The Ultimate Guide to Mullets

Trigger warning; 2020 is the year of the mullet. 

Alright, alright, so we’ve been championing this hairstyle since 2018. And look, we see the comments on our videos—we hear you. “This is all a joke, right?” 

“The mullet is never coming back!” you shout in defiance. 

We’ll level with you. Is everyone going to grow a mullet? Probably not. Will the mullet dethrone fades, side parts, and quiffs as the dominant men’s hairstyle? No. It won’t. 

On the flip side, the style is surging, and we are seeing more and more of them. We get that the word “mullet” conjures up images of hilariously disproportionate cuts—that stereotypical business in the front, party in the back look. Joe Dirt or Billy Ray Cyrus are who come to mind. But the modern mullet—the mullet of 2020—is an improved version. There's more subtlety. It’s streamlined, but with just the right amount of grit and edge. 

There’s an IDGAF attitude about the mullet that we love. There’s a defiance to it—freedom to push the boundaries. It’s not too different from when we started shifting away from the fully-shaven face standards of the early 2010s and began growing beards. Not so long ago, if you had a beard, you had to deal with the criticisms: 

“Nice beard, buddy, what are you, ZZ Top?” or, “That beard makes you look Amish, bro.” Sound familiar? 

If you’re tired of the same tried and true haircuts and want to break from the masses, then maybe the mullet is for you. Either way, be prepared to see more of them in 2020. 

Don’t believe us? We’ll let you...mull it over. 

MULLETS, OUTER SPACE, AND WATERFALLS: A BRIEF HISTORY

In 1972, Ziggy Stardust—bright orange mullet cascading from his dome—came to deliver a message. David Bowie’s iconic character swung the pendulum of rock and roll, but the ripple effect extended beyond its implications on rock and pop music. That bright orange waterfall of hair broke the flood gates and reanimated a long-dormant hairstyle. Following Bowie came superstars like Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, and Paul McCartney. The mullet roared through the 80s and into the 90s like a modded-out Chevy Beretta; its tailpipe reaching upwards towards Mars.  

John Stamos, Andre Agassi, MacGyver, Wayne Gretzky, Jaromír Jágr, Randy Johnson, Billy Ray Cryus—you couldn’t turn on the tube without an Ape Drape, Kentucky Waterfall, or Tennessee Top Hat in your face. 

Then it died—quickly, humiliatingly, with the knockout punch coming at the hands of The Beastie Boys.

Number one on the side and don't touch the back
Number six on the top and don't cut it wack, Jack
Shiny chrome rims never rusted
Driving through the tunnel, you might get busted
Never trusted, Mullet-head

When the Beastie Boys dropped “Mullet Head” in 1994, the term didn’t even exist yet—well, not regarding a hairstyle. While the term mullet-head has been used since at least the mid 19th century (Mark Twain used in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) to call someone stupid, it didn’t refer to a hairstyle until the 1990s. The Oxford English Dictionary credits the Beasties with being the ones to coin the hairstyle as a mullet. And well, the Brooklyn rap group wasn’t exactly kind in their assessment. 

You're coming off like you're Van Damme
You've got Kenny G, in your Trans Am
You've got names like Billy Ray
Now you sing Hip Hop Hooray

By 1995 the mullet had fallen like a barrel going over a Kentucky waterfall. It became synonymous with low socio-economic status, rednecks, trailer parks, Nascar, and light beers. By the end of the century, you couldn’t rock a mullet unless you were doing so ironically—or played hockey for the Pittsburgh Penguins. At least until Jaromír Jágr cut his famous hockey hair (another name for the mullet). Surely, there was no coming back from this. Hell, even Billy Ray Cyrus’ legendary bi-level (yep, that’s another name for a mullet) came to be known as the “Achy-breaky-bad-mistakey.” 

But like a zombie flick, mullets keep rising from the grave—as they have for thousands (literally thousands) of years. 

IS THE MULLET THE OLDEST HAIRSTYLE?

From a purely functional standpoint, the mullet makes a lot of sense—especially in the early days of human life. It keeps your neck warm and dry while keeping hair out of your eyes. That kind of practicality could have been the difference between life and death before the common era. That’s the theory provided by Alan Henderson in his book Mullet Madness.

There is evidence that the mullet has been around since approximately 1500 B.C. when Hittite warriors kept their hair short on top and long in the back. Greek statues and etchings dating back to the 6th Century BCE provide evidence that styles similar to the mullet have likely been around since man began walking upright. 

And as we mentioned in our neckbeards blog, busts of Roman Emperor Nero depict him with something akin to a mullet. Long story short, this style has some serious staying power, so we shouldn’t be too surprised about its contemporary resurrection, right?

BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MODERN MULLET

This isn’t your absurd 1980s squirrel-pelt mullet. The 2020 variation is more fashion-forward than its acid-wash denim-clad counterpart of yesteryear. The big thing here is proportion. The modern mullet, or fashion mullet, isn’t so drastic. The hair in the back is kept to the same length, or only slightly longer than the hair on top while giving the shape and appearance of a mullet.

Another big difference between mullets of the past and mullets of 2020 is facial hair. Dudes weren’t growing much facial hair in the 80s and 90s. In our opinion, A full beard makes the mullet infinitely cooler, and the type of facial hair you pair with it gives you some versatility. For example, a mullet paired with a chevron mustache is trending in the country music scene from Austin to Nashville. Add a beard to the look and now you’ve got kind of a badass mohawk or Warhawk style.

Another thing that separates modern mullets from the past is better haircuts in general. It’s a highly technical cut, and there’s a clear distinction between a good mullet and a bad one. What we saw in the 80s and early 90s were people jumping on the enormous popularity of the mullet but who weren’t necessarily getting good haircuts. That could partially explain the wild disproportions. 

Why the mullet is coming back

Things go in cycles, and there’s only so much you can do with hair—especially for men. Short on the sides, long on the top, has been dominating for the past couple of decades. It’s limiting. 

Likely, the present rise of the mullet is also tied to a resurgence of styles from the 1980s and 1990s. Brands like Pit Viper have certainly helped in glorifying mullets. Comedian and podcaster Theo Von has been rocking a mullet for a few years, and Rapper RiFF RAFF created a mullet sporting alter ego named Dale Dan Tony. And of course, there’s Kenny Powers, who’s about as stereotypical of a character as you can find. 

In most cases, when old styles resurface, there’s some irony buried beneath it. It’s novel and niche—a source of entertainment. There’s always going to be a bit of that look at how unique and ballsy I am attitude at first. But where the mullet moves from ironic to cool is in its diversity, versatility, and its ability to find a home across cultural lines.

MULLETS IN POPULAR CULTURE

One of the reasons we love the mullet is that—in all its variations— it's an incredibly diverse hairstyle. Men, women, European footballers, hockey and baseball players, comedians, actors, actresses, musicians, it’s a free-flowing style that isn’t tied to one niche. Here are just a few areas where we’re seeing it make some noise.  

Sports

The mullet is no stranger to the gridiron, pitch, diamond, and rink. Charlie Blackmon (@BlackmonMullet) and Bryce Harper brought mullets and beards back to the national pastime, taking over for a lengthy list of legendary Major League Mullets.

Hockey hair explicitly refers to the mullet and some of the greatest—including the great one—have sported one. From Wayne Gretzky and Jaromír Jágr to newcomers like Patrick Kane, the mullet goes hand in hand with the fastest game on ice. There’s even a Junior A hockey team in Minneapolis called the Minnesota Mullets.  

Mullets have always made sense in soccer. With no helmet to keep hair out of your face, having shorter hair up front keeps those headers on target, and they don’t give out yellow cards for accidental hair whips. And hey, when David Beckham styles his hair a certain way, you can expect others to follow. 

Country music

The mullet has long been associated with country music, and how can it not when Billy Ray Cyrus is practically the poster child? But we can’t forget Alan Jackson way down yonder on the Chattahoochee water-skiing in distressed jeans and a cowboy hat with mullet flowing out the back like a boat wake. Toby Keith? Joe Diffie? Blake Shelton? Yup, all rocked mullets.

The mullet has been surging in the country music scene. Morgan Wallen has been paying homage to those mentioned above. Mark Wystrach, frontman of the Texas-based, Grammy-nominated country group Midland has some big mullet energy. And Arkansas based singer-songwriters Dylan Earl, and Nick Shoulders also rock some pretty badass mullet, in our opinion. 

As we mentioned above, the combo of a mullet and a mustache gives the Tennessee Top Hat that country music vibe. 

The skullet

Bald on top, long in the back—the skullet does not discriminate when it comes to hair loss. Benjamin Franklin wore a skullet. It’s right there, for all to see, on the $100 bill. One of the reasons we love the mullet is that it’s one of the few hairstyles that looks sick when you wear a hat and get a little bit of hair flow in the back. So if you aren’t ready to go full Vin Diesel yet, the skullet might be for you. 

Women

While often associated with white men, women have embraced the mullet as well. There was Carol Henderson, aka Carol Brady—the matriarch of mullets. The style has often been associated with lesbians but has begun reemerging in the world of high fashion. Rihanna showed up to the opening of New York Fashion Week in 2013 with a legit mullet. Actress and musician Zendaya rocked a Bowie- esque mullet to the 2016 Grammys. “Carrying on the counter-culture spirit of the 70s, the modern mullet is a protest against conventional beauty,” Braudie Blais-Billie points out in her article titled, from queer culture to high fashion, the mullet is a protest against conventional beauty

HOW TO GROW A MULLET

You’ve decided that the mullet is for you. We applaud you—it definitely takes balls and a hell of a lot of confidence. It’s not a hairstyle for the faint of heart, and you’ve got to be prepared for plenty of jokes and criticism. But if you own it, it’s a slick style that not a lot of other men will have.

When it comes to growing one, you’ve got two options—assuming you don’t already have long flowing locks. If you’re starting with a short hairstyle, such as a fade, expect to give your hair about three to four months. The quickest and easiest way would be to grow your hair out without cutting it. This, of course, would mean enduring that awkward hair growth phase where you’re between short and long hair. 

If you’d like to avoid that awkward phase, you can gradually grow into the mullet with monthly trims. This is a highly technical haircut, and the difference between a good mullet and a bad one is glaring. Finding a skilled barber or stylist that has experience with this hairstyle is essential. 

Here’s what to do:

  • If you’re starting from a classic skin fade, opt for a drop fade on your next haircut. The drop fade is trending right now and is a slick-looking cut on its own. It’s similar to a standard fade, but the line slopes down behind the ears, bringing the fade lower in the back. This allows you to keep the length to the hair on the back of your head, just below the crown. 
  • On your next haircut, go with more of a tapered mohawk while keeping the length on top. Here's a video of Eric in the early stages of his mullet. 
  • On your third haircut, you’re going to start to form the shape of the mullet. Let that mohawk stay wide, preferably the full width of the back of your head, while fading the sides into the top, and back of your hair. If you’re placing these cuts 3–4 weeks apart, your hair should have the beginnings of that mullet silhouette at this point. 
  • Where you go from here depends on your goals. You’ll be doing maintenance from this point on—getting the sides tapered, trimming the top, etc. 

Here’s another video of Eric a little later in his mullet. 

HOW TO STYLE A MULLET 

The mullet pairs well with different hairstyles, and you can get as creative as you want with the front of your hair. You can opt to slick it back, go with a modern quiff, or add a hard part to it. Neat, messy, it all works. 

We think it looks really slick with a little texture and feathering—reminiscent of that 1980s Kiefer Sutherland style, but less spiky. It also looks great with a messier pushed forward quiff. 

Both styles can be achieved using just Beardbrand Sea Salt Spray, Beardbrand Styling Balm, and a blow dryer. 

Well, actually, there are two more products we need to talk about—Shampoo and Conditioner. Regardless of what hairstyle you’re going for, using an all-natural, silicone, sulfate, and paraben-free Shampoo and Conditioner plays a significant role in getting your hair to do what you want it to. Just something to keep in the back of your head. 

Anyway, back to the party—the party in the back.

Here’s a breakdown of how to get each of the mullet styles mentioned above.


80s style

This style requires some solid understanding of fundamental blow drying techniques and takes a little longer to complete. Because of that, it may not be your everyday go-to.  

  1. After getting out of the shower and lightly patting excess water from your hair, comb it back to get rid of any tangles. 
  2. With the hair wet, but not soaking, add in some Sea Salt Spray. The sea salt and kaolinite clay add volume to the hair while giving a very slight amount of hold. It’s got a natural matte finish making it perfect for bringing out the texture in your hair.
  3. Apply a small amount of Styling Balm—a nickels worth is generally all you need, and you can always add more if needed. Focus the Styling Balm at the roots of the hair. Putting too much emphasis on the tips of the hair will weigh it down, and you’ll lose some of that natural looking flow. Be sure to distribute evenly to avoid having different areas of your hair look different.
  4. For this style, you’re going to be working the hair up and back.
  5. Grab a blowdryer. Start with high speed and high heat while focusing on pushing the hair up and back. As the hair begins to dry, reduce the heat and speed while continuing to work the hair up and back. Once the hair is 98 or 99 percent dry, switch to cold air to lock the style in place using your fingers to add texture and dimension.

Quiff/Modern mullet

The Quiff, or Modern Mullet, is meant to be worn on the messier side. This makes it quicker to style and easier to wear on a day-to-day basis. We also think the mullet looks great when it has some edginess to it. 

  1. After getting out of the shower and lightly patting excess water from your hair, comb it back to get rid of any tangles. 
  2. With the hair wet, but not soaking, add in some Sea Salt Spray. The sea salt and kaolinite clay add volume to the hair while giving a very slight amount of hold. It’s got a natural matte finish making it perfect for bringing out the texture in your hair. 
  3. Apply a small amount of Styling Balm—a nickels worth is generally all you need, and you can always add more if needed. Work the balm evenly into the entirety of the hair—tips included. 
  4. For this style, you’re going to be pushing the hair forward and up.
  5. Grab a blow dryer. Start with high speed and high heat while focusing on pushing the hair forward and up. As the hair begins to dry, reduce the heat and speed while continuing to work the hair forward and up. Once the hair is 98 or 99 percent dry, switch to cold air to lock the style in place using your fingers to add texture and dimension. 
  6. You want to go with the natural waves of your hair and see how things lay. The beauty of this style is that it’s going to vary slightly every time you do it. 

To see the techniques to achieve both styles, check out the video below: 

SHOULD YOU GROW A MULLET?

If you’re bored or just tired of looking like everyone else, you’re not left with a lot of hair options. If you’re looking to add some edge to your style, a good mullet could be the way to go. If you’re someone that likes to be on the cutting edge of style, or you’ve just always wanted one, now is the time to get in on it. We think the mullet is going to have a surge in popularity and then fade again in the next few years. 

It all comes down to personal choice. Like growing a beard, you’ve got to do it for you. 

Want to talk mullets, have questions about your hair, or need some grooming and style advice? Use the live chat feature on our website or shoot us a message at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to help you out.

Keep on Growing. 

TL;DR

2020 is the year of the mullet. The modern mullet, or fashion mullet, differs from its ironic, disproportionate cousin of the past. It’s streamlined and not as drastic while still adding some edge to your style. 

When it comes to growing one, you’ve got two options—assuming you don’t already have long flowing locks. If you’re starting with a short hairstyle, such as a fade, expect to give your hair about three to four months. The quickest and easiest way would be to grow your hair out without cutting it.

If you’d like to avoid the awkward phase, you can gradually grow into the mullet with monthly trims. The mullet is a highly technical haircut, and the difference between a good mullet and a bad one is glaring. Finding a skilled barber or stylist that has experience with this hairstyle is important. 

Here’s what to do:

  1. If you’re starting from a classic skin fade, opt for a drop fade on your next haircut. It’s similar to a standard fade, but the line slopes down behind the ears, bringing the fade lower in the back. This allows you to keep the length to the hair on the back of your head, just below the crown. 
  2. On your next haircut, go with more of a tapered mohawk while keeping the length on top. 
  3. On your third haircut, you’re going to start to form the shape of the mullet. Let that mohawk stay wide, preferably the full width of the back of your head, while fading the sides into the top and back of your hair. 
  4. Where you go from here depends on your goals. You’ll be doing maintenance from this point on—getting the sides tapered, trimming the top, etc. 

The mullet pairs well with different hairstyles, and you can get as creative as you want with the front of your hair. You can opt to slick it back, go with a modern quiff, or add a hard part to it. Neat, messy, it all works. In this video, Eric shows you two different ways to style the mullet. Both styles can be achieved using just Beardbrand Sea Salt Spray, Beardbrand Styling Balm, and a blow dryer. 

Further Reading

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25 Expert Hair Care Tips for Men: How to Take Care of Your Hair

Follow our 25 expert tips and get yourself a silky smooth mane, man.

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Eric Bandholz, Founder