wearing a far-too-small tank top on which a childlike profession of love was declared in red and black ink. In short he looked ridiculous, and people thought it was proof that the relationship was fake. (“Of course it was real,” he reveals in the profile.)
But the months went by. The two split up. Taylor started recording new music. Tom won a Golden Globe. And neither of them ever discussed the infamous tank top...until now.
GQ writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s profile of Hiddleston (remember when she was dubbed a “mystery brunette” by the tabloids while writing this?) is a thing of beauty, and presents the actor as an overly enthusiastic lover of life. He takes Brodesser-Akner on long walks, reheats his famous bolognese for her to eat, and tells her about movies he loves (Moana, he says, is “incredible.”) This man is Ricky Fitts on uppers. He is Bert the chimney sweep with a job. “The world might not be ready for the kind of earnestness and sincerity that comes along with Tom Hiddleston,” she writes. “I am here to tell you that we would be a much happier race of humans if it were.”
And while I can’t speak for the human race, I’m personally much happier this morning now that I’ve read his explanation for the tank top. The short story is that he had a cut on his back and wanted to “protect it from the sun.” The long version is...well, just read this:
And here he puts down his fork, a bite of my steak still on it. He looks off into the middle distance, and here is what he says:
“The truth is, it was the Fourth of July and a public holiday and we were playing a game and I slipped and hurt my back. And I wanted to protect the graze from the sun and said, ’Does anyone have a T-shirt?’ And one of her friends said, ’I’ve got this.’ ” The friend pulled out the “I ♥ T.S.” tank top that Taylor’s friends are contractually obligated to own. “And we all laughed about it. It was a joke.”
So that’s his statement on the entire relationship: an explanation of the tank top. “It was a joke,” he repeats. “Among friends.”
I don’t even know where to begin with the line about the tank top that just happened to be lying around being described as “contractually obligated,” (it’s a joke right? right...? right........?), so let’s move on. Brodesser-Akner then explains that Hiddleston will not stop talking about the freakin’ tank top as the two eat dinner. He gets a little existential. He gets a little introspective. He seems to regret the decision, but not really, you know, because he learned something from it, and isn’t life about, like, learning from things?
And then, we’re blessed with:
He still isn’t looking at me. The last piece of my steak is now poised on his fork in mid-air. He is so sad, and I can’t take it anymore, so I put my hand on his and I say, “Tom, Tom, it’s okay. You don’t have to talk about the tank top anymore. I got it. I understand. I’ll tell the world.” But he can’t stop talking about it. He literally cannot stop talking about it.
Tom: I’m listening. I’ll always be listening.
Everyone else: read this entire thing.