No other haircut has been the topic of such heated debate throughout the years quite like the mullet.
After decades of being either highly praised or heavily ridiculed, there’s one thing for sure: when all is said and done, the mullet remains a legendary haircut that somehow still manages to slip in and out of style up to this very day.
But if you weren’t around in the 80s, you probably have a burning curiosity, albeit rightfully so. What is a mullet hairstyle? And why on earth would people be freaking out over a haircut?
Well, you’ve come to the right place. This is the ultimate mullet guide you never knew you needed but which you’ll love! Grab a snack, make yourself comfortable, and find out everything about this controversial haircut that’s sure to continue to make headlines for years to come.
What Is a Mullet Haircut?
We’ll start from scratch and get the million-dollar question out of the way. So, what is a mullet? In a nutshell, a mullet is a haircut that features cropped sides, a short top, and longer hair in the back.
The details vary widely from one person to another, but to qualify as a mullet, the hairstyle should present significant length at the nape. Both men and women have adopted the hairstyle, although guys with mullets are a more common occurrence.
Why Is It Called a Mullet?
Believe it or not, the name of the mullet hairstyle as we know it today was given by – brace yourself – the Beastie Boys. Yes, the Beastie Boys. You don’t even have to take our word for it. The Oxford English Dictionary credits the multi-platinum alternative rap group as the originators, even citing the lyrics that started it all:
“You wanna know what is a mullet?
Well, I got a little story to tell
About a hair style that’s way of life.”
Released in 1994, the song “Mullet Head” even puts things into perspective with a vivid visual description of the haircut:
“Number one on the side and don’t touch the back
Number six on the top and don’t cut it wack, Jack”;
“Cut the sides, don’t touch the back”
A Brief Timeline of the Mullet History
However, the actual hairstyle was ubiquitous long before Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock popularized the mullet moniker. So long ago, in fact, that history shows us depictions of similar haircuts in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
Other mullet-bearing peoples include Assyrians, Mesopotamians, and Native Americans. Fast forward to the 1970s and the glam rock craze that dominated the decade.
The to-be mullet was starting to gain traction on a widespread level, with some of the most iconic performers of the time already rocking the ‘do.
Once the 1980s rolled around, the mullet settled in as a massive global trend. At the time, it catered to the expressive needs of various subcultures, somehow uniting opposing groups from afar. It seemed like everyone and their mother had business up front, party in the back going on.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that people would begin giving mullets the bad rap that would haunt them for decades to come. Nobody really knows why or how one of the world’s biggest hairstyle trends started spiraling.
In any case, everyone suddenly jumped on the mullet hate bandwagon, associating the haircut with the likes of hillbillies, has-beens, or cringe-triggering PE teachers.
80s Mullet vs. Modern Mullet
Looking back at the crazy mullets of the 80s, most people reasonably agree that they were a tad over the top. Okay, they were a frizzy, poofy, aesthetic disaster. But hey, plenty of decade-defining trends are now a laughing stock. Remember the ramen hair 90s boy bands would brazenly show off?
Happily enough, the contemporary adaptation of the mullet is anything but embarrassing. Men have traded the larger-than-life hair metal bird nests for a sleeker, edgier, and even classy alternative.
What is a mullet that the modern man would proudly sport? It’s short, low key, cleanly cropped and worn with rebellious confidence.
20 Cool Ways to Rock Mullet Hair
The late 2010s are witnessing a major mullet hair comeback that continues to flourish as we speak. Want to mix retro with rock ‘n’ roll and pull it off effortlessly? Look into the uber-cool mullet ideas below and bring out your inner hipster (the good kind, don’t worry).
1. Subtle Mullet
Easy does it. For a stylish modern mullet, keep the length to a minimum. Allow your locks to cover your nape just about halfway down will suffice. Oftentimes, less is more, and it’s also the secret to a tasteful mullet.
2. Textured Modern Mullet
On the other hand, some are drawn to the long locks that define the mullet. In this case, we recommend spicing them up with a textured haircut. Closely shaven sides are another modern touch, and so is the nice undercut effect.
3. Sporty Mohawk Mullet
With football culture as strong as ever in Europe, soccer player haircuts have been a constant trend across the ocean. If you want a dose of Euro freshness with an athletic edge, consider a sporty mohawk mullet.
4. Flow Hairstyle Mullet
If Nikolaj Coster-Waldau can be absolutely dashing in a mullet, so can you! His secret? Combining the vintage cut with a flow hairstyle. So, channel your inner Lannister and stop worrying about what others might say.
5. Chill Quiff Mullet
As an alternative, seamlessly blend your mullet with an easygoing quiff hairstyle. Even more, if you leave the top section slightly longer, you also have the pompadour as an extra styling choice. Yet again, you can see that the shaved down sides add bonus points to your modern mullet.
6. Side-Slicked Mullet
Be that as it may, you can also get a handsome hairstyle even with longer sides. However, in this situation, we recommend investing a bit more time in styling. Slicking the sides back and tousling the top should do the trick.
7. Slicked Back Mullet
Otherwise, you can take the same idea and increase the intensity with slick back hair. It works well for men with thick or fine hair alike and can add a sophisticated edge to their appearance.
8. Androgynous Mullet
With the comeback of the mullet, we’re also delighted to witness the rise of androgynous hairstyles. Long gone are the days in which gender roles and conformity were mandatory. Thankfully, today you can combine your male and female energies for a hairstyle that needs no labels.
9. Long Fringe Mullet
Modern mullets present significant differences from culture to culture. After the European football mohawk, we also have the long fringe (with wispy, eye-covering bangs) mullet popular in South Korea and Japan.
10. Thick Sideburns Mullet
If you’d rather take a mop-top approach to your mullet haircut, leave a thicker hair section over your sideburns. To add texture, movement, and definition, make sure you incorporate layers all around.
11. Curly Hawk Mullet
Most of the time, you’ll see men with straight hair sporting mullets. Nonetheless, this haircut is extremely adaptable and can be rocked by guys with curls too. If you have naturally curly hair, think about getting a longer mullet in the front and sides that are shaved.
12. Bowl Cut Mullet
The bowl cut is yet another formerly cringe-inducing vintage haircut that has been revived and improved to meet modern-day standards. Use an updated bowl cut as the foundation for your mullet for stunning results.
13. French Crop Mullet
14. Piecey Mullet
Texture adds value to any hairstyle, regardless of the way you choose to integrate it. If you’re fond of the spikey hairstyles that represented the early 2000s, you can make good use of your nostalgia. With the mullet in place, style your locks in thick, piecey spikes for another cool throwback.
15. Shag Mullet
Just like mullet haircuts, shaggy hairstyles for men have been in and out of fashion for decades. But also like mullets, shag haircuts are currently trending again. Why not make the best of both worlds and combine them for the ultimate retro hairdo?
16. Emo Mullet
It’s been a while since scene and emo hairstyles for guys were a frequent presence among hair trends. All the same, the look remains an expressive staple for edgy teenage guys. Do keep in mind that emo mullets usually come with longer locks on the side too, but not as long as those in the back.
17. Business Casual Mullet
On the hunt for a classier mullet hairstyle idea? Get inspired by the variety of business casual hairstyles available for a mullet you can adorn in any office environment. For a dapper touch, style the top in a comb-over way.
18. Long Back Mullet
It’s quite clear that modern mullets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Although most of them are indeed on the short side, you can still show up with an extra-long back if that’s your style. For a modern twist, throw in some colorful highlights and a fade on the sides.
19. Two Tone Mullet
Speaking of color, you can brighten up your contemporary mullet with lively tones in a variety of ways. Aside from highlights, a two tone approach is always welcome.
20. Vivid Edgy Mullet
In the end, you can spend some time searching for the right men’s hair color for you and apply it to the entire hairstyle. To stand out from your peers, explore unconventional options like blue, green, orange, or red mullet ideas.
For more inspiration, be sure to check out our complete visual guide for mullet haircuts and styling ideas.
How to Grow a Mullet & How to Cut It
It’s now or never. If you’ve plucked up the courage to go for a mullet, there are still some things to keep in mind. So, what is a mullet growing tip all guys interested in the haircut need to know? We can narrow it down to one word – patience.
To get the base for a mullet cut, you need to wait for your hair to grow out. Before you start snipping, it can be as short as two inches, but it can reach six or more inches if you want a longer version.
After that, simply follow the standard characteristics that define a mullet in the first place. A top that is cut short, even shorter sides, and a long back. The specific sizes can be tweaked to your liking.
Iconic Celebrity Mullets
Our “what is a mullet?” guide wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the celebrities that contributed to the rollercoaster that is the mullet’s history. Below are just a handful of the actors, singers, and athletes that made the haircut unforgettable.
1. The Billy Ray Cyrus Mullet
Chuckle all you want, but Billy Ray Cyrus is probably the only major celebrity who had the guts to maintain his mullet through thick and thin. Even when the haircut faced downtime, the prolific country star stood his ground and continued to sport it. Kudos to you, Cyrus.
2. David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust
We have the legendary late and great David Bowie to thank for popularizing the mullet in the 70s. His wonderfully eccentric alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, came complete with an electric orange mane cut and styled in a moment. It remains one of the most iconic mullets to this day.
3. The Paul McCartney Mullet
After his mop-top days as a young adult were over, the beloved Beatle Paul McCartney transitioned to a mullet. We wouldn’t necessarily say that it was his most flattering look, but we tip our hats to Sir Macca anytime.
4. The Brad Pitt Mullet
If you’ve only been following Brad Pitt’s career after he made it big, you’re in for quite the surprise. The list of Brad Pitt hairstyles also includes a mullet from when he was in his 20s before he became a household name.
5. The Lionel Richie Soul Mullet
Nobody can pull off the soul mullet quite like the incredible Lionel Richie. It also goes to show that mullets can look amazing on any hair texture, including afro ringlets. Mr. Richie’s mullet is the ideal source of inspiration for any African American man looking for haircut ideas.
6. The Andre Agassi Mullet
Aside from being one of the most prestigious tennis players in history, Andre Agassi is also famous for his exceptional mullet. Even though the story behind it is heartbreaking, his long and luscious mullet headband hairstyle is just as cool and famous as him.
7. The Rickie Fowler Mullet
Another accomplished athlete that contributed to the fame of the modern mullet is golfer Rickie Fowler. Even though you’ll rarely spot him without a cap on, you can still admire his back locks from any angle.
8. The Dacre Montgomery Mullet
But what about celebrities who are helping bring the mullet back nowadays? The highly popular Stranger Things had a really big part in it. Characters like Steve Harrington (played by Joe Keery) and Billy Hargrove (portrayed by Dacre Montgomery) made 80s swag ultra-cool again.
9. The Peter Dinklage Mullet
Game of Thrones’ endeared Peter Dinklage has quite a disarming hairstyle history. Just one look at his high school yearbook photo that went viral earlier this year is enough to brighten up any bad day.
10. The Jean-Claude Van Damme Mullet
Classic action flicks would be nothing without the parts played by the badass of all badasses – Jean-Claude Van Damme. And he certainly pulled off his gelled-back mullet with style.
11. The Diego Maradona Mullet
Remember what we said about sporty mohawk mullets? Well, their father is none other than soccer legend Diego Maradona himself. We have the world-class athlete to thank for sparking the 1980s footballer hairstyle trend.
12. The Rod Stewart Mullet
Sir Roderick David Stewart, better known as top-selling artist Rod Stewart, is no stranger to the mullet either. He’s been displaying his mullet for as far back as we can remember (and looking like the incredible rock star that he is every. single.time).
13. The George Michael Mullet
At this point, George Michael’s image and the concept of a mullet basically go hand in hand. Although the Wham! megastar is no longer with us, his trademark mullet remains as outstanding as his illustrious body of music.
14. The George Clooney Mullet
Today, the world considers George Clooney the perfect example of aging like a fine wine. However, little do many younger people know that he rocked a mean mullet back in the day. Still as handsome as ever though.
10 Fun Facts about Mullets
You’d be amazed to find out just how many deliciously random, interesting, and mentally satisfying facts there are behind the mullet.
1. Fishy Origins
Before we could even fathom the idea of a mullet haircut, the term mullet had long been used to describe a family of Mugilidae fish. We’re not quite sure how the flat-head, ray-finned swimmers would come to be connected to a hairstyle, but you live and learn.
2. Business in the Front, Party in the Back
The mullet haircut is interchangeably referred to as business in the front, party in the back. But the first person to utter the saying was Matt Smith, on The Real World show on MTV in 2000.
3. Nicknames Galore
You won’t believe how many nicknames have been used to describe the humble mullet. Besides business up front, party in the back, just a few that are part of the lengthy list include:
- Squirrel pelt
- Missouri compromise
- Ape drape
- Kentucky waterfall
- Hockey hair
- NC neck warmer
- Tennessee top hat
- Camaro crash helmet
- Mississippi mud flap
- Rat’s nest
4. Iran Ban
One of the most painful pieces of information you’ll discover today is that the mullet haircut is banned in some places. In 2010, the mullet hairstyle was classified as a “decadent Western cut” and since then, it is punishable by arrest in Iran.
5. The Mullet Fest
On a brighter note, other countries celebrate the mullet and its long-lasting glory. A tiny town in Australia, Kurri Kurri, hosts an annual festival and contest for mullet aficionados. If you think you’d have the “Best Mullet of Them All”, you might want to rethink your next vacation plans.
6. The Superman Mullet
In the early 1990s, even Superman showed off his flowing locks with a mullet haircut. For 39 issues, the DC Comics superstar character appeared on covers with this memorable hairstyle.
7. Presidential Allure
We’ve even had a president with mullet hair. James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States, is known, among others, for being the only chief in office to sport a mullet during his mandate.
8. Literary Cameo
Mullets have been referenced in a broad range of works, starting with the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At one point, when describing his uncle and aunt, Tom Sawyer referred to them as “confiding and mullet-headed”. Well played, Mark Twain, well played.
Additional pop culture references for the infamous mullet include songs like:
- I Got an Ape Drape, by The Vandals
- Cut the Mullet, by Wesley Willis
- The Phantom Mullet, by Five Iron Frenzy
And even dedicated books, such as:
- The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods, by Barney Hoskyns and Mark Larson
- Mullet Madness!: The Haircut That’s Business Up Front and a Party in the Back, by Alan Henderson
- Mullet: A Celebration of the Classic Australian Hairstyle, by Isabella Moore
- The Mullet Report: Mullets Are Great Again!, by Ronald Redaktor
9. The Mullet Marauder Look
Gamers too can appreciate the awesomeness of the mullet. So much so, that there’s an entire skin outfit in Fortnite Battle Royale inspired by this retro haircut.
10. K-Pop Influence
Part of the reason why mullets are popping again is the tremendous influence of k-pop idols. From G Dragon to Baekhyun, Mino, JB, and more, mullets are alive and well in the colorful world of South Korean pop music.
To conclude, now you can confidently say that you’ve learned everything there is to know about the mullet haircut. The initial question of “what is a mullet hairstyle?” is no longer an enigma, and you know so many others too, now.
Still, we have a curiosity of our own. What is a mullet haircut that you would get right now? Would you take the old school route and defy expectations with a classic 80s mullet? Or would you rather test out a cool modern mullet? Let’s keep the ball rolling in the comments below.