Taylor Swift’s latest album folklore is unprecedented on several counts. Most notably, it arrived at midnight on July 24 without the usually clue-filled promotional journey to get there. In years past, Swift has teased fans with snakes for reputation and candy-coated Instagram photos for Lover. But her eighth album and first music video for “cardigan” are more metaphorical, and the moody video, which Swift wrote and directed, lends itself to deconstruction. Ahead, everything we can interpret from the atmospheric video for “cardigan.”

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The Hands of The Clock Point To 13

One of the early images in the video is the most symbolic. A clock on the wall reads 1:15, but more notably the hands point to 1 and 3. Thirteen has long been Swift’s favorite number and makes appearances in several of her videos. The release date for folklore also refers to 13—it was released on 7/24, where 7 + 2+ 4 equals Swift’s lucky number.

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Swift’s Grandfather Is In The Framed Photo

Next to the clock is an old-timey photo of a mystery man. Fans on social media have pointed out that the person in the photo was none other than Swift’s paternal grandfather, Archie D. Swift Jr. This could help establish this video’s location as connecting with her roots or home life.

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The Books on The Table

To the side of the clock and framed photo are a stack of books. No one has been able to definitively decide which novels are included in the video. But one of them could be Peter Pan, as one lyric in the song refers to the fairytale. “Tried to change the ending/Peter losing Wendy, I/I knew you,” the lyrics read.

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Is That a Wedding Dress??

Any time Swift sports a white dress, speculation about marriage bells follows. But her light-colored gown for “cardigan” could hint at an upcoming wedding. The song itself is widely-believed to be an ode to her three-year relationship with Joe Alwyn, particularly when she sings, “when I felt like I was an old cardigan / Under someone’s bed / You put me on and said I was your favorite.” (Alwyn also appeared in the 2018 film The Favourite.)

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A Parallell Image to Her “ME!” Music Video

Although the poppy colors of Swift’s “ME!” music video brought a totally different vibe than “cardigan,” there is one similarity. At one point in the “ME!” video, she can be seen riding a unicorn with a river of pink flowing from her dress. Here, Swift plays piano on a mossy hilltop as a waterfall cascades in a similar fashion.

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Similarities To A Harry Styles Video

Another resemblance that’s got Twitter talking—a few parallels between Swift’s video and her ex Harry Styles’ video for “Falling.” Not only has Styles been known to sport a cardigan in his life, but his video also involves wide shots of dimly-lit piano playing. There are also similar close-ups of both Swift and Styles’ ringed fingers playing the piano.

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Music Saving Swift From Drowning

At one point, Swift appears to be drowning in stormy waters. But she grips onto her piano for dear life, perhaps referencing the ways music has saved her in challenging times.

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Gold Representing Alwyn

When Swift escapes the choppy waters, she opens her piano to find swirling gold luring her back to home base. Eagle-eyed fans will remember that Swift often associates Alwyn with the golden hue. In the song “Daylight,” Swift sings, “I once believed love would be (burnin’ red)/But it’s golden.” In “Dress,” she sings, “There is an indentation in the shape of you/Made your mark on me, a golden tattoo.” And in her new song “Invisible String,” Swift sings that “one single thread of gold” has “tied me to you.”

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Finding Herself Again After The Storm

Throughout the video, Swift finds herself in different landscapes—some are green, others are nautical. But she begins and ends the video at that same old house. One Twitter user observed, “I think this means no matter what she went through she got back to her old self.”

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An “All Too Well” Shoutout

When the tracklist for folklore was released, many pointed out Swift’s pattern of focusing songs on articles of clothing. Notably, in the Red-era breakup ballad “All Too Well,” Swift sings, “Left my scarf there at your sister’s house/And you’ve still got it/In your drawer, even now.” While that clothing item represents heartbreak, the cardigan could represent peace and stability.

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The ‘Cardigan’ Merch

When Swift gets back home, she slips into a snuggly cardigan adorned with silver stars. And wouldn’t you know it, you can buy a similar knit on Swift’s website. (I may or may not have panic-purchased one while listening to the album…)

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Taylor Looking Directly Into the Camera

The final moment of the video sees Swift wistfully look directly into the camera. Some users have made a connection between that look and Swift’s look to the camera in the “Delicate” music video. Like “cardigan,” that track is believed to be about Alwyn, too. Both songs also reference downtown or dive bars of some sort. One user tweeted, “I just noticed that in the end of the Cardigan music video, she was staring at us (most likely at Joe) like she did in the Delicate music video, she tells us she found her true love (Joe) after the storm! wtf this woman is something else.” Indeed she is.

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Savannah Walsh
Editorial Fellow
Savannah Walsh is an Editorial Fellow at ELLE.com.

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