The Thong Springs Eternal: Whale Tails are Back

Image: Backgrid

Thursday, on the set of a new video with DJ Khaled, Jennifer Lopez brought back arguably the worst early aughts trend this side of Juicy Couture: the whale tail.

For those of you blissfully unaware, the whale tail is a phenomenon that occurs when low-rise pants are in style at the same time as high cut thongs, creating a crosscurrent that showcases a section of one’s ass to their classmates, fellow club-goers, or the entire audience of the VMAs.


What’s not immediately clear is why Lopez would choose to bring back the trend. And in a houndstooth print, no less. Let’s look closer.

As People points out, the baggy slacks seem to be sewed to the front of the thong at the waist for reasons that are not immediately clear. Paired with a ruched white top and some seriously enviable chunky jewelry (plus those J Lo hoops that I’m legitimately happy to see again), the look is business on top, business on the bottom, oops the waistband gave out in the middle.


Perhaps the video is set on the red carpet of an awards show circa 2001.

How did we get here? Many would blame Sisqo. They would be wrong. Sisqo might have popularized the worst thing to ever happen to panties, which were fine with butts, thank you very much, but the popularity of the whale tail rests with Britney.


In the beginning, only the top of Britney’s thong peeked over the horizon of pants barely clinging to hipbones, making the panty-flashing seem simultaneously deliberate enough to be provocative but also deniably accidental, which was basically Britney’s late-90s M.O. Then, as Britney moved past insisting that she wasn’t a girl and into demanding that she not be looked at like a little girl, the tail became as constant a Spears performance staple as see-through leggings, beautiful boy backup dancers, or rhinestones bras.


Soon others, like Christina Aguilera, followed suit, and the whale tail went from embarrassing undergarment oversight to marketing scheme. Then the vagina flashing trend of the mid-oughts took over, and the rest was history. 

But as Nabokov writes, “Nothing ever vanishes,” and the thong, hidden for nigh on fifteen years, springs eternal. Welcome back, I suppose.

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