Growing out short hair is, well, awkward. And as women tire of the short cuts so popular last spring and summer, it could be time to embrace the awkward-chic of the mullet.
The mullet, that short-in-the-front, long-in-the-back hairstyle long mocked both for its proportions and its associations with tackiness, had a certain popularity in the late 1980s and early ’90s. It had another moment a decade ago, when hipsters embraced it with an ironic twist. And now it’s back.
Like any fashion trend worth its salt, it now has its own Mullets of Instagram account, whose proprietor has a signature catchphrase: “mulletmazing.” Could it be so bad it’s good?
The mullet revival kicked off when stylist Guido Palau gave each model in the Marc Jacobs fall 2013 runway show a pixie wig with long, wispy ends. The style was repeated in that season’s ad campaign, and its star, Edie Campbell, took her hair from long and blond to a dyed black mullet.
“Steven Meisel asked me to do a punk-like cut on Edie for a U.S. Vogue story on punk,” Palau said. “He was the inspiration, really.”
The evening before the shoot, Campbell had her hair dyed black; then Palau gave her the mullet cut.
“She took on the look right away,” he said, “and it became a part of her. She made it feel current. I hadn’t seen it for a long time.” (Rihanna, that hair chameleon, has occasionally been spotted with a similar look.)
Other models, like Charlotte Carey, committed to mullet cuts; some have gotten shag haircuts so layered and extreme that they resemble proper mullets. (See Lindsey Wixson, Jamie Bochert and Freja Beha Erichsen.)
This round, the mullet does not resemble the ’80s extreme of Billy Ray Cyrus so much as reference the ’70s cuts of Rod Stewart, Patti Smith and Joan Jett, as in the Daria Werbowy campaign of self-portraits for the French line Equipment, in which she wears a long and shaggy black mullet wig.
“I find that it has a beautiful balance, a golden ideal,” said Thanos Samaras, who styles hair for fashion shoots. “There can be many interpretations of the mullet, from a shag that timidly veers to being a little too long at the back, to the point where often people can’t even decipher the mullet-ian proportions, like the early Brigitte Bardot super-thick, chunky bangs.”
And one does not need an excess of youth or good bone structure to pull off a mullet.
“It’s something for everyone,” said New York stylist Marc Mena. “Wear it little more loose, using texture spray to style it as opposed to a mousse or gel as in the ’80s. It’s a good way to do something interesting with hair while it’s growing out, for those who do not want to look like a soccer mom, have more edge.”
Celebrities who have gone short, whether following trends or for film roles, have also contended with the mullet. Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Stewart have chosen a soft version with length in the back, much like the style model and designer Inès de la Fressange has worn for years. Portia de Rossi’s short hair, as seen on “Scandal,” was dubbed a “power mullet” by one writer.
“I much prefer a mullet over a bob,” said Sally Hershberger, who has salons in New York and Los Angeles. “It feels current and edgy and sexy, and it’s extreme, which I like. The longer hair in back makes short hair look sexy rather than strict.” She swears it’s versatile as well, whether one wears it loose and wavy like Meg Ryan or slicked back like Sharon Stone circa “Basic Instinct.”
“I can’t tell you how many women I give those haircuts to,” she said. “They come by the droves.”