It is, without a doubt, one of the most famous haircuts in the world. And, possibly, one of the most notorious. Rivers of ink have poured over the mullet haircut and whether or not it is fashionable or rather, a fashion faux pas. It received the famous moniker – ‘business in the front party in the back’ – to describe it and no other haircut until the man bun has sparked so many debates.
But what is a mullet haircut, really? And can you actually wear one in 2019 and get away with it? Moreover, what is the history of the mullet haircut and where does it come from? How can you style it? This is what we’re going to detail in this article!
What Is a Mullet Haircut?
We have a whole array of super interesting things regarding the mullet haircut prepared for you, but we need to start with the basics. And that means explaining exactly what a mullet haircut is, so that we know we are all on the same page.
Not to be confused with the fish bearing the same name, a mullet haircut is an old fashioned hairstyle with a lot of attitude. Simply put, the haircut is short and puffy in the front and on the sides and longer in the back.
The actual length of the hairstyle is not predefined as with other hairstyles. This means that you get to choose how long or short you want your hair to be. Still, if you want a mullet you have to respect the proportions – short in the front, long in the back.
Why Is It Called a Mullet?
Get ready because we’re quite sure you weren’t expecting this! The actual word in itself, ‘mullet,’ is a derivation from the word ‘myllos,’ which in ancient Greek meant ‘of dark color.’ But the term we are much more used to, mullet-head, has been around since approximately the 1850s, when it was a funny way to call someone stupid.
The most famous instance when it was used is in the great American novel Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, dating from 1885. Tom Sawyer calls his uncle and aunt mullet-heads. You can use it as inspiration!
However, it wasn’t until 1994 that the word ‘mullet’ was used to describe a haircut as well. It was the Beastie Boys who used this descriptor in their song Mullet Head with the following lyrics. You wanna know what’s a mullet? Well, I got a little story to tell about a hairstyle that’s a way of life. (…) Cut the sides, don’t touch the back.
Evidently, the hairstyle already existed. They simply linked the haircut with the insult ‘mullet-head’ used by Mark Twain. So they created a derogatory name for the hairstyle and the people wearing it – mullet. It marked the end for the haircut in the 90s. Everyone who still wore it was no longer cool.
The History of the Mullet
This is quite a fascinating subject as the mullet haircut has had an immensely interesting trajectory, almost all of it happening within pop culture. So let’s see what it was all about!
Believe it or not, the mullet haircut dates back a lot further than you may have ever imagined. Actually, it might have been worn in ancient times as it has been stated by Alan Henderson in his book, Mullet Madness!: The Haircut That’s Business Up Front and a Party in the Back.
There is archeological evidence showing how many civilizations from that time including the Hittites, Syrians, and Mesopotamians, used to wear haircuts similar to a mullet which protected their necks against cold and rain. There are also some Greek statues as old as 2600 years ago who appear to be wearing a mullet.
So we were definitely not the first ones to think about it! But let’s get a little closer to the modern age. It is believed that the first time the mullet saw the light of day in contemporary times was in the 60s when Tom Jones wore one. However it wasn’t a significant cultural pop reference until David Bowie made it part of his stage persona in the 1970s.
Bowie sported a supremely electric orange mullet when he became Ziggy Stardust along with his androgynous style. In fact, this was the message of his mullet. Short hair in the front symbolizing his male side and long hair in the back symbolizing his feminine side. But, somehow, Bowie’s mullet wasn’t met with as much disdain as everyone else’s. For example, Barney Hoskyns in his book The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods, has called David Bowie’s haircut “the only cool mullet that there’s ever been.”
The Mullet Haircut in the 80s
Once the 80s rolled in, that’s when the mullet haircut really took off. Bowie’s mullet was cool, sure enough, but how many had the courage to copy an androgynous British rocker? In the 80s, however, things changed because the mullet became the hairstyle of the masses.
Celebrities started wearing it and, maybe, even abusing it, we could say today when we look back at their photos. Some of the most famous examples include American country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. He became a bit of an informal spokesperson for the haircut. Since then, he has been mentioned in songs and pop culture references that talk about the mullet.
But other famous people wore the mullet as well. One of them was actor David Hasselhoff, but so did singers Michael Bolton and Joan Jett. Some of the examples that you wouldn’t really believe wore a mullet but they surely did were a very young Brad Pitt and an equally young David Clooney. Not to mention that Jerry Seinfeld had what can only be described as a minimalist mullet through most of the run of his ultra-famous TV series, Seinfeld.
The Mullet Haircut in the 90s
However, the mullet fell out of favor in the 90s. In fact, not only did it fall out of favor, but people started making fun of it. And the mullet was now seen as a major fashion faux pas. Everyone who used to wear a mullet was considered to be lacking in serious taste. And the mullet haircut got the notorious fame it has today. It was mocked and ridiculed everywhere and people never wore it again. In that decade, at least. You could only see it in movies and TV shows and usually to poke fun at the 70s and 80s and what a bad time for hair that had been!
The 2010s and the Mullet Haircut
But don’t despair because hairstyles just like fashion trends have a way of coming back to us sooner or later. The same thing happened with the mullet. In 2015, this highly controversial style saw a major comeback when superstar G-Dragon of the K-Pop group BIGBANG wore it on their Made World Tour.
Evidently, the whole world took notice, pun intended, and soon enough other singers began wearing a mullet. Some examples include Taeyong from NCT, V of BTS, Chan and Han from Stray Kids, and Byun Baekhyun of EXO.
Over in the States, the mullet became a darling with American sports players. Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins wore one, as did Mike Gundy, the head football coach of Oklahoma State, and James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Is the Mullet Haircut Making a Comeback Right Now?
This is the question everybody needs an answer for. And we have it! Yes. This is the year of the mullets! For the longest of time, the hairstyles we have been wearing have been quite tame. We’ve only seen some layers, maybe a little length here and there. But the past few years have brought us the temper fade, the bald fade, the pompadour in all its glory and now, the mullet. Men are taking chances with their hair again! And it’s a wonderful show to see! Current fashion trends when it comes to hair have been quite conventional but men are pushing against that now.
However, the mullets men are wearing at the end of the 2010s are nothing like the ones our fathers used to wear in the 70s and 80s. Most stylists advise that, if you want a modern mullet, you shouldn’t think of it as a country singer type of hairstyle. As opposed to that, you should envision it as edgy, contemporary, and very creative.
The late 2010s mullet haircut should have very sharp edges and maybe a faux hawk thrown in there for the sheer elegance of it. Or even a high fade because we are approaching 2020, are we not?
How Do I Get a Modern Mullet?
Here are some tips on how to style the modern mullet haircut at home. Let’s start with the short half or the ‘business in the front’ side of it all. You can use sea salt spray to add some texture and a bit of crunchiness to your hair. Sea salt spray is often completely natural and serves to get your hair into exactly the shape you need it to be.
However, remember that it will also dry it out. Finish this off with some matte pomade or clay. This will make the texture very light and organic looking and it will help you control your hair better.
Now for the party in the back! Evidently, this will depend heavily on the length of your hair. However, if it’s a mullet, then your hair needs to be medium to long. So what you can do is use some volume powder for texture. Apply it after you shampooed your hair and dried it with a towel. Use your fingers and scrunch the strands of hair with the powder on them until you get a tousled finish.
Remember that the mullet doesn’t have to be sleek or elegant. Even though it’s a modern hairstyle, it’s still casual and a little redneck. So apply denim generously as well when you’re done. Even double denim!
The Mullet Haircut Is Banned in Iran
Did you know that this haircut is not allowed in the country of Iran? So if you were planning on getting a mullet and travelling there, cancel your plane tickets. In fact, it’s not just the mullet. It’s an entire list of haircuts that the Islamic Republic of Iran deemed “decadent Western cuts” in 2010. The list also includes ponytails.
Men who defy the law risk possible arrest and harassment. Apart from that, if any man is seen on the street wearing a mullet haircut, he will be stopped by the police, taken into custody and forcibly given a haircut. This particular law is highly political and is said to want to instill fear into the population.
There Was an American President Who Wore a Mullet
We know, it seems a little odd and maybe even a bit ridiculous considering how poised and elegant the heads of state must always be. But it’s true. The United States actually had a President who sported a mullet. James K. Polk is known as the only head of state in American’s history to have had this notorious haircut.
It was definitely short in the front as he used to sweep it over the dome of his head and long at the back. The sides were trimmed short and bristly. Therefore, the haircut does seem to have all the ingredients necessary to make it into a mullet. James K. Polk reigned supreme over everyone and every haircut from the Oval Office between 1845 and 1849. But we don’t know if he had his personal stylist or not.
What do you think?
As you can see, the mullet haircut has surely had a tumultuous history. It presumably started out in Antiquity when it was nothing more than a utilitarian haircut to protect soldiers’ neck from the rain. It saw its height of coolness in the 70s and 80s with David Bowie but then became everyone’s laughing stock in the 90s because of the Beastie Boys. G-Dragon brought it back in the 2010s and now it’s making a huge comeback thanks to all the designers who put it on their catwalks. But what about you? Are you going to wear a mullet haircut?