Specially designed trousers like low-rise jeans or hip-huggers and higher cut thongs lead to greater exposure of the whale tail. The trend was also associated with the trend of sporting lower back tattoos. The word was selected by the American Dialect Society in January 2006 as the "most creative word" of 2005. Specially designed rear spoilers for Porsche 911 and other automobiles are also known as whale tails, as well as the tip a certain kind of blood vessel. A closely related exposure of underwear is when it is seen through the clothing, which is called a visible panty line (VPL).
Attributing whale tails to mainstreaming of the sexualization of young women, The Press Democrat termed the trend as "stripper chic". Post-modern thinker Yasmin Jiwani and co-writers described the trend in Girlhood: Redefining the Limits described it as an attempt to redefine girlhood while acknowledging the debate around it. The book termed the trend as the "Slut" look popularized by Britney Spears. Some experts even dubbed whale tail flashing as "thong feminism" for young girls. Other experts accused marketers of "outrageous selling of sex to children".
By the end of the decade whale tails suffered a backlash. Trinny Woodall, presenter of BBC1's What Not to Wear, described women who wore thongs showing above their trousers as "disgusting". Jessica Kaminsky wrote in I Hate the Gym, a lifestyle commentary, "I hate when girls let their "whale tails" creep out of their pants. In 2007, religious writer Tamie Bixler Lung wrote, "There is something wrong when Christian guys and girls want to run around with their underwear hanging out the top of their pants, or their thong strap sticking out the back of their low-rise jeans. In 2008, model and reality TV star Jodie Marsh said, "Showing your thong is a bit old now."
The trend of wearing whale tail-revealing jeans started to dissipate in the late 2000s when American clothing designers started shifting focus from low-slung jeans and exposed midriffs to high-waisted trousers and cardigans. Cartner-Morley claimed that the whale tail and the muffin top, "twin crimes of modern fashion", had led to the decline in the popularity of hipster jeans. She quoted Louise Hunn, editor of the British edition of InStyle, as saying — "When a look goes too mainstream, people start wearing it badly. And then the really fashionable people run a mile". While the thong still represented 24% of the US$2.5 billion annual market in women's underwear, it stopped growing by end of 2004. By 2007, thongs were overtaken by boyshorts and accounted for only 12% of the knickers market. Some vendors, including Victoria's Secret and DKNY, started selling thongs that do not result in whale tails. Adam Lippes, founder of the lingerie line Adam + Eve, said, "Women got tired of it. And they got sick and tired of seeing string hanging out of the top of every celebrity's jeans."
In February 2005, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee of Virginia, USA voted unanimously in a hastily convened meeting against a bill proposed by Delegate Algie T. Howell Jr. (Norfolk, Virginia) to impose a $50 fine on people who publicly and intentionally "wears and displays his below-waist undergarments, intended to cover a person's intimate parts, in a lewd or indecent manner" in a public place. The bill (HB1981), also known as the Droopy Drawers Bill, was earlier passed by Virginia House of Delegates by a 60-34 vote. Atlanta, Georgia, Dallas, Texas, Baltimore, Maryland, Charlotte, North Carolina, Yonkers, New York, Duncan, Oklahoma, Natchitoches, Louisiana, Stratford, Connecticut, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Trenton and Pleasantville of New Jersey, as well as three other Georgia towns including Rome Brunswick and Plains had seen attampts to ban underwear peeking over the pants. School dress codes sometimes also banned pants of too low a rise, or visible underwear.
Jess Cartner-Morley, fashion writer of The Guardian, claimed that following pop stars in the hipster trousers gave rise to the "low-slung jeans, whale-tail G-string era". One conjecture assumes that the style of exposed thong may have "bubbled-up" from the street level to the high streets, like the jeans and t-shirt look of James Dean. Another assumes the fad was initiated by glamor model Jordan in England and singers Mariah Carey and Spears in the United States.
The phenomenon has been compared to the phenomenon of visible bra straps. Saying — "Just as Madonna made bras a public garment in the 1980s, Ms. Lewinsky, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton transformed women's panties into a provocative garment intended for public display" — the New York Times claimed that the thong, with straps worn high over the hips and exposed by fashionable low-rise jeans and "Juicy Couture" sweat pants, had become a public icon.
Britney Spears has been portrayed as a major contributor to the whale tail's popularity. Her whale tail flashing has been referred to in creative literature books like Married to a Rock Star by Shemane Nugent (page 119), Thong on Fire by Noire (page 226), The Magical Breasts of Britney Spears by Ryan G. Van Cleave (page 90), Off-Color by Janet McDonald (page 5). R&B artist Sisqó rhapsodized about whale tails in his "Thong Song" — "I like it when the beat goes da na da na/Baby make your booty go da na da na/Girl I know you wanna show da na da na/That thong th thong thong thong." Indian model Shefali Zariwala flashed a whale tail in the MTV Immies-winning music video "Kaanta Lagaa" and shot to fame and public debate in 2003. Pornographic film director Mike Metropolis made three films based on whale tails — Whale Tail (2005), Whale Tail I (2005) and Whale Tail II (2006).
The word was selected by the American Dialect Society (a group of linguists, editors, and academics) in January 2006 as the "most creative word" of 2005, winning by 44 votes. The other nominations for the year were muffin top (meaning the bulge of flesh hanging over the top of low-rider jeans, 25 votes), flee-ancée (meaning runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, 15 votes), and pinosaur (meaning a very old Wollemi pine tree near Australia’s Blue Mountains, 6 votes). It has been reported that Wayne Glowka, member of the Georgia College and State University faculty and head of the New Word Committee of the Dialect Society, was in favor of "muffin top" for the top-spot, while Grant Barrett, project editor of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, was in favor of "whale tail", at the Society's 6 January 2006 conclave to decide the winners of the year in Albuquerque.
While discussing these new coinages Sali Tagliamonte, associate professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto, observed that young women in North America were ahead of young men as influencers. The use of the word to indicate an underwear phenomenon has shown up in serious mainstream news media,sometimes in reference to the popstars who made the fashion trend popular. Wayne Glowka, member of the Georgia College and State University faculty and head of the New Word Committee of the Dialect Society, said about the happening, "Language is just going on its merry way, creating many new words. It's time for men to win something. Though the word is not included in major formal dictionaries, web-based user-generated dictionaries like the Urban Dictionary (which provides "pull me thong" as an alternative term for whale tail), the Double-Tongued Dictionary and the Wiktionary, has entries for the word. The book compilation of Urban Dictionary describes the whale tail as "the shape formed when a G-string rides up high over a woman's pants or skirt".
An earlier use of the term whale tail dates back to August 1974, when the US version of the Porsche 911 Carrera debuted with large, flared, rear-end spoilers that were immediately dubbed whale tails. Designed to keep the car from oversteering at high speeds, the rubber-edges of the whale tail spoilers were thought to be "pedestrian friendly". The Carrera, with its whale tail, became an instant hit and one of the world's most recognized sports cars, remaining in production for the next two decades in one form or another, with more than 23,000 sold by 1989. The whale tail, a 911 trademark, is also fitted to the Porsche Carrera GT.
The Porsche 911 whale tails were often used in conjunction with a chin spoiler attached to the front valence panel, which, according to some sources, did not enhance aerodynamic stability. It has been found to be less effective in multiplying downforce than newer technologies like an airfoil, "rear wing running across the base of the tailgate window or "an electronically controlled wing that deploys at about 50 mph".
The whale tail came on the heels of the 1972 "duck tail" or Bürzel in German (as a part of the E-program), a smaller and less flared rear-spoiler fitted to 911 Carrera RS (meaning Rennsport or race sport in German), optional outside Germany. Originally designed for Porsche 930 Turbo and Porsche 935 race cars in 1973, and introduced to the Turbo Carrera in 1974 (as a part of the H-program), it was fitted to the non-turbo Carrera series in 1975. Both types of spoilers were designed while Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann was served as the Technical Director of Porsche AG. In 1976, A rubber front chin spoiler was also introduced to offset the more effective spoiler. By 1978, Porsche introduced another design for the whale tail, a large fiberglass enclosure bolted on the rear deck lid, which went to become the most popular version, which was also introduced as an optional for the 911SC. In 1984, when 80% of the Carrera was rehashed, the whale tails were redesigned to be a bit smaller and more subtle than the 1978 version. In 1986, Porsche started producing whale tails as part of an one-piece rear, instead of welding it to the car.
The most distal branch of the Left anterior descending (LAD), or the anterior interventricular branch of left coronary artery, at the apex is called a whale tail or a pitchfork. The LAD traverses the anterior interventricular sulcus, giving rise to septal and diagonal branches before bifurcating distally and tapering out as whale tails. A certain behavior of hysteretic magnetization curves in bulk superconductors is described as a whale tail profile, which differs qualitatively from a plane tail profile.
In bicycling terms, a style of saddles designed for Wilderness Trail Bikess (WTB) is sometimes called a whale tail, as well as a certain array of LED blinker on bicycle helmets. A whale tail is also one of two types of guide handles commonly used on power trowels, the other being a bicycle style handlebar.
A popular specialty license plate in California has been dubbed as a "whale tail license plate", as it features a the tail of a Pacific Humpback whale's tail painted in pale blue by artist Robert Wyland.