Mullet (haircut)

The mullet is a hairstyle in which the hair is shorter at the front, but long at the back.

A man with a mullet haircut


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",[1] who used "mullet" and "mullet head" as epithets in their 1994 song "Mullet Head".[2] 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".[3]

In popular cultureEdit

The term "mullet head" had previously been used to refer to a person of dubious intelligence. A 1917 American Dialect Society paper, "Dialect Notes: Terms of Disparagement in American Dialect Speech", calls it simply "a stupid person" or "a know-nothing".[4] In Cool Hand Luke defeated villains were referred to as "mullet heads",[citation needed] and in a 1982 first-season episode of Cheers, Sam Malone says "Don't you have customers to deal with, mullet head?"

Falsified etymologyEdit

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.[5][6][7][8][9] 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.[10]

Fashion historyEdit

Ancient mulletsEdit

Apollo Kitharoidos arguably sporting a mullet.

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 archaelolgists to indicate that natives in ancient Britain during the Roman occupation could have worn their hair in a similar style to mullets.[11]

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.[12][13]

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.[14]

Native AmericaEdit

In Mourt's Relation, author Edward Winslow described the Plymouth pilgrims' first encounter with the Native Americans, Samoset of the Abenaki in 1621:

He was a tall straight man, the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before, none on his face at all; …


David Bowie with a mullet in 1974

Mullets were worn by rock stars David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, and Paul McCartney in the early 1970s.[16][17] 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".[18]


Actor Lou Diamond Phillips sporting a mullet in the 1980s

In Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom of the 1980s, mullets were "everywhere", according to Tess Reidy writing at The Guardian in 2019.[19] The 1980s were also the high point of the mullet's popularity in continental Europe.[citation needed]

Also in the 1980s, the mullet became part of lesbian culture, where it came to be used as a way of identifying oneself as a member of that culture in public.[20][21][22][23]


In the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania, the mullet was adopted by several members of the Pittsburgh Penguins,[citation needed] including Jaromír Jágr. The mullet remains popular to this day, even mocked to much acclaim by WDVE radio hosts in particular.[citation needed] Jágr in particular became so well known with the hairstyle that it actually headlined the local news when he cut it off in 1999;[24][failed verification] likewise, he again made headlines in 2015 (by this point playing for the Florida Panthers, his seventh NHL team after the Penguins traded him in 2001) when he announced that he was regrowing his mullet.[25]

After the much-publicized 1992 DC Comics storyline in which Superman apparently died, the character returned in the 1993 follow-up storyline "Reign of the Supermen", in which he was depicted with a mullet.[26] He remained with that hairstyle until 1997,[27] and this look was depicted in an action figure released by Mattel in 2009.[citation needed] The cancelled Superman film project, Superman Lives, would have depicted Superman with a mullet.[28]

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".[29]

Country music singers Billy Ray Cyrus, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Joe Diffie, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Tracy Lawrence, Vince Gill, Aaron Tippin, Morgan Wallen and Blake Shelton were also known for their mullets.[citation needed]

Vocalist Wesley Willis wrote and released the track "Cut the Mullet" in 1998 and frequently performed it at live shows.[30]


The mullet and its associated lifestyle have been central themes in movies such as Joe Dirt "business in the front, party in the back" (2001) and the television show The Mullets (2003–2004). Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy sang about the mullet in "The Phantom Mullet", a song off of their 2000 album All the Hype That Money Can Buy, referencing Billy Ray Cyrus and REO Speedwagon in the lyrics. The 2001 film American Mullet documents the phenomenon of the mullet hairstyle and the people who wear it.[31]

In 2003, Legacy Recordings released Mullets Rock!, a 2 CD collection full of mullet-wearing classic rock and hair metal bands from the 1970s and 1980s.[citation needed] The same year Universal Records (Canada) released the album Mullet Years: Power Ballads, a collection of hard rock ballads.[32]

Indie rock duo Tegan and Sara sported mullets during their The Con album era.

Between 2009 and 2012, the mullet was in fashion among individuals of Lebanese descent in Australia. The style had already been popular with the bogan subculture.[33][34] The fashion trend quickly waned by 2012. This was the type of a mullet that had a crew cut at the front, top, and sides and long hair at the back.[citation needed]

In 2009, Kate Gosselin, from the reality television show Jon and Kate Plus 8 made famous the tellum, or reverse mullet.


The mullet was banned in Iran as one style on a list of "un-Islamic", "decadent Western cuts".[35][36]

The mullet was returned to the spotlight in 2015 by K-pop idol G-Dragon during his band BIGBANG's Made World Tour.[37] Other K-pop artists who have worn mullets include Block B's Zico, Song Min-ho, Nam Joo-hyuk, Byun Baek-hyun, Dean, Stray Kids' Chan and Han, VIXX's N,[38] B.A.P.'s Himchan,[39] Seventeen's Woozi and The8, BTS's V,[40] Got7's JB, SF9's Youngbin, NCT's Taeyong, Ateez's Hongjoong and The Boyz's Hwall.

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.[41] In addition, from 2010 to 2015, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks popularized the "playoff mullet," an alternative to the traditional NHL playoff beard.[42] Current Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner began sporting a mullet in 2018, continuing the Yinzer tradition of the hairstyle in Western Pennsylvania.[43]


In the 2020s a variant of the hairstyle called the "modern mullet" gained popularity with LGBTQ+ influencers and celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Crystal Methyd of RuPaul's Drag Race season 12, Euphoria's Barbie Ferreira, and Tiger King's Joe Exotic.[44][45][46] "Modern mullet" hairstyles are characterized by long back hair, short side hair, and medium length front and top hair.[47]

While an irony laden hairstyle for some, mullets actively serve as a tool for flagging queer visibility and embracing creative authenticity for queer communities, echoing the sexual revolution of the 70's and following queer mullet-sporting LGBTQ+ icons. [48] For some, mullets facilitate the appearance of fluidity, echoing both masculine and feminine hairstyles, while others attribute the look to maintaining an artistic gaze on oneself, thus protesting conventional beauty standards, opposed to maintaining the male gaze.[49]

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.[50] 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".[51] Magda Ryczko, founder of the queer-owned barbershop Hairrari 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. [52]

Mullets are also becoming popular with male teens in Australia and New Zealand due to the Australian drill scene.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "mullet, n.9". Oxford University Press. OED Online. September 2013.
  2. ^ "Mullet Head Lyrics". Metro Lyrics. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  3. ^ Grand Royal Issue 2, (1995) p. 44
  4. ^ M. G. Hayden (1918). "Dialect Notes: Terms of Disparagement in American Dialect Speech". The American Dialect Society. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  5. ^ "The Mullet Mystery - Episode 23 - The Oxford Comment". SoundCloud. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  6. ^ "OED Appeals: mullet". Oxford Academic (Oxford University Press) Tumblr. 5 April 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Appeals: mullet | Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford English Dictionary. 22 April 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  8. ^ Thinkmap; Inc. (20 July 2015). "Think of "Mullet" as a 1980s Word? It's Not. : Vocabulary Shout-Out : Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  9. ^ Levine, Sara (June 2016). "The 'mullet' mystery - Episode 23 - The Oxford Comment | OUPblog". OUPblog. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Unearthed figurine suggests ancient Britons favoured mullets". The Guardian. 19 February 2021.(registration required)
  12. ^ Toner, J. P. (2013). Popular Culture in Ancient Rome. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0745654904.
  13. ^ Heather, Peter (4 July 2013). The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes & Imperial Pretenders. ISBN 978-0230772304.
  14. ^ Henderson, Alan (2013). Mullet Madness. Skyhorse.
  15. ^ William Bradford, Edward Winslow (1865). Mourt's Relation, or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth. Boston: J. K. Wiggin.
  16. ^ Wilson, William (2011). Gobbledygook. p. 166. ISBN 978-1440529252. David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust rocked a mullet, and so did Wings-era Paul McCartney.
  17. ^ Andrew Grant Jackson (2012). Still the Greatest. 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 ...
  18. ^ Prato, Greg (12 January 2020). "10 Moments That Show the Awesomeness of Rush's Neil Peart". Heavy Consequence. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  19. ^ "Here's the long and the short of it – mullets are back". the Guardian. 24 August 2019. Retrieved 22 January 2021.(registration required)
  20. ^ Bianco, Marcie (5 February 2015). "9 Ways Lesbians Have Given Straight Women A Fashion Edge". Curve. Archived from the original on 13 December 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  21. ^ Johnson, L. A. (7 October 2003). "For 'mulletheads,' it's not just a hairstyle, it's a lifestyle". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  22. ^ Weitz, Rose (12 January 2005). Rapunzel's Daughters: What Women's Hair Tells Us About Women's Lives. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9781429931137.
  23. ^ Bennett, Conswella (6 June 2011). "Mullets, Flannel, and Hipster Jeans: Lesbian Fashion Now and Then". Edge Media Network.
  24. ^ Kovacevic, Dejan (5 September 1999). "Jagr cuts his hair, ready to get down to business as Penguins open camp". Post-Gazette. PG Publishing. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  25. ^ Fialkov, Harvey (6 October 2015). "Panthers' Jaromir Jagr bringing back his famous mullet". South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  26. ^ Kesel, Karl (w), Grummett, Tom (p), Hazelwood, Doug (i). "Reign of the Superman!" The Adventures of Superman 505 (October 1993), DC Comics
  27. ^ Kesel, Karl (w), Immonen, Stuart (p), Marzan, Jose Jr. (i). "Dead Man Walking" The Adventures of Superman 544 (March 1997), DC Comics
  28. ^ The Editors of GQ (25 July 2014). "The Nicolas Cage Superman Documentary Reminds Us of the Man of Steel's Bad Hair Days". GQ. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  29. ^ "I've Got An Ape Drape lyrics". Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  30. ^ Loux, Brian (14 September 2001). "Wesley Willis Live". The Tech. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  31. ^ "American Mullet (2001)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Passmore, Daryl (13 November 2010). "Bogans of today evolved beyond stunned mullets". The Sunday Mail. Queensland: News Corp Australia.
  34. ^ Stark, Jill (19 December 2015). "Bogan Bingo! Get your mullet and flannies ready, it's bogan time". The Age. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  35. ^ Shahid, Aliyah (6 July 2010). "Iran launches crackdown on Western hairstyles, Culture Ministry bans mullet, ponytails, long hair". Daily News. New York Daily News. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  36. ^ Dweck, Jessica (10 July 2010), "Whence the Mullet? The history of Iran's forbidden haircut", Slate
  37. ^ BIGBANG Official Facebook (11 October 2015), M.A.D.E Tour in Newark, NJ, retrieved 25 September 2017
  38. ^ yckim124 (11 July 2017). "Netizens are afraid the mullet hairstyle is becoming a trend due to idols". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  39. ^ J. K (21 August 2017). "Update: B.A.P Drops Another Beautiful Trailer For "Honeymoon" - Soompi". Soompi. Viki Inc. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  40. ^ bts fancafe (16 April 2018). "My hair is like this because I want to do it~😊🐯 Please cheer for me and support me. I love you and good night 👍🏻💜". Twitter. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  41. ^ Sherman, Mitch (19 July 2017). "Gundy: Mullet worth 'millions' in OSU marketing". ESPN. Frisco, Texas. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  42. ^ Skrbina, Paul (12 May 2015). "The man behind Patrick Kane's mullet". Chicago Tribune.
  43. ^ Fowler, Jeremy (13 September 2018). "Steelers' James Conner embraces unique haircut, planning more styles". ESPN. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  44. ^ Parker, Erin (21 January 2020). "Mullets Are Apparently Coming Back and I…Don't Hate It?". Glamour. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  45. ^ "The mullet: queer rebirth or pickup-truck masculine?". ULTRA. 17 August 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  46. ^ "Login • Instagram". Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  47. ^ Bush, Thomas (5 July 2020). "30 Modern Mullet Hairstyles for Men". Haircut Inspiration. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  48. ^ "From k.d. to Kristen: ranking the best queer mullets in pop culture". Dazed. 16 April 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  49. ^ Blais-Billie, Braudie (22 June 2017). "from queer culture to high fashion, the mullet is a protest against conventional beauty". i-D. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  50. ^ Lanigan, Roisin. "2020 is the year of the mullet". i-D. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  51. ^ Smythe, Polly. "Mullets Have Become the Must-Have Haircut at English Private Schools". Vice Media. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  52. ^ "The Queer Rebirth of the Mullet". MEL Magazine. 27 July 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2021.

Further readingEdit

  • Hoskyns, Barhey (2000). The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 1582340641.
  • Henderson, Alan (2007). Mullet Madness!: The Haircut That's Business Up Front and a Party in the Back. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1616088606.

External linksEdit