Hair of the Mouse

If your vacation plans include a visit to Disneyland this summer, brace yourself for a hard, ugly jolt. The teeth-grittingly Happiest Place on Earth has undergone a radical upheaval. No, they haven't bounced Mickey and brought in a chain-smoking wombat as official spokesrodent. Not yet anyway, but that day may not be far off.

Just take a gander at the mug of some male employee. Not his flat, dead eyes. Right there, south of the schnozz, just a hair north of the pie-hole. A bunch of hairs as a matter of fact. Unfreaking real. The kid is sporting a 'stache. Flaunting it, actually. And he's got the blessing of the suits upstairs, too.

An edict has been handed down from on high. For over 40 years the company has banned theme park employees from cultivating facial hair. But now, hard up for fresh worker drones, they have backed off that fascist stance. Mustaches are okey-dokey, beards, still verboten. Big Walt must be spinning in his freezer.

And while it's true, the company founder and namesake himself wore a soup strainer, he was also a savvy businessman. The clean shaven kisser rule was part of Walt Disney's effort to draw a distinction between his sanitized and aggressively wholesome amusement park with the more traditional carnivals of the day, which were nothing more than rickety skanktowns oozing drifters and corndogs.

Still the implications of this fundamental policy shift are staggering. Mustaches will give employees a whiff of follicle freedom, bestow upon them a kind of Village People/Magnum PI/Goose Gossage cockiness. That's heady stuff for the pre-programmed replicants which currently patrol the park.

Once the handlebars, pencil thins and Fu Manchus sprout, no one knows where it could lead. Sideburns, a soul patch, maybe even God help us, a mullet.

Mullets, for those who've never attended a monster truck rally or pro wrestling match or Whitesnake concert, or watched an episode of "Cops," or gone bowling, or cruised the Dairy Queen in a souped-up Camaro, or scored some crystal meth from the trailer park just outside of town, are those bi-level short-on-top, long-in-back haircuts popularized in the '80s. (For the purposes of this discussion, the mullet shall refer only to the male fashionistas who staggered down this dark path. Female versions of the cut, sometimes called the fullet, are another beast altogether.)

Billy Ray Cyrus was the achy-breaky mullet poster boy, but plenty of other celebs fell under the mullet's sway. Chuck Norris, Patrick Swayze, Mel Gibson, Michael Bolton, Alan Jackson, Joey Buttafuco, Wild Bill Hickcock and Napoleon all have been documented wearing the "guido" or "neck warmer." Other mullet de plumes include ape drape, redneck rug, soccer rocker, beaver paddle, tweaker tophat, Kentucky waterfall, Rogaine mane and Restraining Order Mortar Board.

The mulleteer tries straddling two worlds with his surly 'do. By keeping his hair shorn and tidy in the front he conforms to the corporate ideal of a hard-charging comer, a take-no-prisoners, all-business go-getter, and thus is able to hold down that key position at Jiffy Lube. But from the back, those locks cascading gracefully down his neckline, that's letting his freak flag fly, baby.

He sees himself as wild and untamed, a quasi-free spirit swaggering through life demanding respect, like his stylistic role models, the professional wrestlers, an ancient tribe of mullet people themselves. In truth, he is a rebel without a clue. A man conflicted, torn in half. The same undercurrent of homoeroticsm that runs rampant through the world of wrestling - sweaty buffed men in fetish wear, putting moves on each other like the pile driver and the figure four leglock, pul-leeze, why not just have Judy Garland blaring over the intercom as they sashay into the ring? - threatens to tear Mullet Boy apart, too.

He wants to feel macho, hard and edgy, sucker-punch manly, to be accepted by his peers. Yet the desire to throw off some feminine vibes is so overpowering he is willing to walk into Super Cuts and sacrifice his skull to the fashion travesty sometimes known as the "mud flap." In more ways than one, the mullet is a cry for help.

And sadly, tragically, it is inching back from the boonies into the mainstream. A coffee-table opus, "The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods," hit bookstore shelves in January. Publications such as the Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly have recently reported on the increase in sightings. Web sites abound, both celebrating and vilifying (there's that paradox again) the mullet. The Gucci menswear line this spring featured be-mulleted models. And now this outbreak of the retro-coif among the smile-bots at Disney, while still in the theoretical stage, pretty much seals the deal. The mullet is here to stay.

Is this a trend you should jump on? Maybe the mohawk bandwagon rumbled out of the station without you. Maybe you missed out on pony tails, the branding/scarification mini-fad, even the cargo pant craze, now you're worried about being labeled terminally unhip. But really, is a mullet any way to get back in the game?

Unless you have an appearance scheduled on "The Jerry Springer Show," or are going to be racing on the NASCAR circuit, or opening for Sawyer Brown, chances are a mullet won't be considered a plus.

If you're applying for a job at Disneyland, that's a different story.

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