Nostalgia seems to be a key word in fashion lately. From fanny packs to slip dresses to tie-dye to bucket hats to chokers, nothing is too passé to make a comeback. Even, it seems, for a trend that many were happy to see disappear – the visible thong, also known as the whale tail.
The visible thong, in case your memory needs refreshing, was first popular from the mid-1990s to early 2000s. Jean Paul Gaultier, Tom Ford for Gucci, and John Galliano for Christian Dior paired low-rise pants with thongs pulled up high over the waistband in their collections. Celebrities like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Cameron Diaz helped to bring the look into the mainstream, and for a few years it was all the rage, especially among teenagers. Sisqo even wrote a song about, creatively titled the “Thong Song”. Then the whale tail met its demise in the late 2000s, when both the thong and the low-rise cut fell out of vogue.
The whale tail made its first reappearance in the Spring/Summer 2018 collections, with brands like Linder and Fenty Puma featuring versions of the low-rise/exposed thong combination in their shows. Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez highlighted the trend on social media in 2018, with Kim posting a picture on her Instagram flaunting her famous derrière in a thong from Gucci Spring 1997, and JLo wearing a pair of grey pants with an attached thong from Natasha Zinko’s Fall 2018 collection on the set of her video with DJ Khaled. The whale tail has continued to gain traction this year with both designers and celebrities. Hailey Bieber wore a bubble-gum pink Alexander Wang dress with a built-in high-rise thong to the 2019 Met Gala, Alexa Demie wore a leopard print dress and bedazzled thong combination from AKNA to the Euphoria premiere, and Kylie Jenner showed off her green Agent Provocateur thong on Instagram in June. Meanwhile, Versace Men’s Spring 2020 show saw Bella Hadid strutting down the runway in a pair of sparkly low-rise pants with a thong hiked above her hip bones (complete with golden Versace logos on its straps, naturally), and Heron Preston’s Spring 2020 Menswear show included a model wearing a black thong exposed over a pair of slouchy grey pants.
But why bring back such a questionable trend? Maybe the recent surge of nostalgia has to do with we’re facing now across the world. Climate crisis, political upheaval, unemployment, inequality… With so many issues to worry about as adults, it’s understandable that we would look back to simpler times, to our childhoods when things seemed better and easier. If so, then why not bring back the things that remind us of who we were and how we felt then, whale tails included? Do take note though, this is definitely NSFW, so please don’t try this at home.