john’s appearance just says so much about him. he’s so buttoned up at the start, and even when he wears jumpers instead of button-downs, they’re so bulky. they keep him hidden. protected. but as early as tbb we see him in that stripey shirt–it’s still long-sleeved but it’s thinner, more relaxed. it’s john settling into being comfortable around sherlock and being comfortable with himself.
but then after sherlock jumps, it reverts, gets even worse. he starts wearing the scarf in s3, covering himself up more, protecting the vulnerability of his own bare neck. the only time we really see him in anything more relaxed is at the start of hlv when he’s in bed dreaming of sherlock, which is the only place he can allow himself to be open about his desires anymore.
so the fact that in trf, he’s lounging around the flat in his short little bath robe, bare chest and bare legs, it’s so striking. it’s such a difference from both where he started and where he ends up after the fall. he’s allowing himself to be so open, in a way we never see from him again after that, and it’s his love for sherlock that did that, that let him grow into being that comfortable as who he is. it’s heartbreaking that it’s so short-lived.