Originally created 04/29/01

Fascination with hairstyle has `mullet heads' turning heads



Ape drape, Camaro cut, hockey head, Kentucky waterfall, mud flap, neck blanket ... whatever you call it, "the mullet" is at its height of popularity.

But it's not the haircut - short on the top and sides, long in the back - that's making a comeback. It's our fascination with it.

Oodles of Web sites dedicated to the look are popping up on the Internet. There's even a coffee-table book, The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods, by Mark Larson and Barney Hoskyns, and a documentary, The Mullet Uncut, by filmmakers Mark Maiocco and Michael Reinwald.

It's a hairstyle that has been worn by the likes of country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus, tennis star Andre Agassi and movie stars Kurt Russell and Mel Gibson.

And David Spade sports a long, flowing mullet in his new movie, Joe Dirt.

But mullets aren't limited to celebrities. They're also popular among blue collar, hard-working Americans who flock to heavy metal or country concerts, wrestling matches and NASCAR races.

So why is a hairdo that debuted in the late 1970s and hit its peak in the '80s becoming a pop-culture phenomenon again now?

One man responsible for bringing the mullet to the masses has several theories.

"I think what makes the mullet so popular is that A: it's funny, B: it's everywhere you go, C: people with mullets choose to have one, D: there is an attitude and lifestyle associated with having one and E: well, it's just funny," explained Kurt, creator of the mulletlovers.com Web site. (He won't reveal his last name for privacy reasons.)

A blurb on an Australian Web site in 1996 sparked Kurt's interest in the 'do, he said. That Web page disappeared shortly thereafter, so Kurt decided to make his own site, originally called "The North American Mullet Page."

"My mullet page was put up in 1997, and I basically forgot about it for months. One day I remembered it and went to take a look at it, and it had, like, 20,000 hits, which blew my mind," he said. "At that point I realized there was something to this whole thing. People kept coming to (the site) religiously."

Soon other Web sites sprang up, each with its own take on the mullet.

Traffic at mulletlovers.com has been fairly steady since '97, although recently it has increased, said Kurt, who lives in Albany, Ore. "We get e-mail every day from people growing mullets on purpose just to get on our site."

More than 1.2 million people have clicked on mulletlovers.com over the years. Last month, 38,000 checked out the Web page, which will be featured in an upcoming issue of People magazine.

Another popular site, Mulletsgalore.com, calls the haircut "the biggest inside joke in history."

Mullet Web sites are flooded with pictures of the superstars who made the mane famous. Photos showcase Mr. Cyrus' "Achy-Breaky, what-a-mistakey" mullet, David Bowie's "Ziggy mullet," Michael Bolton's frizzy coif and preacher Al Sharpton's puffy drape. Other celeb snapshots include construction worker Larry Fortensky - Elizabeth Taylor's most recent ex-husband - and Mr. Agassi (back when he had hair).

Pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan, who was born in Augusta, also is often a poster boy for the style, although his mullet is more of a "skullet" because of his bald head.

Even women celebs have sported mullets - or "fe-mullets." They include the late Linda McCartney, Florence Henderson of The Brady Bunch, rocker Sheena Easton and tennis star Martina Navratilova.

Kurt said more people know about the mullet now than ever before.

"The trend has never faded," he said. "I think it's just that since there is a term associated with the look now and with the media exposure, people know what to look for."

Maybe that's why "mullet hunting" is a new craze. If you have a mullet, don't be surprised if you a stranger snaps your picture.

Hundreds of photos are sent to mullet Web sites every day from people who have captured flowing tresses at such hometown hot spots as Wal-Mart, Waffle House and corner bars.

"All you need is a camera and some guts," said Kurt, who says he has never been injured while photographing a subject.

"I personally have a nice camera with some very long lenses. In most cases, I don't have to get very close," he said.

But there have been times he didn't have a camera and wished he did. "I've missed thousands."

Mullets are everywhere.

"That's the cool part. It's not geographical at all," Kurt said. "You can find mullets anywhere and everywhere, from Wall Street to Atoka, Okla. From the United States to Germany to Australia."

You can't tell where someone is from by his mullet, but you can probably name a few of his interests.

"There is a direct relationship, in many cases, with the haircut and loving NASCAR, pro wrestling, country music, '80s ... music, hunting, trailers, Jerry Springer, etc.," Kurt said. "In many instances, you can tell a lot about the person themselves just at a glance, whereas with most other physical attributes you really can't."

How it all started

No one really knows how the name of a spiny-finned fish came to be associated with a hairstyle, but many trace the usage to 1994, when the Beastie Boys released a song called Mullet Head on their Ill Communication record:

"You wanna know what's a mullet? Well, I got a little story to tell about a hairstyle that's a way of life. Have you ever seen a mullet wife? ... Cut the sides, don't touch the back," the Beastie Boys rap. They mention mullet wearers Mr. Cyrus, Kenny G, Jean Claude Van Damme and Joey Buttafuoco in the song.

The origin of the hairstyle itself goes back a lot further.

"In fact, if artists' impressions are anything to go by, the original ... mullet dates all the way back to the dawn of human civilization," Mr. Larson and Mr. Hoskyns wrote in their book. "Depictions of Neanderthal Man as a scantily clad savage with an unmistakably short-on-top-but-long-scraggly-at-the-back 'do may explain the popularity of `Ape Drape' as one of the mullet's many synonyms."

A mullet comeback?

Will the mullet hoopla send people to salons and barbers to get the cut?

"I wouldn't say it's making a comeback because I know for a fact it's never come even close to leaving, however, I also know there are now people growing them on purpose," the mulletlovers.com creator said. "Whereas, with real mullets (a term he applies to the hairstyle and those who sport it), they don't even know they have one. It's just who they are and probably always have been."

Felix Casteel, a senior stylist at Salon Cocoon, 2035-B Walton Way, says he hopes the look never becomes popular again. He had a mullet in high school in the early '80s, but not by choice.

"I don't think I ever really asked for it," he said. "It just sort of evolved on my head, and there I was - mulleted!"

In 1980, hairstylists were constantly asked to give their clients the "bi-level," a synonym for the mullet, said Mr. Casteel, who has cut many mullets.

Now he refuses to do the 'do he likes to call "business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back." He said he persuaded a client a few months ago to rid himself of the mullet.

"If you're still wearing the mullet, then your hairdresser has been very mad at you for the last 15 years," he said. "It's like a disease back there. It just keeps growing and growing. The people who have mullets will probably be trapped in that hairstyle forever."

On the Net:

Mullet Web sites offer celebrity photos, mullet-hunting tips, mullets of the week, classifications and merchandise, including T-shirts.

mulletlovers.com

mulletsgalore.com

mulletjunky.com

mulletjoe.com

mulletgods.com

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.


Show us your mullet

Proud of your drape? Enter The Augusta Chronicle's Show Us Your Mullet contest. Send in a photo of yourself or your friends sporting the short-on-top, long-in-the-back hairdo. It can be an old high school picture or a current photo. We'll print photos of the best mullets in the newspaper and give the winners tickets to the flick Joe Dirt.

Mail your entry to: Mullet Contest, Newsroom, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903. Include your name, daytime and evening phone numbers, address and year photo was taken. To have your photo returned, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.