Mullet over?

Sunday, May 18, 2003

It's often described as business in the front, party in the back.

British pop star David Bowie wore it across three decades, but most Americans didn't take notice until country king Billy Ray Cyrus released the smash "Achy Breaky Heart" in 1992. The lead character in 2001's "Joe Dirt" sported one practically from birth.

It's a coif known as the mullet, and a generation of Americans either love it or love to hate it.

Either way, mullet fascination has spawned "I love mullets" lapel pins, T-shirts and bumper stickers. A Google search for "mullet hair" comes back with more than 33,000 hits. UPN will debut "The Mullets" sitcom this fall.

The 'do is marked by close-cropped hair on the top and sides of the head and long hair in the back -- suitable for ponytails or flying free -- although there are countless variations. It's worn by both men and women, children and adults.

Southeast Missouri's mullet interest went on display last month when the owner of Jimmy John's sandwich shop in Cape Girardeau made up his own brand of help-wanted ad. It was a sign that read: "Now hiring ... mullets optional." Ed Thompson said it was his son Chris' idea.

"I didn't even know what a mullet was before we put the sign up," Thompson said.

But his son's instincts were right: The mullet reference attracted a crop of applicants who wanted to have fun at work, which is the franchise's philosophy. Thompson said traditional signs didn't get the same results.

Defining the 'do

Nobody is sure where the name comes from, although researchers note the 1932 edition of Webster's New International Dictionary defines mullet as "to curl or dress the hair." There's a coastal fish called mullet, but it doesn't have any features that resemble the hairstyle. The same cut was known as a "bi-level" in the '70s and '80s.

Hairstylist Nikki Urhahn of Great Clips in Jackson said mullet wearers alternately use the proper name in her shop -- some barking out "Mullet me!" -- or just describe the style.

"I've done five or six on a busy day," she said. "It's sad to say, but I think I've kind of perfected that haircut."

Both Urhahn and Angie Morrison, a stylist at Special Effects in Cape Girardeau, said they try to talk some customers out of the style.

"If I know them, I just say it's time for it to go," Morrison said. "You have a few men that just won't budge."

Mullchandise for sale

For those who make or supplement their living through mullet-celebrating Web sites, it's best if stylists aren't successful in converting customers. Mulletjunky.com's creator, a Los Angeles artist who calls himself Gianni Randomschtuff -- he refuses to give his birth name -- said he's paying the bills selling "mullchandise," items that promote his site.

It began in 1999 as a showcase for Gianni's pictures of mullets. He said the site indicates reverence for the mullet, even though he has none.

"It is a new word to define a hairstyle a lot of people had, and they are realizing that it is ugly," he said of the growing interest in mullets.

But Dave Lovelace of Hartford, Conn., is truly reverent about mullets, particularly his own. A feature on his site, umop.com, is a photo-by-photo history of his hair.

It begins 16 years ago, when Lovelace, now 33, was too broke to get his hair cut professionally. He said a mullet was the only style that didn't involve trimming the hard-to-reach back portion himself.

"Being broke is part of mulletude," Lovelace said. He said he's considering cutting his current long mop-top back into a mullet.

The opinions on whether or not that would be a stylish move differ. Cyrus, the aforementioned country singer, appeared at the recent Dove Awards for Christian music with his world-famous mullet replaced by a conservative cut. He joked he was up for "the category of Best Mullet in a TV Dramedy."

On the other hand, mullets appeared on Gucci models during a 1999 runway show. Two years later, "Vogue" offered readers mullet maintenance tips.

It always takes fashion a little longer to reach Southeast Missouri, meaning a full-on mullet resurgence here may not be far off.

"Lord help us," stylist Morrison quipped. "I hope not."

hhall@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 121


Mullet on the Internet

- Mulletmadness.com

Written magazine style, it features pictures of stars given mullets through the magic of Photoshop. Halle Berry was one recent victim.

- Mulletjunky.com

For the true mullet connoisseur, it has photos in lots of different categories, including "child" and "femullets."

- Mulletlovers.com

It starts out with a promotional page of a non-mulleted woman wearing a "Got mullet?" T-shirt, which is for sale, of course.

- Ratemymullet.com

The site scrolls pictures as visitors rate each mullet on the scale of 1 to 10.

- Mullets.com

Don't be fooled. The Web site is devoted to an appliance store in Sarasota, Fla.

Note: These sites generally should be rated PG-13 for language

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