The Y2k Whale Tail Is The Controversial Look Trendsetters Are Trying To Bring Back


Remember when low-rise jeans were all the rage? I know this is a trend most of us never want to see again for a variety of reasons. But for me, the number-one sin of wearing low-rise jeans was the thong exposure. You know what I’m talking about—the dreaded whale tail. 

This controversial look made its debut on the runway during Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring/Summer 1997 show, which included models wearing exposed thongs and briefs. And since Y2K styles are once again dominating fashion trends, this horrific trend has made its way back again!

Why Won’t The Whale Tail Go Away?

Writer Eliza Huber at Refinery 29 tried to warn Gen Zers about reviving this trend when she wrote a piece about the reality of wearing a whale tail while out and about. She was curious what it was like to wear a visible thong in public, so she tried it out for a week.

At first, she wore different “whale-tail-style garments”—everything from pants with a thong-shaped cut-out in the back to midi skirts with strings attached to the waist—that gave the appearance of exposed underwear. Her conclusion that these items were “surprisingly comfortable” honestly shocked me.

But all that changed when she actually tried to style the look with real thong underwear and vintage parachute pants worn low enough on her hips so her underwear peeked over. When Huber attempted this authentic version of the whale tail trend, she realized she’d made a mistake.

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“Almost immediately upon stepping outside my front door, I felt uncomfortable,” she wrote. “As I walked to Trader Joe’s, I noticed that people were looking—no, staring—at me. Within five minutes, I turned around … heading back to my sartorial safety net of baggy jeans and a hoodie. Every last piece of photo evidence was, in turn, deleted from my phone.”

Huber eventually realized what all Gen Xers have known for years—there’s a good reason that whale tails came to an end back in 2006. The style might look good on the red carpet or on Instagram, but wearing a thong with low-rise pants in your everyday life is one trend that doesn’t deserve a reboot.

The exact reason why whale tails continue to be popular with influencers and celebs will likely remain a mystery. It could just be that they like to be provocative, but most of us know that the whale tail should stay in the ’90s where it belongs.

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