about five to seven mullets a week. It’s also surprising­ly versatile, adds G.—elegant or punk, Middle Earth or feathery soft, à la the “shullet,” a cross between a mullet and a shag. “What makes it cool is its unapologet­ic effortless­ness,” continues G. “A mullet doesn’t have to be maintained like a pixie or a sharp bob. Grow it in for six months and it still looks great.”

This maintenanc­e-free promise only added to the mullet’s budding popularity during last spring’s lockdowns, when ersatz stylists had to rely on their own ingenuity—and everything from kitchen shears to craft scissors—while nonessenti­al businesses remained closed. You can count second daughter Ella Emhoff among them. While stuck at home in Brooklyn, the model sculpted her own curls into a helmet-like mullet snipped high and tight above her ears. “I feel like in the past, the mullet was deemed unattracti­ve and kind of odd, and I’m really drawn to that almost ugly-chic look,” says Emhoff, who showed off the idiosyncra­tic style in her runway debut for Proenza Schouler in February. The internet-breaking moment kicked off a truncated fall fashion schedule during which few shows were mullet-free: Simone Rocha gave the style a Renaissanc­e spin in London; at Dolce & Gabbana in Milan, the look received an acid-bright rainbow makeover with a blunt micro fringe, while Brooklyn-based hairstylis­t Holli Smith embraced natural textures at Ferragamo and Sportmax for a fresh and edgy twist. Meanwhile, Anthony Turner mined Vidal Sassoon’s Mouche innovation­s of the 1960s at Raf Simons, adding a futuristic update via frizzy finishes and shocking- pink ombré dye jobs that Turner describes as “quite daring and left field.”

Mullets aren’t new, of course. According to British hair historian Rachael

Gibson, they’ve actually been around for centuries. Used as a practical military tactic among Vikings and Romans, long hair in the back kept soldiers warm on the battlefiel­d, while shorter hair in front was less likely to get yanked by an adversary. The style had a more recent resurgence in the ’70s, when the Ur-mullet burst onto the scene courtesy of David Bowie’s spiky red brush cut for his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust—a riff on a cut Bowie spotted in a 1971 magazine spread for designer Kansai Yamamoto and asked his mother’s hairdresse­r to re-create. Now it’s being reinterpre­ted by a new generation of pop superstars, with Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Troye Sivan all adopting the style in the last year alone. “I had one option, and I needed it,” Cyrus joked last year of the lockdown cut she got from her mother, Tish, who warned the “Prisoner” hitmaker that the lone style she knew how to do was the one she gave Miley’s father, mullet icon Billy Ray Cyrus, in the ’90s. (Veteran stylist Sally Hershberge­r later stepped in to mastermind Miley’s current feathery shoulder-length shag with a choppy fringe.)

The mullet’s shape-shifting potential is a big part of its appeal, suggests Emhoff. “The more you have this style, the more you want to push the limits of how mullet-y you can get it,” says the first daughter of Bushwick, who pushed those limits for these pages, courtesy of Masami Hosono. Hosono, who runs Vacancy Project, a gender-neutral hair salon in New York’s East Village, has been perfecting the style for the Brooklyn art school set since they opened their doors in 2016. “Everybody used to make fun of mullets,” they say. “Now everybody wants one.” For this story, Hosono added a shaggy texture to the top of Emhoff’s hair while tapering the bottom, taking it “from a square shape to more jellyfish-looking.”

But even as it enters the mainstream, mullet- wearing still requires a certain amount of élan, according to Los Angeles–based stylist Jared Henderson, who outfitted the musician Doja Cat with what he describes as a “soft-serve” mullet—a chic bi-level cut with subtle layers—for her Roberto Cavalli–clad Grammy Awards debut this year. “It oozes, ‘I’m this confident being, and I really couldn’t care less about what people say, because I know I’m rocking the hell out of this hairstyle.’” Henderson did have some of his own reservatio­ns about the cut, he admits. “It was nerve-racking because we got some side eyes, like, ‘Is she really about to go out on her first Grammys with a mullet?’” Instead of winding up on Instagram’s The Shade Room, Henderson’s work was embraced on the platform, where it was proclaimed one of 2021’s first big hair moments.

Hair historian Gibson is among the social-media stans celebratin­g the mullet’s return. “These days, hairdresse­rs bemoan that while hair is still styled, we don’t see interestin­g cuts anymore,” she says. “But adversity tends to breed creativity, and a lot more unconventi­onal hair choices are coming out of lockdown.” Long may they continue. @

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States