Throughout its long and colourful history, the mullet has been a controversial haircut to say the least. The infamous ‘do has managed to resurface in some form every decade since the ‘70s, and just when we thought we were finally living in the post-mullet era, it seems that the divisive style is having another comeback.
Mullets had their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. We’re all familiar with the folklore. It is the famed “business in the front, party in the back” hairstyle favoured by everyone from Joan Jett and Patti Smith to Billy Ray Cyrus (and probably at least one of your uncles).
Depending on your perspective, the mullet is either situated within clear bogan territory, or is at the peak of uber-cool anti-fashion. Or perhaps it’s both. Needless to say, the mullet is a hairstyle that demands attention. And to the dismay of many, it’s back once again.
But where does this latest wave of “cool” mullets spring from?
The style enjoyed a both ironic and high-fashion comeback in the late 1990s. Alexander McQueen collaborator Katy England can be credited with sparking the underground mullet culture of the era.
In the early 2000s, designer Jeremy Scott, now creative director of Moschino, sported the look. And the 2010 film The Runaways made a very convincing case for the hairstyle (Kristen Stewart, what a babe).
Marc Jacob’s fall/winter 2013 show could also be partially to blame. The event saw each runway model sporting a black wig cut short at the front with long, wispy strands down the neck. The resulting campaign revealed its star, Edie Campbell, sporting a dyed black mullet of her own.
Closer to home, Australian rockers Amyl and The Sniffers’ shameless fetishization of 1970s punk and its aesthetics extends to each band member exhibiting their own personal genre of mullet to go with their stonewashed double denim.
All of that, along with the popularity of Stranger Things and an ’80s revival, definitely had a hand in the resurgence.
From Fashion Faux Pas to Fashion Statement
The controversial hairdo has its detractors. And I don’t blame them; all mullets are not created equal. The context of a mullet is very important. Typically, this determines whether the mullet is rooted in a kind of blokey masculinity or something more counter-cultural.
One explanation for the enduring popularity of the mullet, is its gender non-conforming status. Regardless of your position along the gender spectrum, the mullet will be there for you.
Stylist Tina Outen told The Guardian that the mullet can be a statement of androgyny,
“There is a sense of freedom in the fashion industry and we are in an era of playfulness. People can be who they want to be.”
The hairstyle has long had political leanings, with definite street cred. It has appeared in various alternative subcultures, particularly punk and goth. The new-wave mullet is a familiar backlash against the traditionally flowing tresses found in mainstream women’s fashion and advertising.
The step mullet, a version wherein the hair is cut at distinct tiers, has been touted by Teen Vogue as the next big trend in hair. Sometimes it’s in the form of a bob with two tiers, sometimes its three: fringe, short bob and long bob. This style is at its most deliberate when worn dead straight.
British hairdresser Jackson Acton foresees great things for the mullet’s future,
“You’ll see more of it. Ten years ago, short on the sides and long on top was taboo. Now you see it on guys in suits and on Love Island. I think the mullet will be like that soon.”
Subscribe to FIB’s newsletter for your weekly dose of music, fashion and pop culture news!