The Mullet Lives On - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Mullet Lives On

By Barbara Fletcher


Because, believe it or not, the most mocked hairstyle in history has — once again — become fashionable. 

The Mississippi Mudflap. The Nebraska Neckwarmer. The Tennessee Top Hat. The Canadian Passport. This iconic haircut — shorter on the front and sides and longer in the back — comes with an endless set of names and never seems to lose its place in the gallery of unforgettable, oft-ridiculed styles. 

The almighty mullet: Made famous by music stars, heavy-metal fans, WWE wrestlers and hockey players, it’s one ’do that seems to surface every few years or so, picking up unique decade-defining features as it goes. And whether we like it or not, it’s back. This short-long style resurged on the runway in the spring of 2013 and then once more in August, when Rihanna revealed a dramatic and splashy new take on the cut. 

Rihanna performing in black outfit facing right of frame

Source Corbis

But where did the notorious “soccer rocker” come from in the first place? As a hairstyle, the mullet has existed for centuries, but the term itself is actually attributed to the Beastie Boys. In the footsteps of their 1994 song “Mullet Head,” a 1995 article by Mike D in the band’s Grand Royal magazine calls out the style: “There’s nothing quite as bad as a bad haircut. And perhaps the worst of all is the cut we call The Mullet.”

In the 19th century, fishermen (who fished for mullet) were known for keeping their hair long in the back — a practical way to keep their necks warm. And, less about a hairstyle and more about a personality trait, “mullet-heads” appears in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke. In both, the term refers to the dim-witted. 

Some of our all-time favorite mullets?

Hulk Hogan in wrestling outfit in ring fighting

Source Getty

So, yes, the mullet has been loud and proud (and occasionally permed) since the 1970s. But today, can anyone really successfully sport a mullet? 

The old mullet was business in the front, party in the back. Now it’s all party.

Devin Toth, celebrity stylis

Yes — and, well, no. It all comes down to hair type, timing and fashion sense. Devin Toth, celebrity stylist and education director for Ted Gibson Beauty in New York City, is a fan. ”The old mullet was business in the front, party in the back,” he says. ”Now it’s all party.” Almost any hair type can work, he promises. Curly hair, though, is a challenge — it pops up and can look like a poorly cut bob. And fine hair creates a see-through back tail. But for those lucky enough to have thick or straight locks, the mullet can, apparently, make a great hair statement.

The new mullet has an edgier look: more choppiness and disconnection in the front, with undercutting at the sides. Like Jean Paul Gaultier on the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week, or Rihanna’s piecey number. Toth predicts the modernized style will continue to evolve, incorporating color — ”like a pastel or a neon” — into the short, shaved sides.  

But, c’mon, how long can the new millennium mullet trend really last?

”The mullet style is never here to stay for everybody, and it’s never really here to stay, period,” says Toth. 

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