They say what goes around comes around, but they probably didn’t mean the most derided haircut of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – the mullet. That’s right – the mullet is set to become fashionable again in 2019.
Billy Ray Cyrus might be known now for being Hannah Montana’s dad and a hot genre-breaking summer jam. But in the ‘90s, he was known for having an “achy breaky heart” and a mullet to go with it.
It might still be “business in the front, party in the back,” but this isn’t your parents’ mullet. The mullet from decades ago focused on long tufts of hair at the back of the neck with curtain bangs in the front. The current mullet relaxes the rules by adding longer layers for a retro, but trendy style.
Learn everything you need to know about the mullet and how to make it work for you.
Everything you need to know about Mullets
People love to make fun of the mullet hairstyle. Every movie or TV show made today but set in the ‘80s features a character wearing the mullet style. The character is usually a nerd, but in the true ‘80s, even popular kids wore mullets. Icon of punk, David Bowie sported a red mullet as his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust.
Everyone knows what a mullet is, but very few people understand the haircut. Let’s shed some light on the misunderstood style with fun facts about mullets:
Haircut Traces Back to Ancient Times
The mullet might have been immensely popular from the 1970s (Paul McCartney of Beatle fame had one) to the early 1990s, but it can be traced back 1,400 years to ancient Romans.
In Roman times, men were known for watching gladiators fight for sport or destroying the Hun empire. Despite their hatred of the Huns, Romans very much liked their mullet-esque haircuts and often emulated the style.
Historians say the haircut was beneficial in battles and cold weather. The length in the back kept the nape of the neck warm while the short front prevented other warriors to grab hold of the hair.
The Western world has always been obsessed with Cleopatra and her beauty secrets. Perhaps the focus should have been on the trendsetting Huns instead.
Beastie Boys Credited with Naming it “Mullet”
Believe it or not, the mullet was not called a “mullet” back in the ‘80s. Back then, a mullet was still just a fish. It wasn’t until 1994 that rap group The Beastie Boys released a song called “Mullet Head” which gave name to the look. The song is an ode to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with references to Jean Claude Van Dam, the Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco, Kenny G and yes, Billy Ray Cyrus.
The refrain of the song begs the barber to “Cut the sides, don't touch the back.” The trusted and reliable Oxford English Dictionary even gives credit to the Beastie Boys for coining the term. Fight for your right to party… in the back and business in the front!
The Haircut is Illegal in Some Countries…
Not everyone is a fan of the half-short/half-long haircut. Iran banned the mullet and other Western haircuts, such as ponytails and spikes, in 2010.
The look is also technically banned for men in North Korea, since they can allegedly only choose between 20-something state-approved haircuts, none of which resemble the mullet. North Korean women, however, have two haircut choices that have a shoulder-length bob type of haircut with bangs across the forehead. Not exactly a replica of the mullet everyone loves to hate, but close enough.
…But Not Australia
Australia, on the other hand, reveres the mullet so much that an annual festival known as Mulletfest was created to celebrate the style. The festival originated three years ago in the town of Kurri Kurri. There is a mullet competition with awards in categories such as ‘grubby,’ ‘vintage,’ and ‘junior,’ among others.
According to participants, the mullet is a way of life, not just a haircut. Crikey!
Seen on Popular Show The Walking Dead
The mullet has been used in popular culture films and television shows to indicate a timeline of the ‘80s. For example, comedian Adam Sandler wore a mullet wig in the film 1998 The Wedding Singer, a movie set in the 1980s.
For a more recent example in the 21st Century, fictional character Dr. Eugene Porter on AMC's The Walking Dead sports a mullet. A mullet has often been thought of as a male hairstyle, but actress Scarlett Johansson recreated her iconic teenage mullet haircut for a 2015 magazine shoot.
Is the mullet making a comeback 2019?
The mullet is a practical haircut that was beloved for its simplicity and adaptable shape. It’s no surprise that the mullet is making a resurgence in popularity in 2019. K-pop stars with worldwide fame have brought renewed interest in the haircut.
The new, updated version of the mullet features embellishments such as the wearer’s natural color on top with a bolder color on the longer party in the back. One K-pop star pairs his mullet with sideburns. Another braids the long sections of hair into mini-dreads.
If Korean pop stars are resurrecting the style in 2019, it won’t be long until the mullet makes its way across oceans. The haircut had a brief resurgence in the 2000s but it quickly faded out as nostalgic fashion tends to do.
The 2019 mullet even has a new name – Celebrity hairstylist, Riawna Capri, has renamed the look the “chillet,” short for chill mullet. It features sharp edges, high fades and even faux-hawks, another throwback to the punk era of the ‘80s.
The modern, edgy mullet is a low-key version meant to highlight the creativity of the individual rather than the conformity of the earlier version of the mullet. It’s the hair version of “Netflix and chill” instead of “party in the back.”
Modern Female Mullet Styles
In the Eighties, mullets were most often seen on men. However, you could say that the iconic haircut worn by everyone’s mother, Mrs. Brady (played by Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch), fit the description of a mullet.
The mullet combines the short style of men with the long style of women to make an androgynous style, something that is very relevant in today’s society. The old mullet featured hair at least shoulder-length in the back. Shorter hair on top lead to bangs covering the forehead or swept to the side. The hair on the sides was equal to or shorter than the hair on top.
Here are a few updated options for the modern female version of the mullet:
Shaved sides with fringe bangs and shoulder-length hair or longer in the back
A shaggy shoulder-length bob with curtain bangs
Bob-length hair in the back with side tendrils and fringe bangs
Short hair on the sides with a close crop on top completed with long tendrils down the back
Fake it without making it with a half bun loose at the nape of the neck and curtain bangs in front
Other 80s Fads Back In Style
Everything old really is new again in 2019. The mullet isn’t the only retro fashion fad seeing new life in a new decade.
Chokers – As the name implies, a necklace worn tightly around the neck
Crop tops – Tummy-bearing half shirts for the younger crowd
Low-rise pants – After Mommy jeans, we had pants low enough to make plumbers blush
Mirrored sunglasses – Aviators are back, too
Combat boots & flannel shirts – Grunge may be dead, but its fashion is back
Overalls – With both straps clasped this go ‘round
Scrunchies – Enormous fabric hair-ties in a variety of colors
Mullets have long been an example of the decadent, embarrassing trends of the ‘80s. Thirty years from now, the next generation could very well be laughing with equal derision at the mullets of today. But for now, the mullet is making a comeback in a huge way. Maybe rat-tails will next.