Tom Hiddleston is famed for many things; his portrayal of Loki in the Marvel Avengers films, his turn as Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager, and, of course, the ‘I ♥ T.S.’ tank top he donned for last year’s 4 July beach party hosted by then-girlfriend Taylor Swift.
Almost as soon as the photos leaked, they were everywhere, and it didn’t take long before Hiddleston found himself the butt of every joke.
Even his good pal Robert Downey Jr – who plays Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) in the Avengers franchise – referenced the moment on Instagram.
A photo posted by Robert Downey Jr. (@robertdowneyjr) on
Sharing a screengrab of Hiddleston in the too-small top, Downey Jr joked: “Join me in welcoming the biggest T. Stark fan of them all to Instagram.”
Now, finally, Hiddleston has broken his silence about the beachwear incident in GQ's March cover story – and he’s insisted that the shirt, which launched a thousand memes, was “a joke among friends.”
He explained: “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.
“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 obliged to own, and we all laughed about it.
“It was a joke.”
Hiddleston continued: “I was just surprised that it got so much attention. The tank top became an emblem of this thing.”
By “this thing”, Hiddleston is, of course, referring to his short-lived relationship with Swift; the pair, who began dating shortly after a video of them dancing at the 2016 Met Gala emerged, found themselves marred by rumours of a “showmance” throughout the three months they were together.
“Of course it was real,” he replied, when asked if their relationship was genuine. “[But] a relationship in the limelight… a relationship always takes work. A relationship in the limelight takes work. And it’s not just the limelight. It’s everything else.”
Without addressing the Hiddleswift drama by name, the actor continued to address the perpetual scrutiny and harmful speculation of “fake news” in the tabloids.
“If you’re under attack, if your values are under attack, if you’re being shamed, if you’re being humiliated, the animal response is to hide in the bush,” he said. “And the lesson of 2016 is we have to love more, we have to risk more, we have to be braver, we have to be more outspoken.”
Back on the topic of that tank top, Hiddleston stressed that it was just that; a tank top. It wasn’t a secret cry for help, as some social media users suggested, or a hint that the relationship was fake.
“Nobody had the context for that story,” he said. “And I’m still trying to work out a way of having a personal life and protecting it, but also without hiding.”
You can read the full interview in GQ now.