Style Fashion

Sunday 11 December 2016

Hoorah! The mighty mullet is back (. . . except in Iran)

Published 20/08/2010 | 05:00

Business in the front, party in the back: MacGyver
Business in the front, party in the back: MacGyver

In Iran it is, quite literally, a story of 'hair today, gone tomorrow' as the authorities clamp down on that pernicious threat to public morality: the mullet haircut.

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The hairstyle proudly sported by 80s action star MacGyver, Irish rugby international Shane Byrne and the Greek god Zeus (to say nothing of every German soccer international between 1978 and 1994), the mullet tops a list of 'decadent' western fashions prohibited under harsh new laws.

Stroll through downtown Tehran looking like Billy Ray Cyrus in the 'Achy Break Heart' video and you can expect a harsh talking to from the powers that be (and you won't even be able to share your umbrage with your closest friends -- Iran has already banned Facebook).

Say what you want about the disgraceful curtailment of human rights by this hardline theocracy but we can at least credit Iran with recognising the mullet is in imminent danger of making a comeback. In fact, it may already have clawed its way out of the grave, the zombie haircut that refuses to die.

David Beckham, that one-man fashion zeitgeist, tested the waters when he grew one at Real Madrid a few years ago. Michael Flatley is dusting down his mullet for a fresh staging of Lord of the Dance. Sarah Palin's on/off son-in-law, Levi Johnston, is here to remind us that in rural America the 'Arkansas waterfall' never went out of fashion.

And with the '80s revival gaining momentum, how soon before the haircut favoured by Band Aid-vintage George Michael, Paul Young and Sting goes mainstream once again?

"I think it's one of the most ridicules styles, but it was great for barbers," says Adam McKenna of Irishbarber.com. "There was some style to it and Beckham carried it off brilliantly."

Like many other seismic events in human history, the birth of the mullet is veiled in mystery. What we do know is that it pre-dates the written word, the invention of the wheel and organised religion.

Primitive cave paintings indicate Stone-Age man favoured the short-at-the-front/long-at the-back look, presumably because you always wanted be at your most rugged when chucking spears at charging mastodons.

Faded hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt, meanwhile, suggest the mullet was equally in fashion on the banks of the Nile circa 1,000 BC. Lose the beard and sideburns and Jesus, too, would have been a signed-up member of mullet man club -- quite a vote of confidence considering that, as son of God, he could probably have opted for any style he fancied.

In the modern era, Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie is said to have brought the mullet to the masses while the coining of the word mullet is widely credited to the Beastie Boys' 1984 song Mullet Head (sample lyric: "Number 1 on the side and don't touch the back/Number 6 on the top and don't cut it whack").

The Beasties' timing was perfect. By the early '80s the mullet was all over television (David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider), the radio (early Gerry Ryan) and on our cinema screens (Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys).

For connoisseurs, however, its place in popular culture was truly cemented in 1991 by country singer Billy Ray Cyrus (father of Miley), who flaunted his 'neck blanket' as if it were an inviolable symbol of his virility.

"Never has anyone come as close as hunky Billy Ray to realising the ultimate fantasy of male sexuality," wrote Barney Hoskyns, author of the bestselling Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods. "(He was) a man at once mortal and divine, butch and sensitive, 'short' and 'long'"

The secret of the mullet's appeal, reckons Hoskyns, is its ability to make men feel as if they are two people at once.

From the front, the wearer looks like a regular person -- one who might be trusted to hold down a well-paid job or operate heavy machinery without maiming anyone.

From the back, he is gloriously untamed: a cross between a crotch-grabbing rock star and Viking warrior about to embark on a weekend of no-holds-barred marauding. What other haircut allows you inhabit such distinct personae at once?

Some in the fashion business have gone so far as to suggest the return of the mullet might be for the greater good. At the moment young men don't know what kind of haircut they want. Oh for a Chris Waddle or Chuck Norris to show the way.

"In all this gloom, young (men) are going around getting hair cut maybe twice a year and looking like girls," says Adam McKenna. "The Ronaldo cut was and still is popular but never took off like the mullet and Beckham. But then he was unique at fashion."

Irish Independent

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