A brief history of the mullet: 'Business up front and party at the back'

The Kentucky waterfall, the beaver paddle, the ape drape, the neck warmer – call it what you want, but the mullet has become the lockdown hairstyle of choice

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It's one of those rare hairstyles that has been worn by all genders throughout the years, and every country has its own variation and nickname for the mullet, the enduring hairstyle that's short (business) at the front, and long (party) at the back.

In the US it's been called the "Kentucky waterfall", while Canadians favour "hockey hair", and the modern use of "mullet" is usually traced back to the Beastie Boys' 1994 classic Mullet Head, which popularised awareness of the 'do, containing lyrics such as, "Number one on the side and don't touch the back" and "Spike the top because the weekend is here".

While Mullet Head might have opened generation MTV's eyes to the style, according to anthropologists, it has actually been around since humans first pulled on their primordial slime-washed jeans and decided they needed a new 'do for Saturday night at the dino-roller disco.

Historical hairdo

In his book, Mullet Madness! The Haircut That's Business Up Front and a Party in the Back, author Alan Henderson posits the theory that the mullet was likely the 'do of choice for prehistoric humans, because the long hair at the back would have kept their neck warm, while the front was kept short so their hair didn't get in their eyes as they checked for sabre-toothed tigers before they left their cave in the morning.

Henderson also notes that Greek statues dating back to the 6th-century BC have distinctly mullet hairdos, while Native Americans rocked their own version, except theirs was "Mohawk in the front".

Arguably, the mullet peaked in the 1980s, the decade when it was an actual style statement, as opposed to the ironic position it maintained from the late 1990s onward. And possibly the most famous mullet of all time belonged to Achy Breaky Heart-era Billy Ray Cyrus, with the country singer telling Kelly Clarkson on her talk show: "I had Kentucky Waterfall for a while, but I said, 'You know what? I need to update.' So, I went with this one called 'Missouri Compromise'. In Tennessee it's called a Tennessee Top hat."

The modern mullet

Exploding back on to the hairstyle scene in mid-2020, the mullet's resurgence shows no signs of losing traction. Retaining its position as the ultimate lockdown haircut, it's a style that looks like you've done it yourself even if you've paid Dhs1,500 for the privilege.

"The mullet is a look that will always come back into fashion," says Kelly Cyndrowski, co-owner of Dubai's Salon Ink. "It is a very wearable look and can be worked into most lengths from medium to long. This season's mullet has a very soft, almost beach texture to it for a more casual feel."

On the celebrity side of things, the likes of Miley Cyrus and Rihanna have both been rocking razor-sharp versions, while The Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco recently took to Instagram to bemoan husband Karl Cook's mullet, writing: "I don't remember saying 'in sickness and health, oh and mullets'."

Meanwhile, The Kissing Booth star Jacob Elordi, 23, has been rocking a mullet that seriously interferes with his pretty boy image. But being Australian, he can likely claim he's just getting back to his roots – both historically and follicly.

Scroll through the gallery above for some more classic celebrity mullets.