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Forget Bennifer, the Friends reunion and low-rise jeans. When it comes to 2021’s unexpected comebacks, none have surprised me more than the return of the mullet. Yes, this retro throwback—made cool in the ’70s by celebs like David Bowie and less so in the ’80s by presenters like Pat Sharp—is enjoying something of a renaissance as we all emerge out of lockdown ready to embrace a long back and sides, apparently. In fact, according to a report by Cosmetify, the mullet is actually the most-searched hairstyle of the past year, with over 15.5 million searches—an increase of 142% on the previous year. That’s a lot of mullet inspo.
When it comes to hair trends, though, this one undoubtedly has our team divided, with some of us loving this cool-girl look and others (aka me) being somewhat dubious. So what exactly is it about the mullet haircut that has us so split?
Back in March when I started noticing that interest in the mullet was growing rather than waning, I was surprised when our very own Who What Wear UK editor in chief, Hannah Almassi, declared herself a fan of the trend during a team chat on Slack. In fact, she went as far as to say that she’d embrace a mullet haircut herself if her natural hair was thicker in texture. “Being a ’70s girl at heart, it’s probably no surprise that I enjoy the layers and texture that come with a mullet, and when the trend boomerangs back around again, it only pains me even further to have my flat, thin hair that instantly falls out of any given style,” explains Almassi when I ask her what it is that she loves about the trend.
“I’ll never be able to rock a mullet and make it look good, but I have plenty of references should my hair texture magically change one day,” says Almassi. “I’m very into Miley Cyrus’s new ‘do and always look to the soft-but-shaggy cuts of the past from Stevie Nicks through to Jane Fonda. (Yes, she did have one for a time.) The key to getting it right now? I think it’s about less of a two-haircuts-in-one look á la Pat Sharp and more of a gradual, seamless, choppy look.” The professionals agree. Callum Standen-May, co-owner of Standen May salon and stylist at Bond Shoreditch is also a fan, declaring the mullet hairstyle to be one of his favourite looks this year.
“Seen on celebrities like Miley Cyrus, this is perfect for those who want a hair look that’s a bit more grungy and edgy,” says Standen-May. “The key is to have the style longer in length at the back with lots of texture throughout and on top. Hair should be blow-dried using your fingers to provide more movement and texture to your hair to enhance the cut, and then a wax can be applied to give further definition. We’re also seeing this hairstyle being worn sleeker recently and with flicked ends. However, the more natural-looking mullet is definitely one I think will be around for a long time.”
For me, it’s exactly that two-haircuts-in-one look that I just can’t get over with a mullet. Sure, the 2021 version is more tapered, slightly softer and a little more feathery than the mullets of yesteryear, but I can’t deny that it brings back memories of a badly layered haircut that I had as a teenager. Imagine cutting a bob into the top layer of your hair and leaving the rest long and you’ve basically got the haircut of 13-year-old me after a session with a rather inexperienced hairstylist who had never layered hair before. Sure, maybe a cooler teen could have pulled it off with aplomb, but I opted to exclusively tie my hair up into uneven ponytails and topknots until it had grown out again.
That’s the thing: The mullet haircut is a cool-girl hairstyle. There’s nothing wrong at all with that, but pulling it off requires a certain swagger and the ability to ooze an innate level of confidence that I just don’t have. So while I can certainly admire the look on the Rihannas and Mileys of this world, the mullet haircut is just too far out of my comfort zone. Celebrity stylist and BaByliss ambassador Syd Hayes is on the fence when I ask him what he thinks about the mullet being one of the biggest trending haircuts of 2021. “It’s quite interesting because when Miley Cyrus did it, it was really like oh my god, woah because it’s bold. It’s a bold trend, and it’s a big thing to do,” says Hayes.
“In a way, if someone was thinking about the mullet but wasn’t sure if they had the confidence to do it, then I’d look at the shag haircut,” suggests Hayes. “It’s heavily layered, and the front is still short, but what you’re not doing is getting rid of all of that back section of hair. I think that it’s a good first step rather than going straight into the mullet.”
Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira gives the classic mullet a Gen Z makeover. Very cool.
Rihanna embraced the mullet nearly a decade ago and is back for more, as she stepped out in this retro haircut for the new Fenty Beauty Eaze Drops campaign video.
This mullet veers into shag territory with longer layered and a sweeping fringe. I could be converted.
Seriously, how cool does Debby Ryan look with a mullet? The ’80s leather jacket, layered gold chain and white tee only add to the vibe.
Curls look really good cut into a mullet style. The natural texture means that the change in lengths isn’t so obvious for a softer take on the trend.
“One of my favourite products for adding texture to a mullet haircut is the R+Co Sand Castle Dry Texture Crème,” says Standen-May. “It gives your hair texture, body and volume and also includes some beautiful ingredients that work to hydrate your hair, soften, smooth and control frizz.”
I used this during a styling session with Hayes this week, and he advised me to warm a small amount between my fingers and rub it into the ends of my hair to create piecey texture—perfect for a mullet.
A matte, non-greasy texturiser that lends even the flattest of styles ’90s grunge-glam vibes. Oh, and it smells incredible.
The name says it all with this one. Spray it through roots and lengths to create artfully dishevelled strands that never look too try-hard.
Prevent your mullet haircut from falling flat by tousling a little of this volumizing powder into your roots. Not only does it add just the right amount of volume, but it also refreshes second-day hair. This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK. Up next, I Asked 3 Hairstylists Which Cuts Make the Most of Thin Hair. .