The many controversies linked to Taylor Swift's 'girl gang'.

Taylor Swift is pretty busy these days, but if she happens to find a spare moment, I would really appreciate a list of New York City restaurant recommendations.

Because no one does a dinner date quite like she does.

In 2023, restaurant hopping seems to have become her favourite hobby, alongside performing more than 50 three-hour concert shows and adopting divorcees.

Each time she's seen coming and going from restaurants, she's arm-in-arm with friends. Following her breakup from Joe Alwyn in April (yes, it does feel like a million years ago), Swift appeared on the streets with a group of besties: Gigi Hadid, Blake Lively and Este, Alana and Danielle Haim. Since then, she's walked in and out of restaurants with everyone from Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Greta Gerwig to Brittany Mahomes (the wife of new boyfriend Travis Kelce's teammate, Patrick Mahomes).

The most reported-on outings have featured Sophie Turner, whose appearances have coincided perfectly with her divorce from Joe Jonas. The same Joe Jonas that really ignited the public's obsession with Swift's dating life, because they dated as teenagers and when they broke up, she publicly dragged him on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Adding to the fun was that, at the most recent dinner outing on November 4, Turner and Swift were joined by other friends including Hadid and Selena Gomez.

Hadid dated Jonas in 2015, whilst Gomez dated his brother Nick when they were teenagers.


Four Jonas exes at a table? Kind of legendary. If the old superstition that your left ear burns hot when someone is talking poorly about you is, in fact, true, here's hoping Joe and Nick had ice packs handy.

There have been many iterations of Swift's public image. From the curly-haired country kid, to the s*ut-shamey 'don't date her or she'll write a song about you' time of her early 20s, to the cabin-in-the-woods alternative girlie of the pandemic years. But the one that seems most relevant right now – besides her foray into WAGdom – is Taylor Swift, Friend with a capital F.

I'm sure you remember the 'Squad'.

Why yes, that IS Martha Hunt, Kendall Jenner, Serena Williams, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne on stage with Swift in London for precisely no reason at all. Image: Getty.


That was the term given to everyone and anyone who Swift was seen with in her early- to mid-20s. She tried to shake the boy-crazed public image of her early years by embracing female friendship, in the process, establishing one of Hollywood's most infamous inner circles.

People from all corners of entertainment, from Mariska Hargatay to Camila Cabello, appeared part of the crew. Soon, the 'squad' became THE Swift talking point. 

The squad never fully retired, but its overtness – the red carpet dates, the annual photo booth pics, even the joint Vogue covers – went away after a few years.

But in 2023, elements of it have returned. With a few pointed tweaks.

The early years of Swift's friendships are often forgotten, which makes it seem like she masterminded herself into the overlord of all who look like, or quite literally are Victoria's Secret models on a random day in 2013. Although to be fair, her waking up one day and plotting to become the gatekeeper for tall blonde women everywhere is a fun, albeit terrifying, thought.


In the early years, Swift's public-facing friendships were mostly members of her band, her high school friends and other country-adjacent stars. Does anyone remember Kellie Pickler? No? Okay, moving on.

As her fame became more mainstream around 2008, and as she was dating the aforementioned Jo Bro, she met Nick Jonas' then-girlfriend Selena Gomez. So, like it or not, the Jonas Brothers were culturally significant, if only because they helped establish one of millennial Hollywood's most important friendships.

Still in her teens, she became pals with other young stars on the rise, like Emma Stone, Dianna Agron and Paramore's Hayley Williams. As time (and Swift eras) went on, new friendships, like those with Lorde (after she dissed Gomez, Swift AND Justin Bieber in various interviews, no less), Lena Dunham and Lily Aldridge emerged.

It was Aldridge who introduced her to Karlie Kloss, who would go on to become Swift's most public, talked about and conspiratorial friendship of all. Their closeness even transcended the squad narratives. There was Swift, Kloss and their 200 other friends.

This was also when the controversy seeped in.

The group parading itself left a sour taste in many people's mouths. From their many red carpet appearances, to Swift's star-studded 'Bad Blood' music video, to the nightly guests on her 1989 World Tour, they were inescapable. Critics said it appeared like an exclusive, mean-girl cliche.


There were no actual documented details or allegations of mean-girl behaviour (well, besides the now-defunct Katy Perry feud), but Swift reflected on the image she'd put out into the world a 2019 essay for ELLE.

"Never being popular as a kid was always an insecurity for me. Even as an adult, I still have recurring flashbacks of sitting at lunch tables alone or hiding in a bathroom stall, or trying to make a new friend and being laughed at," she wrote. 

"In my twenties I found myself surrounded by girls who wanted to be my friend. So I shouted it from the rooftops, posted pictures, and celebrated my newfound acceptance into a sisterhood, without realising that other people might still feel the way I did when I felt so alone."

YES, THAT *IS* BEYONCÉ. Image: Instagram.


For a while, her friendships shrunk into the shadows. It was probably partially in recognition of the backlash, and partly because she became more private from 2016, following a very public falling out with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

As part of all the discussion, many spoke of the squad disbanding and wondered about possible, ahem, bad blood between them all. 

In that same ELLE essay, Swift said she'd learned the difference between lifelong friendships and more short term 'of-the-moment' mates.

"Something about 'we're in our young twenties!' hurls people together into groups that can feel like your chosen family. And maybe they will be for the rest of your life. Or maybe they'll just be your comrades for an important phase, but not forever," she wrote.

"It's sad but sometimes when you grow, you outgrow relationships. You may leave behind friendships along the way, but you'll always keep the memories."


Except for former bestie Kloss (you can read a full rundown of their falling out here, it's a doozy), it all appears pretty undramatic (boo). Even former squad members who don't seem to remain in the weekly NYC dinner date inner circle, like Hailee Steinfeld or Kelsea Ballerini, remain fans. Which is nice, if not a little boring, if you're only here for the gossip.

We're now living in Swift's friendship era 2.0. Friendship (Taylor's Version), if you will.

Swift's Instagram is almost all business these days, leaving little room for group shots featuring every famous person you could possibly think of (even Beyoncé!), and she no longer brings nine different famous friends as her dates to awards shows.

She's thrown out the old, overt publicity tactics that turned so many people off a decade ago. Rather than red carpet poses or performances on catwalks, we see the friendships play out via the Eras Tour audience or on the streets of New York.

Taylor Swift, Friend with a capital F, is back. You'll just have to go to a NYC restaurant to see her.

Feature image: Instagram.

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