Source: GQ


In the book The Mullet: Hairstyle Of The Gods, a now sadly out-of-print title from 1999, the author Barney Hoskyns employs myriad terms to describe having that bit of extra follicle kick on the back of your head. There’s the Kentucky waterfall; the Camero cut; the beaver paddle; the neck warmer; business in the front, party in the back and, who can forget, the Tennessee top hat.

“As a trend, this has been bubbling around for a while now,” says barber and founder of Joe & Co, Joe Mills. “Through the first lockdown we all became obsessed with Netflix’s Tiger King and with salons and barbershops often being closed over the last 18 months, growing your hair out was less of a problem. After this, the whole idea of mullets and texture really took hold. What’s most interesting is that it suits most hair types and face shapes. As long as you have some length at the back, you’re good to go.”

While it might be considered an act of trendy rebellion and winking irony in urban centres like London and New York, the mullet has never gone out of style in certain parts of the Canadian and American heartland. One of the more intriguing grooming subcultures around is the concept of ‘hockey hair’, in which ice-hockey players in places such as Minnesota and Manitoba let their mullets grow out, purportedly because the style flows and flutters nicely as a skater beams across the ice.

One particularly hilarious and gratifying series of YouTube videos, the Citizen Kane of mullet content, started in 2011 and is titled, simply: 2011 Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament – All Hockey Hair Team. It was conceived and filmed by a mullet aficionado named John King of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, who noticed the incredible and enviable array of silky flows gliding across the ice and decided to rank the best manes on the rink in a deadpan and descriptive Midwestern accent. King, who stopped producing the annual videos in 2019, calling it his ‘Grand Flownale’, declared in a New Yorker article on the phenomenon that the existence of hockey hair “makes me proud to be a Minnesotan.”

Another location where the mullet has never left the scalp of the zeitgeist is Australia, where it is rocked loud and proud. A couple of years ago, Craig Gibson, a Glaswegian photographer based in London, noticed an event called Mulletfest on social media, an annual mullet pageant that takes place in Kurri Kurri, in New South Wales. Intrigued, Gibson travelled to Kurri Kurri to capture the festival and its participants in all of their diverse and elongated glory. “It seemed like no one took themselves too seriously, and they didn’t,” says Gibson of the project and accompanying zine, which he titled Kentucky Waterfalls. “Everyone embraced it. I liked the idea of shooting something more editorial and beauty based – the documentary side of it had been pretty much covered, but I thought there was a style element that hadn’t been done.

“I learned that in Australia, the mullet may be more popular and worn more regularly, but it is still just as polarising as it is everywhere else,” adds Gibson. “Some are hated by parents and loved by partners and vice versa. Some are just young siblings copying their older siblings. Some locals grow theirs specifically for the festival and others grow theirs to fly halfway around the world and show it off. Either way, I learned that they are passionate about them.”

Despite bedding in with the movement, Gibson wasn’t tempted to let it flow himself. “The beauty of the mullet is that it’s completely subjective – each one can be judged on its own merit. Although personally, I don’t think I could ever grow one. Mullets, for me, are a spectator sport.”

Mullets have also enjoyed a flowing resurgence on Europe’s major runways. Looking across the recent spring/summer and autumn/winter shows, there were bleached and sculpted trestles and jagged drape cuts at brands such as Rick Owens, Casablanca and, of course, Balenciaga, as well as Dries Van Noten, Loewe, Craig Green, and more than one mullet on the much-hyped Autumn/Winter 2022 Kenzo show – Nigo’s first foray as the brand’s artistic director.

“I do think the mullet is for all,” says award-winning hairstylist Tariq Howes, who has years of experience working with diverse hair types. “I would like to see it done more often with different hair textures – for example, Afro hair. I have seen and cut a few mullets with Afro hair, and obviously it comes off slightly different, but that’s what makes it cool. The way you can shape and manipulate different hair textures is always interesting, and the mullet is one of the perfect styles to show this off.”

“The idea of what a mullet is for me is less 1980s throwback and more about expression,” adds Mills. “It’s about length at the back and softness, and I personally like the fact that there are no real rules, so you can tailor it to suit your hair type, or how much length you have. It’s a statement haircut.” He continues, “You have to be able to carry it off, and wear it with pride.”

The return of the mullet isn’t that surprising. It is a haircut that takes confidence and zest to pull off. Having been stuck inside for months and months, it’s only natural that those with the gumption to pull one off would want to give it a try – use it or lose it. One thing that the Dalston cool kids, suburban Minnesota teenagers on ice, New York club goers and Aussie skullet die-hards have in common is that they own the style. A half-hearted mullet is impossible; an oxymoron. Plus, they’re a heap of fun, which is something you can’t say about a short back and sides.

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