Forgive me. Forgive me in advance for the truly intemperate, intolerant things I’m about to say. Forgive me if I hurt your feelings or betray myself as being too old to understand. I don’t want to upset anyone or hurt anybody, but sometimes the truth is a blunt instrument – probably a bassoon – and the kindest thing to do is simply to blow it and damn the consequences. I speak, of course, of haircuts.
We were at a shopping centre. You may disapprove, but we’re entitled as anyone to do our Christmas shopping without experiencing a wholesale assault of the senses. We walked (as you do when you’re at a shopping centre) for what seemed like hours and time and time again were confronted by the sight of young men, often in groups, sporting a haircut known as a ‘mullet’.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a mullet is the ‘platypus’ of haircuts. Just as a platypus looks like several different animals rolled into one, a mullet consists of two types of haircut that are diametrically opposed. Like ‘fire’ and ‘ice’. Like ‘oil’ and ‘water’. Like ‘good taste’ and ‘Married at First Sight’. Some things simply cannot co-exist peacefully.
A mullet consists of short hair, generally located at the front of the
victim’s subject’s skull, combined with long hair at rear. The logic – such as it is – being ‘business up front, party at the back’. It was the haircut that defined the eighties. If that sounds like a somewhat pathetic achievement, you need to remember how competitive haircuts were back then. It was an era that featured titans like the ‘blow wave’ and ‘the man-perm’. Ultimately, they were no match for the mighty mullet.
As someone who grew up in the eighties, I aspired to have a mullet. My dreams, however, were cruelled by a school rule that strictly forbade boys to have hair that touched the collar of their shirt. Flouting this rule was all in a day’s work for some, who insisted on growing their hair out until a teacher intervened and threatened to cut it on the spot. The resulting handiwork was proof – if it were needed – that hairdressing is a skill acquired through training and not at teacher’s college.
But as human beings, we evolve. That is, if we’re lucky. With the benefit of hindsight and, possibly, a mirror, we came to understand that the mullet was an incredibly ugly haircut that not so much failed to flatter the host as it did insult them outright. Eventually, mullets went the way of acid wash jeans and were quietly retired at some point in the nineties. Granted, there was the occasional resurgence, including one led by Billy Ray Cyrus and his magical carpet of hair; who brazenly boot-scooted to distract you from the tonsorial atrocity that was perched on top of his head. The horror.
Quite literally, I thought all that ugliness was behind us. Turns out I was wrong. A mere thirty-five years later and it seems that young men have embraced the mullet with a disturbing level of enthusiasm. Worse still, they have taken this most tragic of haircuts and made it worse with a series of new and horrifying additions. These include a bowl-cut at the front; presumably to get the ‘demonic altar boy’ look that everyone’s been raving about. What’s happening out back only makes it worse.
There are two models of modern mullet. There’s the one where the long hair at the back is teased or curled to give the impression of some kind of ‘hair explosion’ from a flatulent skull. The other is lank and creates the impression of having only recently been released from prison. Both kinds are all kinds of ugly. It’s as though young men everywhere are participating in some kind of competition, vying for the title of ‘world’s rudest head’.
Perhaps I’m too old and don’t understand. Maybe I’m jealous at not being able to grow so luxurious a mullet of my own. For all I know, these haircuts are a part of a sincere albeit misguided vow of abstinence by these young men. Or perhaps it hurts to see the mistakes of the past being so hideously repeated by the next generation. I’m not sure. All I know is that you ought not go out of your way to have a head that looks like a dropped pie. You can do better. Humanity is begging you.
Naturally, I said nothing as they sauntered past me in the shopping centre. As much as I wanted to walk up to one of these young men, grab him by the shoulders and shake him whilst screaming, ‘IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS SACRED, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING??????’ I refrained, because I thought there was a slight chance that I might be misunderstood. Instead, I said nothing. Perhaps I subtly shook my head in disbelief and, granted, there was the slightest hint of a tear in my eye, but I kept my thoughts to myself.
If you’re reading this and are sporting a renaissance mullet, I beg you to reconsider. You’ll be glad you did. But if, after reading this story and viewing footage from the eighties, you remain unconvinced, then I simply can’t help. Just know that I’m disappointed by your decision and that you broke my heart. My achy, breaky heart.