The Rise And Popularity Of Mullets

The mullet is undoubtedly one of the main characteristics that set the 1980s apart. Although it was worn by both sexes, its history doesn’t begin here. In actuality, ancient societies like the ancient Greeks styled their hair in this manner, including Julius Caesar. 

The mullet has changed over time since its inception, but it made a great reappearance in the 1980s. When boys felt it was daring and while girls adored it. The Kentucky Waterfall is another name for it, but that was used before the 1980s.

The Rise And Popularity Of Mullets

We can all agree that the mullet defined the 1980s, but who came up with this insane hairdo? In this article, we will discuss the rise and who made this style of hair so popular.

What Is A Mullet? 

The mullet is a hairstyle where the hair is longer in the back but shorter in the front, top, and sides. Long before that, this type of haircut was known as the “Kentucky Waterfall.”

The term “mullet” was “supposedly originated, and likely popularized, by American hip-hop group the Beastie Boys,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

It is said they used the term “mullet head” and “mullet” as expressions within their 1994 song “Mullet Head,” alongside using it with a description of the haircut.

Who Caused Mullets To Be So Popular?

The mullet was made popular by various different pop stars. Many of whom supported the hairstyle in their music videos and while on tour. Guys and girls imitated them because they all wanted to be like them.

Rock stars began cutting their hair, with short front hair and long back hair, in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite the trend being more popular in the 1980s. 

For example, on May 2, 1965, and June 13, 1965, Tom Jones performed the popular song “It’s Not Unusual” while on the Ed Sullivan Show. In two of those three appearances, he had a mullet.

Origins Of The Mullet

According to author Alan Henderson’s book Mullet Madness, prehistoric people would have probably realized the practical advantage of trimming their fringe to prevent hair getting in their eyes.

While further growth at the rear would keep their necks safe and warm from the weather. 

Greek statues during the 6th century BCE have revealed that mullets were loved at the time of the creation of western civilization. Furthermore, the mullet was worn by Roman chariot racers as well.

Along with the Assyrians and the Egyptians, Hittite warriors wore them during the 16th century.

The look has roots in Native American tribes in the US, who frequently coupled it with a Mohawk. President Benjamin Franklin, whose hair was long at the back and bald on top, sported a “skullet” in the late 18th century. 

He supposedly believed that he could woo France into boosting its diplomatic and financial support for America by giving off this approachable, slightly rugged look.

The Mullet’s Popularity In The 70s

Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, and Keith Richardsall had mullets in the 1970s. When Greg Prato in January 2020 penned Neil Peart’s eulogy, he claimed that Peart sported a mullet.

He also speculated that, based on a 1985 music video for “The Big Money,” “he also could have been one of the very first stars to flaunt another haircut – the rat tail.”

Particularly David Bowie, with his bright orange, almost carrot colored hair running along his back, made a strong statement. This is because due to this, he stood out across his career. As all of his fans could identify him merely by looking at his hair.

It didn’t take long for Rod Stewart to start growing out his hair as well. He did this while performing on Top of the Pops while wearing jumpsuits. Yet, what really set him apart as an exhibitionist was his mullet.

Along with the other rock stars who played with V-shaped guitars and large drum sets, Paul McCartney likewise decided to let just the back of his hair grow out. However, this was simply the start of a very significant development that would influence the following ten years.

The Height Of The Mullets Popularity In The 80s

Rocker stars became completely enamored with this new fad by the 1980s. The mullet, which physically swayed from side to side on everyone’s heads, was in full swing. It was a part of the outrageous, outlandish culture that defined this chaotic decade.

The most well-known celebrities sporting mullets were Patrick Swayze from the movie Dirty Dancing, who swung Baby about with his feathery hair flowing in the wind.

Then came The Lost Boys, Kiefer Sutherland, with his hair falling down his back and those razor short spikes that popped straight up on his fringe. The mullet became the root of adolescent rebellion.

The mullet was quite attractive to girls and looked hip. Yet it was also cross-cultural. Everyone had this outrageous hairstyle, from rock musicians such as Billy Ray Cyrus, James Hetfield of Metallica to yuppies, country singers, punks, jocks, and bikers.

The mullet developed a reputation for being exciting, flashy, and perhaps a little bit of a party animal.

The Rise And Popularity Of Mullets

Women And The Mullet In The 80s

Except for Little Richard, white men tended to favor the look, although numerous female celebrities, such as Joan Jett, Cher, and Jane Fonda, also sported it. However, this should not be mistaken with the lesbian society, which also embraced the style. 

One of the women in the documentary film American Mullet sports one as a sign of her sexuality. They stated that the hair was a sign of her sexuality, as hair always gives her away.

While someone else in the documentary stated that the mullet was a genderless haircut. Thus, we should talk more about what the mullet means for both men and women. 

The Fall Of The Mullet In The 90s

With many good things, the fabled mullet’s era in the 1990s ended. The actors were hacking them off. With the notable exception of John Connor’s pal in Terminator 2 and AC Slater from Saved by the Bell. 

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint their exact motivations. Rednecks, low-income households, and 90s country music icons like Alan Jackson, Tracy Lawrence and Travis Tritt, continued to keep it. 

An unidentified viewer of a TV report claimed that the mullets reminded him of men who had cigarette packs stuffed into their shirts because “it looks dirty…it exudes grime.” It is quite interesting how the popular hairdo went from being popular to unclean in just ten years.

Mullets eventually developed a stigma and even became embarrassing. Billy Ray Cyrus being the only exception, celebrities like Bono, Mel Gibson, and Rob Lowe may never grow their back hair out long again.

Even though mullets were considered the standard oddity during the late 1990s, very few people still wore them. The Cholombianos, an adolescent subculture in Monterrey, Mexico, however, who are fans of Colombian Cumbia music, revived the craze.

The variation in this group included everything from back tails to flat to gelled and even curly mullets.

Also, the quirky professional skater, Jason Dill, who became well-known for his rat tail hairstyle during this time. In an effort to project an edgy, badass atmosphere, he often skated through New York with his head completely shaved and just a strand of hair in the back.

What Mullets Are Known For?

Since its largest revival from the 1700s, when notable personalities such as Benjamin Franklin had them. Mullets will always be associated with the 1980s.

A lot of people will now reflect on that hairstyle and be surprised that they sported that hairstyle for so long. However, there’s no need to feel bad about it because you’ll be thinking exactly the exact thing about your haircut in 30 years.

What you choose to sport today should make you feel proud.

Will The Mullet Ever Come Back?

The question of, will mullets make a comeback?, is frequently asked online. Although there are signs, we can’t be certain. We are sorry to say that, but celebrities, who shape trends, are ultimately responsible for whether this hairstyle will come back again. 

During New York Fashion Week in 2013, Rihanna sported a full mullet. Zendaya also sported a mullet when she walked the red carpet during the 2016 Grammy Awards.

Princess Gollum was the most recent model to catwalk for Virgil Abloh in September 2017. She was also seen sporting a mullet. Yet, according to Vogue, they called her “street fashion’s unexpected new star.”

Small hints of the mullet’s impending return can therefore be seen occasionally. Though they are unlikely to be as overt as they were on Rod Stewart or Patrick Swaze. 

Instead, it’s possible to see new variations on this hairstyle. This includes the chill mullet, also known as the chillet. Despite, the hair at the back not being longer compared to the hair in the front.

The hair at the back still gives the appearance of the wearer having a mullet. So maybe, the mullet will serve as the inspiration for a brand-new haircut.

Overall, this outrageous hairstyle isn’t right for everyone, and sporting it today requires a large amount of bravery. However, more people are turning to the chillet instead. This is ideal for anyone who has the confidence to wear it.

Everyone will love it if you have the courage to flaunt it and be unique. 

However, the mullet is still a great way to express who you are, it’s just now seen as more of a unique hairstyle to embrace and wear. 


As you can see, the mullet has a long and rich history. Even with origins dating back to the ancient Greeks, it only really took off in the 80s. Today, the mullet isn’t as popular as it used to be, and you have to be really confident to be able to pull off this look.

Only if more celebrities start wearing this look again will its popularity rise once again.

We hope this article has been informative. Now you have a better understanding on who made the mullet so popular.

Willa Price

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