To the untrained eye, the UC Berkeley campus has been infested with “Star Wars”-loving pre-pubescent boys. The growing presence of the rattail — a long, thin braid of hair that stems from the nape of the neck — may seem strange, but ask any seasoned member of Berkeley’s queer community and they will clue you in on a little secret: This is just what hot gay people do with their hair now.
Why the rattails? Why the reemergence of a trend so long associated with safety scissors and Obi-Wan Kenobi? The Daily Californian sat down with four hot, rattail-ed gay students to get to the bottom of this issue.
“I guess they’ve been something I’ve noticed, but it wasn’t in a good way,” reflected Tora Hoar Vea, fiddling with one of her two rattails, each hanging almost a foot long. “It was like, ‘Oh, you have a rattail because you like Star Wars.’ No hate, but a little.”
Tora was inspired to grow out the hairstyle after seeing a “really sexy gay person” with those trademark long, thin braids. “Also, I feel like everyone got super into mullets. If everyone has a mullet, how do you distinguish yourself?” Tora pondered, “Party in the back for real with the f—ing rattails.”
Kim Fong, who shared the full name of a rattail-ed boy from her elementary school but feared he might attend UC Berkeley, remembers the backlash the hairstyle faced only a few years ago. “We all had that one kid in our class with a rattail. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, they’re so weird. Why would they ever do that?’ ” Kim recalled, gesturing to the end of her impressive 8-inch braids. “I think people love to adopt the ugly. And this was just the next ugly that was adopted.”
But Kim had never considered her braids rattails until people started calling them that. Like many queer folks at UC Berkeley, she has two rattails framing her neck as opposed to the traditional one. This particular style bears much resemblance to the emerging jellyfish haircut, a variation in itself on a Japanese hime cut. Both styles have seen recent popularity on apps like TikTok. Few interviewees were familiar with either term, however. The Berkeley rattail is also notably thinner — not quite a Hime layer, not quite a rattail. “Whiskers” would be a more appropriate term, especially considering the pensive manner in which each hot gay person interviewed tended to stroke their braids.
This was a new haircut altogether. A recurring theme among interviewees was that they had to cut their rattails themselves. “I think that the barber can’t do it justice the way that your own hands can,” remarked Lily Belcher, a rattail veteran repeatedly credited with having begun the trend at Berkeley (“I have to say, I do agree,” Lily said on the matter.) Lily is coming up on their one-year rattail anniversary, and they say that no one appreciates their rattails quite like Berkeley folks. “People in Berkeley are like, ‘Oh, my God, I love your hair.’ And then I enter a new space and I’m nobody,” they explained.
Across the board, interviewees stressed the inherent queerness of this style — and a very Berkeley-esque queerness at that. Lily maintained that the double rattail is an almost exclusively queer haircut: “I’ve never seen a straight person with rattails,” they stated. “And I don’t want to, frankly.”
Tora agreed: “It’s just a little way to be like, yeah, I guess I’m maybe gay, too.”
Kim felt similarly. “I’d say I get the most positive comments from people who have a similar aesthetic to me, like queer people. Like I said, they’ve just seen it before,” she noted. “I’ve had these men come up to me. I’ve been like, ‘No, I don’t really want to tell you what haircut I got because I almost feel like this haircut isn’t for you.’ ”
Izzy Porras, whose braids hang a potential campus record of 12 inches, cut their rattails with the explicit goal of appearing more queer. “My friends would be like, ‘Where are your gay bitches?’ ” Izzy remarked of their pre-rattail era. Izzy, who recently came out as trans nonbinary and trans-masculine, previously had straight, waist-length hair.
“I knew for a fact when I cut my hair, it would be a totally new, like, genre of person that people would perceive me as,” they explained. “And I think it’s easy to hide behind the people who are attracted to you. Having a more feminine presentation, it was easier for people to assume that I was straight.” Looking back on photos, Izzy sees a totally different person. And now? “More obviously gay, but also more obviously gender-queer,” they said of their presentation.
“Queerness is inherently subversive,” Lily argued. The disruptiveness of a queer identity necessarily leads to a disruptiveness under queer fashion. The rise of bleached eyebrows and Realtree camo came up in conversation as examples of “anti-fashion” largely heralded by the queer community. Kim even described a cycle: “It’s high fashion, and then it falls onto the queer people, and then it gets to everyone else.”
So, if you are not a hot gay person in Berkeley, you may have to prepare to join “the brethren” (in Lily’s words) sometime in the distant future. And did the blessed braid-bringer of Berkeley have any advice for other hot gay people hoping to get that tail out from between their legs and onto their beautiful, homosexual heads? “Do it,” Lily urged, “Because you can always cut them off, but you’re not going to want to.”