Will the Mullet Die?
The spotty teenager at your local gas station probably has one. Professional wrestlers and many wrestling fans have them. Country & western crooners have them.
The girls' gym teacher at your middle school most assuredly had one.
I had one.
If you're over the age of 25 you might have had one too.
Or you still do.
Find a grouping of Latino men and you'll see a few.
Human bull's-eye Gen. George A. Custer had one (fig. 1).
And a few big-time hip-hop playas have them as well.
What's the common strand that connects these people?
It's the Mullet -- a longstanding hairstyle that has become as American as the bald eagle, the Flowbee vacuum cleaner attachments, Pabst Blue Ribbon and sex in the back seats of cars (with these five American Mullet elements often coinciding).
The Mullet has achieved a growing, cult-like status over the past few years, gaining recognition in the movies (Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer or virtually any Mel Gibson flick), in music (classic rockers, white-guy blues bands, Tex-Mex groups and the C&W contingent), professional sports (soccer and hockey players) and cyber-space. Over the past three years, the number of Web sites dedicated to the Mullet has grown from three to well over a dozen. As further proof of the Mullet gaining recognition by the mass populace, alternative radio station WMRQ (104.1 FM) had an early morning drive-time, man-on-the-street survey about the Mullet. And the lifestyle section of the Aug. 14 issue of the Hartford Courant ran a short piece about the Mullet in professional sports.
But this exposure and acceptance in the rinse-and-repeat waters of the mainstream could bring a tragic consequence: the extinction of the Mullet.
First, a bit of background.
Rather than the bony little fish belonging to the order Perciformes (fig. 2), which includes perch, bass and sunfish, the Mullet in contention for a spot on the endangered species list is the hairstyle. It is easily recognizable as a haircut having a considerable length differential between the back, top and sides, wherein the top and temporal regions of the 'do are shorter than the back, which often covers the neck. The ears are exposed. Mullet cuts come in dozens if not hundreds of distinct sub-genres, with just as many descriptive colloquialisms. (See accompanying story, "A Mullet By....")
The Mullet is also a lifestyle. No other choice of hair manipulation so dominates a wearer's everyday interactions and societal direction -- though the Afro comes close. The person who sports the Mullet, who is also referred to as "a Mullet," quite often exudes a bitter resentment toward all that is non-Mullet. This "mulletude" -- which transcends race, gender and sexual orientation -- can be easily calculated by adding the number of original teeth the Mullet still has, the cumulative months of jail time the Mullet has done and the number of Marlboro miles he or she has collected and multiplying the sum by the legal level of intoxication for that Mullet's state of residency.
Mulletude can display itself in a variety of physical manifestations, including one or more of the following: overindulgence in alcohol, narcotics infractions or running afoul of the law (figs. 3 & 4), attending monster truck or motorcycle rallies, brawling in IHOP parking lots, loitering, "No Fear" or those Calvin pissing stickers, attending traffic court, going to Indigo Girls concerts, dining at Stuckey's, listening to any and all classic rock, "kicking ass and taking names," playing softball, hockey or soccer, fighting over the Space Invaders game at 7-11 and doing doughnuts on the football field of their old high school in muscle cars.
Despite the predominantly explosive and violent nature of the Mullet, a handful of serene and passive breeds peacefully exist amongst the non-Mulleted. Both varieties of the Mullet have likely been around since the dawning of time.
3,000 Years of the Mullet
It is assumed that primitive man, the variety known as Neanderthal Man, rocked the Mullet. For the first pictorial documentation of a Mulleted culture, check out the hieroglyphics and pictograms of ancient Egypt (fig. 5). In artwork and artifacts from the ancient civilizations of the Hittites, circa 1350 B.C. (fig. 6), to the Greeks (fig. 7), up into late-19th-century England and Gainsborough's famous portrait of Blue Boy (fig. 8), the roots of the Mullet can be traced back for over 3,000 years.
The combination of the term with the hair/lifestyle first appeared in more modern times in musical form. On the B-side of the Beastie Boys' 1994 single "Sure Shot" was the song "Mullet Head": "Number 1 on the side and don't touch the back/Number 6 on the top and don't cut it whack, Jack." (The numbers refer to the size of the guards snapped onto the clippers used to shave the Mullet.) At that exact moment, an entire haircut culture that had thrived for three millennia had a name. And people the world over were becoming aware of it. But this worldwide attention may cause the demise of the Mullet.
The Follicular Blind Spot
The obsession with the Mullet -- whether by those who scoff down their up-turned noses at the haircuts or those who admire the wearer's "mulletude" (or a smirking combination of both) -- is based on the concept of the Mullet-wearer, as a species, being completely oblivious to his or her choice of hair/lifestyle.
The person who sports the Mullet (the word stems from the French mulet, meaning "dim") tends not to know he or she wears a hairstyle of both acclaim and absolute ridicule. There is a follicular blind spot.
It's just a haircut to them -- and a damn good-looking one, too. Local-warbler-done-good Michael Bolton (fig. 9) for years didn't know he had a Mullet. The Burger King corporation of the '70s hadn't a clue when it gave its plush toy mascot a Mullet (fig. 10). Basket-brawler Latrell Sprewell (fig. 11) unknowingly sports a neo-Mullet. I didn't know I had a Mullet back in '85. (Sorry, couldn't find the photo.) And a large percentage of both the Midwestern states and outlying communities throughout Connecticut are oblivious to their 'dos as well.
Case in point: On a recently viewed episode of some anabolic wrestling event, one of the sweaty behemoths, who sports a wet and tendrilly Mullet, was on-screen berating a member of the audience. A fan, also a Mullet, defiantly held up a poster mocking the pro wrestler's 'do.
If the onslaught of mainstream recognition of the Mullet continues to expand at its current rate, the unknowing factor that lets the Mullet live in relative peace will disintegrate. And with that dawning realization -- that the Mullet is, in many circles, a point of mockery -- the Mullet could very well die. (Unless the Mullet in question has a mulletude rating far off the scale. Then he or she just doesn't give a toss.). Should we as a nation be concerned for the well-being of a sliver of Americana? Is there a definite threat of the extinction to the Mullet? I had to find out if my assumptions held any gel.
Exploring the Worlds Of the Mullet
For weeks, I channeled my obsession into extensive research and exploration. I made frequent e-journeys to the masterfully hilarious Mulletsgalore.com, as well as mulletgods.com and the North American Mullet page, scouring them for the most current updates on the popularity of the Mullet. I read the thorough historical accounts in The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods (Bloomsbury Publishing), by Mark Larson and Barney Hoskyns. I attended as many large gatherings (free musical events, town fairs and carnivals, fast-food parking lots) as time would allow, searching for any sign of Mullet decline. I started watching all televised wrestling programs. And I made numerous drives through West Haven and Milford.
My conclusion: Despite the surge in mainstream recognition, there is no immediate threat to the proliferation of the Mullet. No matter how much press the Mullet gets, no matter how many people around the office water cooler jump on the bandwagon and sneer at that guy from accounting who sports a Mullet, no matter how many professional wrestlers shave their heads, the Mullet will survive. It has been a recognized fighter from Y-minus-1K and continues to scrap in Y2K. And it will live on because of the Eastern philosophy that is deeply rooted in the lifestyle: its yin/yang-short/long-spoken of/unspoken of qualities. These ancient Chinese secrets course through the Mullets of this world much in the same vein as the Mullet's distant cousin, the Comb-Over.
Everyone knows the harsh realities of the Comb-Over: the constant derision and obvious faux pas. But there are tens of thousands of Comb-Overs happily going about their daily routined despite the derision heaped, literally, upon their heads. And it will happen in this way to the Mullet. It will be made fun of, scorned, shunned, slighted. But it too will survive, grow and flourish.
A symbol of this country. A follicular flag. The Mullet. Old Glory. Long may it wave.
A Mullet By Any Other Name
Shlong (a "short-long" combination)
7 (named for the shape)
The Kirk (after '80s teen dream Kirk Cameron of the TV show Growing Pains)
The Iroc Z
The Travis (after country singer Travis Tritt)
Spine Shingle (for longer Mullets)
Trailer Court Cut
The Camacho (after boxer Hector "Macho" Camacho)
The Sprewell (after basketball thug Latrell Sprewell)
The Beaver Paddle
Business up front/party in the rear
SFLB (Short Front Long Back)
The Carpenter Cut
The Safety Cut
Tennessee Top Hat