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Tan Lines

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How he keeps those tan lines when he always wears that tank top is a question for another time.

Tan lines occur when the human body gets tanned in areas of exposed skin but the places previously covered during the tan look noticeably lighter. They are usually seen as a way to make a character look funny after a bad or flawed tan job. Typical variants include the farmer's tan (face, neck, and both arms, from being out in the field while wearing a T-shirt or overalls) and the trucker's tan (face and one arm, from the sun shining through the windshield on the face, but with the pale arm inside the cab and the tan arm out the window).

A character who constantly sports tanlines is usually used for comic relief, like a country bumpkin or Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist; generally, it indicates that the character doesn't care much about their physical appearance, as they haven't bothered to tan away the pale parts that weren't exposed to the sun. Some works depict characters having initials or words "written" on their skin using tan lines created by selective application of sunblock.

For some, however, tan lines have an erotic edge to them. This might be due to indicating that a character is wearing a more revealing outfit than they normally would — something especially common with swimsuit tans. It's uncommon, but not rare, for tan lines to be used as a form of fanservice, and Japanese media in particular seems to be fond of using them this way.

See also Embarrassingly Painful Sunburn and Suntan Stencil.


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  • The girl on the Coppertone suntan lotion bottle has a white butt but tan everywhere else.
  • A man on the "Bud Light Cruise" commercial has tan lines that indicate he'd been wearing a woman's bikini.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the obligatory Beach Episode of Tenchi Universe, Kiyone develops a classic farmer's tan while working as a life-guard. When she shows off her swimsuit at the swimsuit contest later in the episode, she's initially embarrassed by the farmer's tan — until the crowd goes wild, all of them finding it sexy.
  • I"s has a moment where Ichitaka heads to the beach and wanders around in a T-shirt and pants for a while. As a result, the next few chapters show him with a very tanned head, neck and arms. The rest remains pale.
  • Due to being on her school's swim team, Kagura of Azumanga Daioh sports a deep tan during the summer, and she gains tanlines in the shape of her School Swimsuit. They're normally not visible unless she's wearing a bikini or a crop top, though at one point she pulls down her school uniform's top to show Osaka (but not the audience) how far they go.
  • Chika from Ai Yori Aoshi normally lives at the beach, so she has them following the bathing suit area.
  • K-On!: This happens to Azusa everytime there's a Beach Episode. It's lampshaded by every one.
  • Momo from Peach Girl got tan lines along with her bleached out hair from swimming for school.
  • After returning for the beach during an episode of Beelzebub, Oga admires the nice tan he got... only for him to discover the Beel-shaped tanline on his back.
  • Rio -Rainbow Gate!-: Linda has tan lines around her chest that are displayed by her skimpy top. Given that she's a Ridiculously Human Robot Girl, one can only presume that they were deliberately designed to be there.
  • We Never Learn: Uraka Takemoto swims all the time, so her arms, legs, face, and neck are excessively tanned, while everything her swimsuit covered is pale.
  • Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro: Similar to the above, Nagatoro spends a lot of time in the school's swimming club. Her pale torso is seen in the Beach Episode when she wears a bikini, and later on when she wears a sports bra and pants for jogging.
  • How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?: Satomi Tachibana at one point is shown with a heavy diamond-shaped tan mark around her navel. It's later revealed to be due to one of her cosplay outfits.
  • Time Stop Hero: Kuzuno Sekai likes to freeze time and strip women naked. When he does this at the tropical island OffshoreRope, he is pleased to find tan lines under the women's swimsuits, saying it is really attractive.

    Comic Books 
  • In issue 2 from Darkchylde reveals that Ariel has one while she is naked.
  • In part of the X-Men "Curse of the Mutants" storyline, the technology protecting the vampires from sunlight apparently also protects them from Dazzler's powers. We see a flashback of Emma Frost talking to her, Frost admonishing Dazzler for having given her tan lines.
  • In one episode of Gaston Lagaffe, Gaston went on vacation in his Alleged Car, but spent so much time lying underneath it to fix it that only his legs got a tan.
    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, Harris is tanning on the beach. Nick writes "DORK" in sunblock on his chest. When he wakes up and walks on the crowded beach, Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Spencers Mountain, Clayboy goes up the mountain with his girl-friend for a picnic, and comes back with a sunburn on his back. His father helps him put lotion on the burn, which goes much further down past his waist line than it would have if he had kept his pants on.
  • In John Waters' Cry-Baby, a character "tans" the initials CB into her thigh. The letters are the white part she covers with tape and then tears off to show him.
  • In Final Destination 3, when Ashley and Ashlyn are getting into the tanning beds, Ashlyn questions why Ashley is still wearing underwear. Ashley replies that her boyfriend "gets off on tan lines."
  • In Blame It on Rio, the topless extras at the beach mostly have tan lines, thus showing that they aren't usually topless.
  • Used as a plot point in Point Break (1991). Pappas pegs the criminals as surfers because of their tan lines, shown when they mooned the bank security cameras.

  • Bloody Jack in Rapture of the Deep Pirate Girl/heroine "Bloody" Jacky Faber has these from her rather anachronistic bathing suit (In a series set during The Napoleonic Wars). Her intended cannot help but comment.
  • In the Apprentice Adept series, Stile has tan lines on his hands when he returns from magical Phaze to sterile sci-fi Proton, revealing not only that he's been under non-artificial light, but that he's been wearing clothing, something forbidden to Proton's serfs. Luckily, he is able to conceal this with makeup.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of CSI: Miami uses Greek letters tanned onto the back of a victim's neck as a clue.
  • In the Acapulco episode of El Chavo del ocho, at one point Quico goes to get a suntan, but he forgets to take off his oval-shaped dive mask.
  • Forever: Henry recognizes a widow/widower or divorcé(e) by their ring finger having an indentation; if it's recent there's a tan line but if it's been a little longer the tan line has faded.
  • Friends: In one episode Ross decides to try getting a spray tan but misunderstands the instructions from the staff and gets four hits on the front of his body and none on the back. This leaves the front of his body heavily tanned and his back completely white.
  • Detective shows like Sherlock will often use tan lines as clues. For instance, in the Sherlock serial "The Great Game," Sherlock deduces that a rental car agency owner is lying about not having been to Colombia recently because of his tan.
  • Tales from the Crypt: In the episode "Split Personality", Joe Pesci fakes being a set of twin traveling salesmen to hook up with a pair of twin sisters. A tan line from the belt on his pool robe reveals his lies and the girls take revenge with a chainsaw.

  • Mentioned in the chorus of Kenny Chesney's "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy".

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Shulamite in the Song of Songs says "do not gaze at me, because I am dark, because the sun has looked on me," fearing that people are going to see her with these on her body.

    Print Media 
  • MAD:
    • There's a classic cover where two boys are showering and have the usual tan from swimming, i.e., white butt and tanned everywhere else. Alfred E. Neuman's tan, however, is reversed.
    • Another article of one and two panel Beach Gags includes two young boys rigging a glove on a stick to give an older girl an embarrassing untanned handprint in the middle of her back.
  • The Onion had a picture showing a woman with tan lines zigzagging over her body in nonsensical patterns. The online version is linked in the Web Original section below.

    Video Games 
  • Gym Leader Marlon in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 is very tan above the waist, and very pale below. So much so, in fact, that the average new player will actually believe him to be black until his pale feet are pointed out.
  • Homura from Senran Kagura has these as her signature look. Because they are formed around a sarashi, you have to use very skimpy underwear to fully see them.
  • Sonya in Mortal Kombat 9 gets tan lines in place of panties for her second costume. They're really only visible in-game if her shorts get destroyed and she's killed in a way that shows her butt, a camera mod is used, or her damaged model is viewed in the extras.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "suntan", Strong Bad tries to get a tan to accentuate his (non-existent) abs. He not only stays out too long and gets a sunburn, but he fails to get an even tan because "Who wants a tan on their back? There's no abs to accentuate."
    • In "keep cool", Strong Bad inexplicably has a farmer's tan while serving as a lifeguard, even though he doesn't normally wear a shirt.
    • In "Somber Vacation", Strong Sad gets a moonburn that inexplicably makes him look like he was wearing a bikini top ("Shut up! It's a skin condition! It's just how I tan!")

    Web Comics 
  • It is possible for milk teeth to get burnt as My Milk Toof proved in the Beach Episode.
  • A strip from The Perry Bible Fellowship shows a guy getting a white silhouette of his secret girlfriend where she's blocked him from getting tanned. I think you know where I'm talking about.
  • A strip of Luke Surl has tan lines shaped like trigonometric curves.
  • The subject of a comic from Buttersafe.
  • When Spinnerette got a tanline around her mask, her roommate Sahira initally laughs at the panic the former was undergoing, until it's pointed out that this would undermine her Secret Identity. Sahira then offers to help her with using makeup to cover it.
  • In the BDSM-themed Sunstone this appears in the most embarrassing way possible: Lisa visits the beach only to notice everyone is staring at her. She discovers that she has tan lines from her previous rope suspension session with Ally. Including lines left from a gag. Poor girl.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • King of the Hill is notorious for having almost all the white male characters having untanned portions of skin when they take off their shirts. Boomhauer, on the other hand, consistently has a dark tan (he has a tanning bed in his bedroom).
  • In Rocket Power, former new guy Sam had one when he moved to Ocean Shores, even though his body should have evened out by now.
  • In the Danny Phantom episode "Eye for an Eye", we learn Danny has these when Vlad's vultures reveal a naked, showering Danny to the entire school.
    Tucker: A ghost kid with tan lines, who knew?
  • Owen and Ripper from Total Drama have tanned arms, legs and face, but have pale upper arms and stomach. Harold and Ezekiel have much of the same, except their legs are pale.
  • Hawkeye from The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has a farmer's tan while he sits out in the sun in episode 20. That episode marked the first time in the show when he wears something other than his superhero costume.
  • Howie, the lead character of Almost Naked Animals, combines this with Fur Is Clothing. Like the entire cast, he wears only underwear and has most of his fur shaved off, but there are tan lines on his bare skin.
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy has tan lines around his eyes, those these are fairly small and difficult to see. He most likely got them after trying to tan (which would also explain his pink skin as "tanning").
  • On Steven Universe, Greg is a weird example: he usually wears a tank top and pants with torn off legs, which reveals the kind of farmer's tan that comes from wearing a T-shirt and long pants. Also, when barefoot, you can see tan lines in the shape of his sandals. Around the third season, he switches to a short-sleeve T-shirt that matches up with the tan lines on his arms, but the ones on his legs remain visible.
  • On Dan Vs., the already sallow Dan is basically white under his shirt and pants.

    Real Life 
  • In the early 1950s, a story began to circulate about a boy in Syria who had allegedly been raised by gazelles. The story was debunked partly because photos of the nude boy showed him with a farmer's tan.
  • Partial tanning on otherwise clothed people explains the derogatory term for dirt farmers - in pre-Civil War times, poor white farmers who couldn't afford even a single slave and so had to do their own heavy labour. Bending over a plough or to pick/tend crops caused sunburn on the back of the neck - hence redneck. (Rooinecker in South Africa, for those whites who could not afford to pay black labour).
  • A "farmer's tan" is where only the face and arms or hands are tanned but the torso is pale, revealing that the tan was likely received during outdoor work rather than recreation.
  • Professional cyclists spend many hours outdoors, and hence will have distinct tan lines. Most of their arms are tanned, with tan lines shortly below the shoulders. Legs will be tanned till halfway the knees and hips. And, most notably, they'll have a tanned spot on each of their hands due to the type of gloves they are wearing.