Looking back to the past, the mullet is back

  • Benjamin Bartlett of Danis Barber Shop in Chichester, cuts Gabe Cole’s hair on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Benjamin Bartlett of Danis Barber Shop in Chichester, cuts Gabe Cole’s hair on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Benjamin Bartlett of Danis Barber Shop in Chichester, cuts Gabe Cole’s hair on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Benjamin Bartlett of Danis Barber Shop in Chichester says he’s had more customers asking for mullets. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Benjamin Bartlett of Danis Barber Shop in Chichester cuts Gabe Cole€™s’ hair on July 13. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Danis Barber Shop in Chichester on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Benjamin Bartlett of Danis Barber Shop in Chichester, cuts Gabe Cole’s hair on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Los Angeles Chargers center Dan Feeney (66) stretches before an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen) Brett Carlsen

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    Country singer Morgan Wallen receives a mullet at Paul Mole Barber Shop on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, in New York. Wallen, who has turned heads with his likable hit song "Whiskey Glasses," said he decided to try a mullet after seeing old photos of his dad proudly rocking the hairstyle. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP) Charles Sykes

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    Country singer Morgan Wallen poses for a portrait after getting a mullet at Paul Mole Barber Shop on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, in New York. Wallen, who has turned heads with his likable hit song "Whiskey Glasses," said he decided to try a mullet after seeing old photos of his dad proudly rocking the hairstyle. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP) Charles Sykes

  • Singer Morgan Wallen receives a mullet in New York. The style is reemerging, especially with pre-teens. Charles Sykes / AP

Monitor columnist
Published: 7/19/2021 4:42:34 PM

Here’s a riddle: What’s long in the back, short in the front, stirs conversation, makes people smile – some wryly, others admiringly – and has returned for an encore performance after a 35-year retirement?

“Yes, it’s back,” said barber Jennifer Bartlett, referring to the mullet, which went the way of the Walkman and Space Invaders (my fave) in the 1980s.

Jennifer and her husband, Benjamin Bartlett, cut hair at Danis Barber Shop in Chichester, in the couple’s family business. It has the candy-cane swirl under the wooden sign out front.

They’ve seen first-hand the loyalty and passion shown by mullet people. Especially the kids, grade school through high school who are unafraid to bring the distinctive hairstyle back from the brink.

“Some things stay in the past, but to me, everything is a cycle, clothing and haircuts,” Jennifer said. “No trend is ever dead. Someone somewhere will bring it back to life and start it again.”

Who really knows why hair and dresses and basketball shorts go up and down? It’s been tied to society’s mood.

But this fad appears to be a little different. It strikes a nerve with some, a sweet chord with others. David Bowie got it rolling in the 1970s and it peaked in the 1980s. Some rock band members featured mullets, not to be confused with big hair, another identifying characteristic of groups back in the day, like Def Leppard and Poison.

The two styles walked hand and hand, making for a hairy show and a hairy decade.

Now, one’s back.

Before its latest reincarnation, the mullet stood for something. Several things really. Rebellion. A Counterculture vibe. Confidence. Gender blending. And, yes, style. Mullets were seen on the iconic heads of Rod Stewart, Andre Agassi and even George Clooney.

“We have the younger kids, around 10 to 15 years old,” Benjamin Bartlett said. “I asked one why he was doing it and he said it’s just a fashion that is going on in school. I said to myself, ‘Okay, that is very strange.’ ”

What is it about the mullet that creates a love-hate relationship with the public? It’s a haircut, for goodness sake.

Celebrities and pop culture have a major effect on the youth, local stylists and barbers say.

“I heard that it was someone that they saw on Dancing with the Stars, or America’s Got Talent or something,” Benjamin said. “There was a guy with a mullet, and he won or something and because of that it started to get popular.”

While lots of kids are seeking out this unique and conversation-starting style, other age groups are as well.

“We had an Amazon Prime driver dropping off a package and he had one and he said he loved it,” Jennifer said. “You could see he takes care of it and it looked good and he was in his early 20s.”

She continued: “We have a man who is in his late 50s and he was coming in before the mullet came back. My husband makes it look good, not out of control.”

Rich Kelly owns the Concord Barber Shop on North State Street, an old-school business with a hot shave inside and the classic, colorful pole outside. Kelly said he’s noticed two points during the recent disruption caused by COVID.

“The mullet is a common haircut now,” he said. “And during the pandemic, every day this year, or almost every day, I’ve had 40 people who have said they have not had a haircut in a year. I got more than 18 inches off of one guy.”

Hairstyles and haircuts are yet another area of life affected by COVID. Perhaps this wild form of house arrest brought out the, well, the mullet in people.

Something different was needed. Something edgy. Something that pushed back against the new way of life.

“I can see that there were a lot of home haircuts,” said Beth Webber, owner of Cindy’s Hair Affair in Pittsfield. “We were closed for two months and so some of it could have come out of that where someone tried and said that’s cool and went with it.”

She said one of her younger customers has perfected his mullet.

“I have a young man who’s been doing this for six or eight months and it looks great on him.”

Webber says the 2021 mullet is unlike the classic ‘80s mullet. The one made famous by Billy Ray Cyrus.

She saw a rock band recently with a lead singer who wore a sleeker version, something different. Trendsetters influence others.

“I do a modified one, not the old-fashioned kind,” Webber told me. “The top is a little bit longer and sometimes I perm it. Young men like a perm on top.”

If you’ve been to a high school lacrosse game lately, you’ve probably noticed a number of players with their hair flopping and bouncing from underneath their helmets this past season. It’s a thing.

Why is anyone’s guess.

“I’m not sure where it came from,” Webber said. “All of a sudden, over the last six or eight months, it just started showing up again.”




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