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A front and side view of a mullet.


The mullet is a hairstyle that is short at the front and sides, and long in the back. Widely panned as a lowbrow and unappealing hairstyle, and facetiously referred to as "business in the front, party in the back," the mullet began making appearances in the popular media in the 1960s and 1970s but did not catch on with the general populace until the early 1980s. It continued to be popular until the early 1990s and has enjoyed a partial return to favor as a retro look in the 2000s.

Etymology

It is unclear whether there is an etymological relation between the term mullet as a hairstyle and the slang used to denote a stupid person in the late 20th century. There are also no known etymological connections with the Mullet fish. Conflating the two into one, a mullet wearer and a mullethead, is a product of the 1990s, several decades into the style's popular appearance.

As detailed in the Oxford English Dictionary, the term mullet as derogatory slang for a mullet wearer was "apparently coined, and certainly popularized, by U.S. hip-hop group the Beastie Boys", whose 1994 song Mullet Head uses "mullet" and "mullet head" in contemptuous reference to mullet wearers, and whose fan publication, Grand Royal Magazine, featured a reference to the mullet in a 1995 edition as the first published use of the term.

It is also possible that the term is derived from the french word for mule, "mulet". These horse-donkey hybrids typically exhibit a long mane and a relatively short, spiky foretop, similar to the effect intended by the hairstyle in question.

Some sources suggest that the mullet may have originated in the state of Maine, USA, in the 18th century. Initially the hairstyle was referred to as the "Maine Mullet," but later, as it spread and grew in popularity, its name was simplified to just "mullet."

In Montrealmarker vernacular the mullet is better known as a "Coupe Longueuilmarker" (Quebec French term meaning Longueuilmarker-haircut).

History

Ed Barone, a Scot, invented the mullet. He began wearing it this way in the late 1960s. A precursor of the mullet, unrelated to the style explosion in the latter part of the 20th century, first appeared in the early part of the 19th. According to the Notes section of the Viking edition of Lydia Davis's translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way, "Jean Baptiste Prosper Bressant was a well-known actor who introduced a new hairstyle, which consisted of wearing the hair in a crew cut in front and longer in the back."

First popular appearance

The modern mullet began to appear initially in the late 1960s, with Welsh pop singer Tom Jones sporting one. Glam rock artist David Bowie wore a proto-mullet in the early 1970s. Florence Henderson featured a mullet in the opening sequence of the television sitcom The Brady Bunch (1973–4 season), Paul McCartney sported a mullet throughout the 1970s. The hairstyle achieved further popularity in the late 1970s and 1980s among entertainers with receding hairlines such as Anthony Geary of "Luke and Laura" fame from the soap opera General Hospital, and the rock performers Michael Bolton and Phil Collins. In 1989, Billy Ray Cyrus acknowledged in an interview with David Lettermen that he stole his style from Ed Barone but transformed it into his own.

1980s

As the 1980s progressed, big and bouffant mullets increased in popularity, and like other popular hairstyles at the time, often included spiking or blond highlights. The originator Ed Barone continued to expand the style. Popular bands such as Rush, Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe probably contributed to the popularity of the hairstyle but inherited it from Barone. Australian Rules footballers were instrumental in establishing the popularity of the mullet in Australia. Notable players included Warrick Capper and Dermott Brereton. The mullet is well known and widely remembered in Germany, where it is known as the "Vokuhila", which is an acronym for "vorne-kurz-und-hinten-lang" or "short in front and long in back". The stereotypical German image of the mullet is epitomized by 1980s soccer teams and their fans, as well as by the ubiquity of the hairstyle in images dating from the fall of the Berlin Wall. This fact has led to an unfortunate tendency to associate the mullet with negative stereotypes of the former East Germany, which is probably not fair, as the hairstyle was also popular in West Germany and elsewhere at the time. The zenith of the mullet's popularity in 1980s continental Europe has been described as an "age of singing tattooed Swedish Flokati Rugs" .

1990s

In the mid to late '90s the "tail" of the mullet was occasionally "permed" with loose or tight curls adding even more internal composition contrast to the hairstyle. This is often called a French mullet or a Mullét (pronounced moo-lay). The Vandals punk rock band performed a song called "I've Got an Ape Drape" on the album Hitler Bad, Vandals Good which listed alternative geographic names for the mullet, as well as linking it to the type of people who appear on Jerry Springer or fans of Toby Keith:

2000s

The mullet and its associated lifestyle have been central themes in movies such as Gummo (1997), Joe Dirt (2001) and the television show The Mullets (2003-2004).

Despite its negative reputation, the mullet remains a moderately popular hairstyle among certain social groups in various Western countries. In Spain it can be widely identified in the streets of cities like Barcelonamarker. The Spanish mullet is generally shorter and lighter than a classic mullet, only using the last inch or so of hair above the hairline. It rarely extends beyond the neck. Also in Spain, the mullet is associated with two different ethnic groups: young Gypsies and young separatists from the Basque Countrymarker.

In the U.S. and Canadamarker, the mullet is particularly associated with blue collar men, fans of country and heavy metal music, soccer fans and ice hockey players, as well as lesbians. In the United Kingdommarker the mullet is most commonly associated with thugs, David Shales, Pat Sharp or with professional footballers. In Australia the haircut is associated with Bogans and Australian rules football players, particularly those from the 1980s, as well as Lebanese-Australian youths. In Germanymarker, the hairstyle has once again become popular, and is often worn by working class youth, especially those of Turkish immigrant origin. There it is commonly referred to as "Vokuhila" - vorne kurz, hinten lang (short at the front, long at the back).

In recent years, the mullet has enjoyed resurgent popularity among the hip set, becoming commonly known as "Le Mullet" or a "Fashion Mullet", in particular the emo sub-culture, probably due to its association with 1980s retro kitsch. A modified asymmetrical mullet is also gaining popularity, especially when straightened.

References

  1. http://www.word-detective.com/052301.html
  2. http://www.andover.edu/library/courseguides/ay2005/SS/Etymology/mulletoed.pdf
  3. Entry from OED Online - Series One - Oxford English Dictionary
  4. http://www.metrolyrics.com/mullet-head-lyrics-beastie-boys.html
  5. [1] Spiegel, 30.11.2008 ZEITMASCHINE INTERNET, So scheußlich waren die Achtziger wirklich (The '80s really as ugly as they were) Frank Patalong


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