"There's A Mullet For Everyone" - How The Marmite Hairstyle Conquered Queer, Creative London

"There's A Mullet For Everyone" - How The Marmite Hairstyle Conquered Queer, Creative London
A young woman with a mullet
Once you start looking for mullets in London, they materialise all around you.

"The good thing about the mullet is the messier and dirtier the better. With a mullet, you're going to find that three days in it's at its best. Not when it's nice, clean and shiny — you need a little bit of grit in it." So Tegan, from Cut and Run Hair, informs me.

I'm in east London, where street style trends are born — and already I'm learning some unexpected things about what is surely the most 'Marmite' haircut ever to walk out of a salon.

Love them or loathe them, you can't step foot in the East End without spying a mullet. Once the realm of 1980s rockstars, German footballers and Fun House presenters, the mullet has morphed into a versatile, gender-fluid style that's as synonymous with the area as Brick Lane bagels or vintage shops selling stonewashed dungarees and crop tops.

But what gave rise to the mullet in London's hippest circles? Is it anything more than a passing trend? And should you jump on the bandwagon and request one next time you go for a trim?

The mane event

Someone having their hair cut in a salon
"Loads of trends that start off in the queer community in places like east London are then watered down and it's the same with mullets," says Tegan.

Though there have been numerous incarnations, a marked rise in the retro haircut occurred post-pandemic. This could have been down to a national Tiger King overdose, or maybe it was because — in an era of DIY cuts — mullets were the easiest style to master.

Cut and Run Hair — a hipster hair salon in Stoke Newington — observed a change in their clientele when they re-opened. Co-owner David explains tells me "People got creative over Covid. They emerged looking for something different, with individuals wanting mullets and shags  — and now we're cutting them every day."

A framed picture of a person smoking, with a mullet and tattoos
"The mullet is an extreme haircut. Hackney has a diverse population of like-minded people who like making a statement."

David and his partner Tera were mobile hairdressers travelling across Asia before they opened their east London salon. He admits being on the road was a chance to hone his mullet skills: "we cut a lot of mullets — especially on Australians, where the mullet is a lifestyle choice."

Does the same ring true for east London folk? Tera coined the hashtag #hackneymullet after witnessing the emergence of a new hair trend. "The mullet is an extreme haircut. Hackney has a diverse population of like-minded people who like making a statement," Tera says. "The mullet sums up the London attitude that comes from the punk movement. It's a high-energy, high-buzz place where alternative people push boundaries.

In Hackney, says Tera, there a lot of people who are unconcerned about being 'masculine' or 'feminine' or conforming to other gender constructs: "When you get rid of that barrier you're free to be open."

A tale of two textures

Someone with a tattooed stomach cutting a person's hair
The East End is a breeding ground for creative trends.

Tegan, one of the salon's stylists, confirms to me that the East End is a breeding ground for creative trends.  "Loads of trends that start off in the queer community in places like east London are then watered down and it's the same with mullets. That's how we went from the edgy queer mullet to the bro mullet. In London, there's also a trend for glorifying the working class. The mullet has always had 'hillbilly vibes' and I think that's also why it's become a London staple."

Tegan cuts around two mullets a day and 80% of all other hairdos are shag-cuts — a curlier relative of the mullet. It's surprising to learn how many types of mullet exist. "There's a mullet for everyone," says Tegan, "Though the mullet has become a uniform haircut for queer creatives which is often the shorter punkier mullet, longer shags have opened it up to other demographics."

A young person sitting under an neon sign: salon de coiffeure
"There's a mullet for everyone," says hair stylist Tegan.

Having had a mullet herself, Tegan delves into what it was like: "I had a mullet when I lived in Brighton — there I was cutting around 10 a day. It was the first time I finally got texture in my hair. It was razor cut so I could get lots of movement just by scrunching it and wearing it messy."

But the mullet doesn't stay still for long, and David has noticed a hybrid style taking off: "On one side they might have a cropped '60s mod cut and on the other a long shag. While it's not a typical mullet, it's still a mullet."

Trends, says Tegan, always start as small pockets of sub-culture — and in queer culture there are more creative types who are willing to take risks. "Dalston Superstore or any other kind of queer establishment is rife with mullets. But now you can also go into an Irish pub like The Auld Shillelagh, and all the lads behind the bar have mullets.

"It's reaching all corners of the universe."

The rear revolution

Close up of a person getting a haircut
When it comes to the rear-side revolution, it turns out people all over the city are mad for mullets.

But does that universe stretch beyond the East End? Curious about the capital's coiffure, I head central to Murdock London, a modern barber in Covent Garden. The focus of this gentleman's establishment is 'sip and style.' The shelves are abundant with grooming products, and customers come here to relax and get spruced up while nattering over a glass of whiskey. Could this dapper clientele be requesting mullets too?

In short: yes. When it comes to the rear-side revolution; long at the back and short on top, it turns out people all over the city are mad for mullets.

Master Barber Joe has been shearing heads for over two decades and recalls when the initial post-80s revival began: "I remember the mullet from the late 2000s to the mid-2000s which was inspired by David Beckham around the 2002 World Cup. It was an iteration of the '80s mullet but was more blended in.

"The classic Pat Sharpe and Chris Waddle mullets from 1990 were like two haircuts in one — different from the front and different from the side. Now it's more connected and intentional."

This is the modern mullet that Stefan, 20, has been cutting since he began barbering at 16. "I’m from up north, Lincoln," he tells me, "Back home we've always followed the hair styles in London. The fashion starts there and spreads."

Rinse and repeat

A young man sat outside the front of an upmarket hair salon
Stefan's own mop is a grown-out mullet with a nod to the Beckham era.

The less severe mullet that Stefan's become accustomed to cutting has a softer aesthetic and is the most requested style at Murdock: "The mullets I cut are tailored to the individual which has made them more accessible and timeless. It's no longer 'different' to have one. The mullet is not a trend. It's something you see all the time. It's a staple in men's hairdressing just like a short, back and sides."

Indeed, Stefan's own mop is a grown-out mullet with a nod to the Beckham era. Other celebrities who've made mullets mainstream include Kristen Stewart and Miley Cyrus — but there's one south Londoner who was ahead of the game, as Joe reminisces: "Music and fashion have always been linked. If you were a mod you had a Paul Weller haircut, or if you were grungy we’re talking Kurt Cobain. When it comes to the mullet, David Bowie grabbed it in the 70s and he was a million miles ahead of the times, pushing boundaries with fashion.

The shelves at Murdock
"People don’t realise we're now into the third or fourth generation of mullets."

"Back then he made it a London look even though it's more likely he saw it in Europe."

Joe is also amused that many mullet wearers are oblivious to its past: "People don’t realise we're now into the third or fourth generation of mullets. They come into the salon and say they 'quite like that hairstyle that's short and long', they see it as a cool, modern haircut but they're walking around with a cut that’s been around many times before."

The origin story of mullets is global. In Cut and Run, an Australian customer tells me that all four of her brothers have had mullets and the youngest one recently entered Mulletfest, an annual nationwide event in Australia that champions the hairstyle with categories including Best Vintage, Extreme, Junior and International mullet.

Shear delight

A young woman with a mullet
"I really like the cut because it's boyish and easy to handle," says Bo.

Could a Mulletfest London be in the pipeline? Once you start looking for mullets, they materialise all around you. Later, while inside The Barbican Centre, I spy a group of students, one of whom is sporting a mullet. I can't help but ask why they got it done. Bo tells me: "My first impression was that mullets are German. But then I saw a meme saying they were Australian. I really like the cut because it's boyish and easy to handle. I got my mullet cut in Barcelona where they're trendy but when I got to London, I saw that in Hackney a lot of girls are doing it.

"So, then I thought maybe I don't want to be the same as them. But as I have colour in mine, it looks different."

Tegan has noticed a rise in the international mullet, particularly in the East Asian community. "There's a Japanese hairdresser in Shoreditch called Haco which specialises in Japanese and Korean mullets," says Tegan, "Some of that could be to do with the rise of K-pop culture. I've seen them blow up over the last couple of years and it's great to see yet another demographic take the mullet and make it their own."

Mullets continue to evolve; there's certainly no sign of the look slowing down. The demographic also crosses ages. Says Tegan: "I’ve noticed that in east London and Brighton, there's lots of babies with mullets. And actually, the way that kids' hair grows, they get the tufty bit at the back and they're usually quite bald on top so it works.

"Elsewhere in the country, the older you get the less adventurous people become so I wouldn't expect to see someone over 35 with a trendy haircut. But in London style transcends age so if I saw cool hair on someone older I wouldn't bat an eyelid."

All images: Momtaz Begum-Hossain/Londonist

Last Updated 22 February 2024

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