The mullet is a hairstyle in which the hair is cut shorter at the front, top and sides, but is longer at the back.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, use of the term mullet to describe this hairstyle was "apparently coined, and certainly popularized, by American hip-hop group the Beastie Boys", who used "mullet" and "mullet head" as epithets in their 1994 song "Mullet Head", combining it with a description of the haircut: "number one on the side and don't touch the back, number six on the top and don't cut it wack, Jack." They expounded on the subject at length in a six-page article entitled "Mulling Over The Mullet" in Issue 2 (1995) of their magazine Grand Royal, offering a selection of alternative names for the cut, including "Hockey Player Haircut" and "Soccer Rocker".
On Slate's Decoder Ring podcast, Willa Paskin discussed the etymology of the term, noting that Oxford English Dictionary credited the Australian Street Machine automotive magazine with the first published description of the term in 1992, predating Beastie Boys. Decoder Ring discovered that the magazine image had been faked; in a 2018 apology posted to imgur, the creator had admitted to faking the text, adjusting the magazine dates, and shown proof.
In popular culture claims
In 2019, Kiefer Sutherland was widely reported, based on an interview with Yahoo!, to be the unwitting instigator of the style due to the director's requirements for his lead role in the 1987 film The Lost Boys. He also confirmed part of the inspiration for his hairstyle came from Billy Idol. In 2022 press interviews marking the 35th anniversary of the film, Sutherland again recounted the story.
Mullets in antiquity
A metal figurine, dated back to the 1st-century AD and found during 2018 preparations for a new car park at the Wimpole Estate, England, was hypothesised by archaeologists to indicate that natives in ancient Britain during the Roman occupation could have worn their hair similarly to mullets.
In the sixth century, Byzantine scholar Procopius wrote that some factions of young males wore their hair long at the back and cut it short over the forehead. This non-Roman style was termed the "Hunnic" look.
Researcher Alan Henderson describes the ancient hairstyle as useful, as it kept the hair out of the eyes, yet provided warmth and protection for the neck.
He was a tall straight man, the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before, none on his face at all; …
Mullets were worn by rock stars David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, and Paul McCartney in the early 1970s. When writing Neil Peart's eulogy in January 2020, Greg Prato asserted Peart had a mullet, based on his observations of a 1974 video, further suggesting "he also may have been one of the first rockers to sport another hairstyle – the rattail", based on a 1985 video, "The Big Money".
In Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1980s, mullets were "everywhere", according to Tess Reidy writing at The Guardian in 2019. The 1980s were also the high point of the mullet's popularity in continental Europe.
After the much-publicized 1992 DC Comics storyline in which Superman apparently died, the character returned to the 1993 follow-up storyline "Reign of the Supermen", in which he was depicted with a mullet. The cancelled Superman film project, Superman Lives, would have depicted Superman with a mullet.
Punk rock band the Vandals sang of the mullets worn by country music singers and guests of The Jerry Springer Show and listed regional names for the style in the 1998 song "I've Got an Ape Drape".
The mullet was returned to the spotlight in 2015 by K-pop idol G-Dragon during his band BIGBANG's Made World Tour. Byun Baekhyun of EXO also sported a mullet in promotion for the group's 2017 song "Ko Ko Bop". K-pop artists who have worn mullets include Block B's Zico, Song Min-ho, Nam Joo-hyuk, Dean, Stray Kids' Chan and Han, VIXX's N, B.A.P.'s Himchan, Seventeen's Woozi and The8, and BTS's V.
The mullet has also experienced a revival within American sports. After winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, Phil Kessel was spotted in Pittsburgh Penguins training camp in September 2017 bringing the mullet back to its native roots of Pittsburgh Hockey. Similarly, Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy wore a mullet starting in early 2017; the popularity of his mullet supposedly earned Oklahoma State millions of dollars in marketing revenue. In addition, from 2010 to 2015, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks popularized the "playoff mullet," an alternative to the traditional NHL playoff beard. Current Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner began sporting a mullet in 2018, continuing the Yinzer tradition of the hairstyle in Western Pennsylvania. The revival also extended to Australia in the late 2010's, with Australian soccer player Rhyan Grant becoming widely known for his mullet haircut to the point that it was included within the video game FIFA 20.
In September 2020, i-D called 2020 "the year of the mullet", attributing its boom in popularity to COVID-19 lockdowns and their closing of hair salons. In an article for Vice Media, the mullet-wearing teenagers interviewed all described getting the haircut as a joke, with one stating "There's an irony to the mullet haircut. It's this disgustingly gross haircut, which means it's definitely worn in an ironic way". Magda Ryczko, founder of a barbershop in Brooklyn, notes that mullets allow for a professional front-facing look for COVID-19 era Zoom meetings, while maintaining a messier, more fun look off-camera, when the longer back section of hair may be revealed. An annual national USA Mullet Championship began in 2020. The versatility of the taper fade has modernized the classic mullet, giving it a cleaner look.
- "mullet, n.9". Oxford University Press. OED Online. September 2013.
- on YouTube[dead link]
- Grand Royal Issue 2, (1995) p. 44
- "The Mullet Mystery - Episode 23 - The Oxford Comment". SoundCloud. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- "OED Appeals: mullet". Oxford Academic (Oxford University Press) Tumblr. 5 April 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- "Appeals: mullet". Oxford English Dictionary. 22 April 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- Thinkmap Inc. (20 July 2015). "Think of "Mullet" as a 1980s Word? It's Not.: Vocabulary Shout-Out: Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus". visualthesaurus.com. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- Levine, Sara (June 2016). "The 'mullet' mystery - Episode 23 - The Oxford Comment | OUPblog". OUPblog. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- topsmate (21 April 2018). "An apology to the Oxford English Dictionary". Imgur. Archived from the original on 16 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
A few years ago I saw a post on reddit about the origin of the word Mullet (the Beastie Boys have the first record of it being used according to the Oxford English Dictionary). I photoshopped a 1992 magazine I had laying around to make it look like it referred to the term Mullet before it was first used in print.... The above photo is the original un-photoshopped Street Machine issue I used, and photoshopped to be a mythical "Jan '92" issue with an edited article within that proved the use of the term Mullet before the beastie boys in 1994. It should be obvious to anyone involved in the OED appeals search that it's the same magazine as the photoshopped version (in one of the images below), and the search can stop and they can save any effort going forward.
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David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust rocked a mullet, and so did Wings-era Paul McCartney.
- Andrew Grant Jackson (2012). Still the Greatest. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810882232.
he sported the mullet that Bowie would as Ziggy Stardust; cousin to the shag popularized by David Cassidy, Florence Henderson, and Rod Stewart. It almost looks cool in those early days, but when McCartney added the mustache ...
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- Kesel, Karl (w), Grummett, Tom (p), Hazelwood, Doug (i). "Reign of the Superman!" The Adventures of Superman, no. 505 (October 1993). DC Comics.
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- Tennessee woman has longest competitive mullet
- Tennessee woman sets record for world’s longest female mullet
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- Henderson, Alan (2007). Mullet Madness!: The Haircut That's Business Up Front and a Party in the Back. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1616088606.