The Tell-tale Tweet

how nine words erected one direction’s gay empire

 “Always in my heart @Harry_Styles. Yours sincerely, Louis.”

With over 1.85 million retweets, the above words constitute the second most shared tweet in the history of Twitter. Sent from Louis Tomlinson, eldest member of English-Irish boy band One Direction, to bandmate Harry Styles, the message is a rallying cry for a subset of 1D fans who believe in a suspected but unconfirmed romantic relationship between the two 20-something singers. The coupling is known by its portmanteau “Larry Stylinson,” often shortened to “Larry” and whose disciples are known as “Larries.”

Originally posted on October 2, 2011, Tomlinson’s tweet (referred to by fans as AIMH) is claimed, along with the duo’s matching nautical tattoos and brief stint of cohabitation in 2011, to be evidence of Larry’s legitimacy. Others, however, namely Larry naysayers called “Antis,” insist that the two simply share a platonic bromance.

Whether Anti or Larry, no one can deny the power of AIMH, which currently boasts more than twice the number of retweets enjoyed by its closest rival, President Obama’s 2012 re-election tweet.

Oddly, however, only a year ago, Tomlinson’s now-viral words claimed fewer than a million retweets. Another year earlier, the tweet claimed fewer than 350 thousand retweets. And, in 2011 when the post first appeared, before One Direction’s breakout album “Up All Night,” one can only imagine that Tomlinson’s note passed largely unnoticed before the eyes of the Twitterverse.

AIMH’s delayed rise to fame differs greatly from most viral tweets. Obama’s skyrocketed to 530 thousand retweets just days after its posting but lost momentum soon after, drifting slowly upwards to its current 745 thousand over a four-year plateau.

So, what happened? What came up midway through 2015, four years after AIMH’s drafting, that propelled Tomlinson’s Hallmark card to the top? Why did Larries blow up this post from the past? And, with such fervor surrounding these nine words, the question must be asked: Could Larry be real, after all?

Many say no. After all, each of the five members of 1D has at some point been “shipped” with another. All 10 permutations of 1D couplings tout thousands of (often explicit) fan-fiction stories written about them on forums like Archive Of Our Own. While Larry dwarfs the rest in terms of popularity, 1D pairings certainly can’t all be true just because the fans believe in them.

Elsewhere, there’s Tomlinson’s tweet from September 2012 that states: “How’s this, Larry is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. I’m happy why can’t you accept that.” Also damaging to the faith was a March 2013 interview in Dallas where Tomlinson responded to Larry rumors by saying in an incredulous tone, “Some people genuinely think that we’re in a relationship. That’s what they genuinely, seriously think.”

And then, there’s Tomlinson’s run-in with Jenn Selby, author of a 2014 article titled “Louis Tomlinson supports gay apple CEO Tim Cook.” Having been spotted sporting a T-shirt with Apple’s 1977 rainbow logo on the chest, Tomlinson responded to Selby on Twitter, saying, “The fact that you [Selby] work for such a ‘credible’ paper and you would talk such rubbish is laughable. I am in fact straight.”

But then there’s all the other stuff that made fans believe in Larry in the first place. For starters, there’s Styles admitting in a 2011 backstage interview, “My first real crush was Louis Tomlinson… It’s mutual, we’ve discussed it.”

And then, from their early days on The X Factor, there are the video diaries that depict the two making eyes at each other and cuddling close in matching pajamas. At one point, the two are draped over one another with Styles pronouncing, “Kiss me, you fool!” and Tomlinson consequently descending upon him, delivering a furtive neck bite.

There’s also the inexplicable and rather public red carpet smooch in 2012.

These “proofs”—various photos and documents dug up by fans with juicy titles like “The Paris Interview” and “The Wellington Video”—all serve to undermine the two pop stars’ high-profile, tabloid-selling relationships with women.

So-called “canon” pairings like “Haylor” (Harry Styles and Taylor Swift) and “Elounor” (Louis Tomlinson and Eleanor Calder) are majorly denied by Larries, who claim that such couples are fabricated by the band’s management to prolong fangirl interest in band. One such relationship scrutinized by Larries is Tomlinson’s connection to Brianna Jungwirth, L.A.-based stylist and now also mother of Tomlinson’s newborn son Freddie, who arrived just last month on January 21.

Which brings us back to AIMH. Remember that odd detail about the timing? How the tweet had strangely lain dormant for years before surging to power overnight last summer? Funnily enough, Rumors of Jungwirth’s pregnancy broke right around that time. In all likelihood, Tomlinson’s ancient tweet was buoyed to its current top spot by ever-hopeful Larries seeking to remind the world of Larry’s long-standing legacy in the wake of what many call “Babygate.”

So where does all this leave Larry? With a new child and a new girlfriend, CW actress Danielle Campbell, Tomlinson has left many Larries wondering whether his “front” has really been fact all along, potentially spelling death for the institution that is Larry.

And dead it might have been, if not for a mysterious stuffed animal known as the Rainbow Bondage Bear (RBB), a multi-colored plush teddy that was thrown onstage and pocketed by the band’s crew during their 2014 tour.

RBB, so named because of his black electrical tape wrappings made to look like BDSM leather gear, can be seen at most 1D concerts strapped to the stage scaffolding, surveying the crowd with his enigmatic smile, black aviators, and Village People moustache.

Larries take RBB to be a coded endorsement for Larry because of the bear’s Twitter page, an anonymous account that claims close to 200 thousand followers and that routinely shares cryptic, gay-themed updates, including group shots with drag queens and selfies with Liberace’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

In October of 2015, the bear shared a curious post that warned of bears “coming out” of hibernation, which Larries worldwide took to signify an imminent outing event.

Regardless of whether Larry is fact or fancy, there is just one thing I want to know: What the hell was Harry Styles doing sincerely in Louis Tomlinson’s heart back in 2011?

Note: On February 12, 2016, the Twitter account for the Rainbow Bondage Bear mentioned in this article (@rbbsbbofficial) was deleted.