Trendy hairstyles: revival of the mullet? The 1980s haircut sweeping TikTok | Company


Ella Emhoff, daughter-in-law of Kamala Harris, parading for Proenza Schouler. The young Spanish singer-songwriter Natalia Lacunza. Gigi Hadid on the cover of vogue. Rapper Lil Nas X and lead singer of Amyl and the Sniffers.

The common point of this motley list of names is a haircut: the mullet. Throughout history, the “business front, party back” look was popularized by groups opposed to American rednecks and queers in the 1970s and 1980s. But in recent decades, it has mutated. Sometimes it’s just an aesthetic decision, other times it’s political or musical. In 2022, social media apps like TikTok are a cause in themselves: the #oneminutemullet challenge, in which users cut their hair with kitchen shears, racked up 92.8 million views.

Dating back to Egypt and Greece, where it was worn by warriors enjoying the visibility of short bangs and the sun protection of longer shag, and immortalized by the Beastie Boys in the 1994 song mullet head, there is no single cause behind the new trend. In its 2022 predictions report, Pinterest ranked it under “rebellious cuts” as one of the hottest hairstyles among Gen Z. Searches for inspirational mullet images on the platform have increased by 190% compared to the previous year.

“I hadn’t thought about why I was wearing it until you asked me,” admits illustrator and comic book artist Carla Berrocal over the phone. She’s had this cut for three years, and the first time she did, in 2019, was in Rome during her art internship at the Spanish Academy. “I had never had much sensitivity for aesthetics, but living with fashion people and being in Rome, which breathes aesthetics everywhere, I looked for a change.” She asked a fellow designer, whose taste is “very Italian and sophisticated,” for advice, and she suggested doing something “Bowie-like” with her hair. “There they cut it very well, with a razor, which made it more uneven. Now they do it with scissors but I still wear it.

Scarlett Johanson in 2003.

For Berrocal, the mullet is glam and 1980s, an element of his image, in which his chunky aviator glasses and vintage shirts also evoke that era. But if there’s one thing about this haircut, as stylist Guido Palau, creator of the hairstyles that dominated Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2022 show, pointed out The New York Timesis that it has always “provoked such strong reactions because it refuses to be one thing, it is somewhere between long and short, masculine and feminine, tasteful and tacky” .

René Zamudio, designer, stylist and creative thesis director at the European Institute of Design (IED) in Barcelona, ​​confirms: “I wore it myself at the end of the 1970s when, with Bowie, it was extrapolated to the fashion world. It’s funny because I always thought it was an ugly cut, but you get used to it until you end up loving it.

In the United States, the mullet’s comeback in recent years has been associated “with Trumpism and the vindication of the redneck lifestyle.” Fashion has reappropriated it as a form of mockery and reduction of power,” sociologist, gender and diversity consultant and social researcher Marina López Baena told this newspaper. But in countries like Spain, she says, it is often associated with marginalized social groups. This change in cultural perspective was experienced by Berrocal on his return from his stay in Rome: “I realized that here the mule had this connotation. I don’t like the idea of ​​romanticizing social class. For me, the reference remains Bowie.

“It’s Basque too! “Adds Carla’s roommate. The illustrator explains how Spaniards also associate the mullet with the favored look of Basque nationalists in northern Spain, which has earned her teasing and unfortunate comments on social media. Esther Galván, a photographer, has made similar comments, but she says she feels the haircut, which has been “a sign of identity in many social movements and within music”, has lost some of its its meaning as it has become more and more fashionable. In his case, wearing it again in a more seventies version and closer to the shaggy or wolf cut (longer and in the shape of a mane) meant a reconciliation and also a liberation from the flat iron.

“Hair has always been about identity for me, but not as something premeditated like, ‘Now I’m going to shave my head because I want to break gender roles.’ It was just one more way of expressing myself, just like when I got tattooed or dressed in some way,” adds Galván.

Ellen DeGeneres in 1987.
Ellen DeGeneres in 1987.

“In fashion circles, the mullet is an element that allows you to show that you are at the forefront. In punk or queer spaces, it is rather a self-referential element, which makes it possible to identify oneself within the community,” notes sociologist López Baena. The hair as a means of expression, to reinforce its own identity and its sign. In the LGTBQ+ community, and particularly in the case of lesbian culture and the butch aesthetic, which reclaims traditionally masculine elements like short hair, the mullet has played this role.

“I cut out all the photographs I could find of Keith Richards. I studied them for a while, grabbed the scissors, and made it out of the folk era,” Patti Smith wrote in just children, detailing how improvising a mullet in a silly moment meant a before and after in his career. “When we went to Max, my hairstyle caused a stir. I couldn’t believe the interest it aroused. Even though I was still the same person, suddenly my social status improved. At Max’s Kansas City (the New York joint considered the birthplace of punk), Smith recounts how someone asked her if she was androgynous. “I thought the word meant beautiful and ugly at the same time. Whatever that means, with a hairstyle like this, I miraculously became androgynous overnight.

This is precisely the effect sought on many other occasions. In a context where the younger generations, in particular, apprehend gender and identity in a more fluid way, the search for the androgynous and the non-binary is another of the reasons for trying these cuts. Aroa Ay, tattoo artist and member of the group Shego, wore a mullet for two years, during which she or her friends cut their hair: “I did it because I thought it was very cool, with a very eighties style and also quite androgynous. In addition, I find it very comfortable. It looks like you’re wearing it short when in reality it’s growing in the back.

The Covid lockdown has given rise to new examples of this cut that lends itself so well to do-it-yourself maintenance. Ella Emhoff, model, artist and designer, tackled her curls, scissors in hand, inside her Brooklyn apartment, bringing to life the mullet with which she would later walk the catwalks. Miley Cyrus followed suit: “I only had one option and I needed it,” she said. That option was her mother replicating the only haircut she knows how to do: the same her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, wore in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in which the mullet became popular, losing its controversial strength and passing to the grace of movie stars like Patrick Swayze.

“Over time, the mule has lost that peripheral, rebellious side, it’s lost the strength to stand up to society that it once had. And I think that’s been influenced by social media, which turns everything into trend very quickly”, testifies René Zamudio. Not as subversive as before, the mule has not lost its ability to generate conversation.


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