“On the eighth day, after resting, God was in a jolly mood and created the mullet.”
This joke from one of the many mullet websites summarises the attitude of most visitors to Barcelona who are not familiar with this distinctive hairstyle. While many see the ‘handle-bar hair’ or ‘Kentucky waterfall’ as part of redneck culture or the Eighties rock scene, here it can mean many different things.
According to the website www.brownie-locks.com, a mullet is: “A haircut short in front, long in back, typically covering the neck and not the ears.” While there is no Spanish word for mullet, Renato Seliado, a hairdresser from Brazil, says that hairdressers label the style Mohicano in reference to a mullet-wearing antagonist in the American film, Last of the Mohicans. Another label is la capa.
Alberto Cona, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering student from Barcelona, has a stubby head of hair except for a short and curly growth in the back, which he styles with gel. “I don’t know what this style is called. I wear it to be a little against society. Kind of like the punkies did in the early Eighties. Normal people grow their hair longer on the top and front. My hairstyle is the opposite.”
Juan Zache, a 23-year-old construction worker, whose family comes from a small Moroccan village, wears a shaved head with a long ponytail. “In my village, there’s a tradition that when a boy hits puberty around 13 or 14, he grows his ponytail out until he gets married. And, it is cut at the ceremony. Before, I used to try and hide it but here in Barcelona I find it easier to be true to my tradition.”
As far as stereotypes go, the typical Barcelona mullet-wearer is a young okupa (squatter) who parades around with dogs, lives in a squat, goes wild when “You give love a bad name” by Bon Jovi comes on, and is a bit of an overall miscreant. While the mullet-wearers may be rebellious at heart, the truth of the matter is that men and women, from toddlers to grandmas, ‘rock the mullet’, as the saying goes.
Many argue that David Bowie began the modern mullet movement when he sported one in the movie Ziggy Stardust. But it is easy to find the mullet much farther back in human history. Sketches of Neanderthal humans at the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. depict Homo sapiens’ ancestors with the almighty mullet. Egyptian wigs were fashioned in the mullet style. Persians wore their mullets in tousled curls with the bottoms fanning out across the shoulders. Celtic mullets were a little messier with the sides drooping to the neck, and influenced the modern style of bikers, wrestlers, and heavy metal drummers. Recent celebrity mullets include Billy Ray Cyrus (sporting the ‘achy breaky’ mullet), Mel Gibson (the ‘braveheart’) and Spanish pop singer Bebe, who burst onto the mainstream Spanish music scene a few years ago with a traditional Celtic style mullet.
Obviously, the mullet is quite persistent. Anne Hollander offers an explanation in her book, Sex and Suits. She writes: “Loose hair for mature men was usually a display of muscle and stature, a sign of sexual force in action.”
This may hold some truth today as well. Eduardo Savall, a 29-year-old musician who wears a ‘mullethawk’, commented, “Chicks dig it because with the mullethawk it’s not just a party in the back, it’s a riot!”
Whatever the reason, the popularity of mullets here cannot be doubted. Like tie-die, bell-bottoms or afros, fashion trends come and go and then often return. While it may be too soon to label mullets fashionable again – at least outside of Barcelona – don’t be surprised if in the near future, you are judged on how hard you ‘rock your mullet’.
First published June 1st 2006