What Tale Does a Whale Tail Tell?

What Tale Does a Whale Tail Tell?

The everlasting folkloric Y2K trend is dimensional enough to be whatever you need it to be.

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Photo: Victor Boyko, Degrassi, Sreve Granitz (Getty Images)

The looming threat of returning Y2K clothing trends stalks us beneath the surface of the zeitgeist like a bloodthirsty shark. No trend is more cautionary than the whale tail.

A whale tail, also sometimes called a “longhorn,” is when the strings of the thong peak out above the waistband of the pants, “like the fin of a majestic orca rising out of the vast ocean of your ass.” If you’re old enough to remember Motorola Razrs, then there’s a strong chance you participated in or at least witnessed this trend. Everyone remembers their first whale tale sighting—a stretch of nylon splashing up onto tramp stamp territory. An unnatural beauty to behold.

Seemingly every few months, the fashion stunt is declared “back,” to the point that it feels like we’re living in a constant red alert. And the ensuing discussion brings up recurring points: This style is not comfortable; it’s slutty; it will terrorize your vaginal bacteria levels. So, in order to break free from the tyrannical and taut pull of the g-string in our mental cracks, let’s examine just what it is a whale tail communicates.

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The Whale Tail’s Humble Origins

The Whale Tail’s Humble Origins

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Photo: Victor VIRGILE (Getty Images)

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring/Summer 1997 runway show in Paris is one of the first documented whale tail sightings. Here we have a sort of punk rock, who gives a fuck that you can see my undies look. The disregard for order is the appeal. Whale tails can communicate anarchy.

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“That’s Because I’m Not Wearing Any”

“That’s Because I’m Not Wearing Any”

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Screenshot: Degrassi: The Next Generation

My personal introduction to whale tails was Manny Santos’ royal blue bejeweled thong on Degrassi: The Next Generation. In this instance, the thong was the visual confirmation that she was not a girl and well on her way to becoming a woman. This outfit tested everyone at Degrassi High’s mental stability. Her friend Emma went as far to say that thongs don’t “belong” in malls. Whale tails can communicate metamorphosis.

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Thong-chalance

Thong-chalance

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Photo: Jody Cortes (Getty Images)

March 2001, and Gillian Anderson rocks the whale tail at the Vanity Fair Oscars after party. You can see the rather large (comparatively) tag. There’s something sporty and casual about this instance, as if she’s just running a quick errand. A woman of the people. Whale tales can represent the proletariat.

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Biz-nasty

Biz-nasty

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Photo: Victor Boyko (Getty Images)

Bella Hadid walks the Spring/Summer 2020 Versace Runway in 2019. Obviously, it’s foreboding that the model is wearing business wear and a thong, when we all know now that no one put on suits let alone changed their underwear in Spring 2020. But the effort is noble. This look is a relative of the blazer-with-no-bra trend; it’s a way to say “women are in the workforce!” Whale tales can communicate equal pay.

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Whaley Berry

Whaley Berry

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Photo: Steve Granitz (Getty Images)

In 2000 at the VMA’s, whale tails had a firmer grip on Hollywood starlets’ psyches than they did on starlets’ asses. It was the really the heyday of strappy underwear. Halle Berry’s whale tale is purposeful, it’s powerful, and it’s perfectly coordinated with the rest of the ensemble. It proves that whale tails can provide cohesiveness.

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Haunting Rendition

Haunting Rendition

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Photo: Arnaldo Magnani (Getty Images)

This 2001 snap of Paris Hilton feels like her personal homage to the Virgin Suicides. Similar to Manny Santos, this version of the whale tale exists in the liminal space girlhood and womanhood, a space Paris Hilton has managed to build a McMansion and permanently move into. Whale tails can communicate fetishized adolescence.

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New Rules

New Rules

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Screenshot: Dua Lipa (Fair Use)

Dua Lipa’s modern revival of the whale tail is inspiring. It merges the sneaky sexiness of showing off a peek of your undies with the overt sexiness of wearing all of our boyfriend’s clothing. Whale tails can create harmony.

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Camp-stamp!

Camp-stamp!

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Photo: Taylor Hill (Getty Images)

The lore of the whale tale rivals that of Moby Dick. Hailey Bieber’s nod to the trend at the 2019 Met Gala in bubblegum pink Alexander Wang is almost a meta-commentary on femininity. Whale tails can be in dialogue with themselves.

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Kimmy

Kimmy

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Screenshot: Kim Kardashian Instagram (Fair Use)

Never one to sit out on a trend, Kim Kardashian branded herself with her own whale tail logo. This was during Kardashian’s “pseudo-nostalgia” moment, making the sartorial choice that much more fitting. Whale tails can be windows into the past.

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Choosing Chaos

Choosing Chaos

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Photo: Rachpoot/Bauer-Griffin (Getty Images)

Oh Julia Fox, our queen of deranged clothing, our gal of inelegant garb. Let’s end on this note. Whale tails can communicate the chaos of the world we live, how little of a grasp we have on reality. When society says, “Hold onto your butts,” the whale tail says, “I will, but barely.”

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