Business in the front, false cultural memory in the back
August 18, 2020 1:32 AM   Subscribe

This post is incomplete without photos from Australia’s annual mullet festival.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:18 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]

The Song

The Other Song
posted by thelonius at 3:54 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]

Oh, I love this podcast. She doesn't put out episodes that often so it's like a little treat in my podcast feed whenever I see one. This was a fascinating one!

The back catalogue is well worth digging into. I particularly liked the episode from a couple months ago about Rebecca Black's song "Friday" and its cultural context.
posted by cpatterson at 6:23 AM on August 18

I just listened to this awesome podcast a couple days ago, and have put it up on the same shelf as the Berenstain Bears Problem as evidence that I am living in an alternate timeline that diverged circa 2014. In that universe Merrick Garland is on the Supreme Court, all the books say "Berenstein Bears" and always have, Trump lost the electoral college in 2016, there is conclusive proof that 'mullet' was in wide use in the late 1980s, and right now I am sitting in a crowded cafe, disinterestedly skimming a Metafilter FPP about an obscure disease that has decimated the pangolin population in central China.
posted by googly at 6:34 AM on August 18 [9 favorites]

I remember picking up an alternative weekly somewhere in the midwest, somewhere in the mid-90's with a big article about this haircut before it had a definitive name. The author's preferred term, bewilderingly enough, was "party fro," but I believe "hockey hair" was mentioned, and if it was after the Beastie Boys song, perhaps "mullet" was, too, though it didn't make an impression on me. The term "business in the front, party in the back" was definitely in there. I have never been able to find a trace of this article again, which leads me to believe it was pre-public-internet, which leads me to believe it was somewhere in '93/'94 when I was driving between Dayton, OH and Ithaca, NY to visit my girlfriend. But the only evidence I have is my own worsening memory.

It seems strange now how long it used to take for particular terms to really get widespread. I knew goths before they called themselves that (apparently the term was coined early but was treated with derision for a long time before being embraced). Everything seemed much more localized before the Internet. You were talking about Bronwyn and Mary, not some worldwide trend.
posted by rikschell at 6:50 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]

I remember in 1982 or 83, in Mississippi (Bay St. Louis), one of my teachers in 9th or 10th grade would call some students "mullet heads", but at the time I didn't think it was related to their haircuts, I thought that she used it when they did something stupid, and was comparing them to the fish, which was common in the area and is not known for being smart. (People would eat those fish, though they are also not known for being very good to eat, but if you fry them as if they were catfish they can be tolerable.) Thinking back, it is possible that it might have been related to their haircuts, and I just didn't know it. But it seems like it was at least a few years later (1986-7?) before I knew the word "mullet" as a haircut or heard any one other than that lady use the word "mullet" in any way to describe a person.
posted by smcameron at 7:22 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]

High school in rural Alberta, a sizable number of boys and quite a few gals rocked the mullet through the late 80s and 90s. I don't think irony had been invented yet, and Jaromir Jagr--though a Czech--received grudging admiration for his intense play and his magnificent locks.

If you haven't seen "FUBAR" it's a credible channeling of the ethos of hockey hair via the headbanger end of the spectrum.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:40 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]

The Other Song

Yet another song: The Vandals' I've Got An Ape Drape.

not some worldwide trend

What Oscar Sigvardsson identified as "Hockeyfrilla" in Sweden, had already been trending in Germany for some time (Ngram says since 1990) under the moniker "Vokuhila", the acronym for "Vorne kurz hinten lang". To the point that the Düsseldorf pop-punk band Die Ärtzte dedicated a whole album to it - Le Frisur - including the breakout track Vokuhila Superstar.

(I'm not sure what to do with the fact that the German name for the hairdo rhymes perfectly with the Swedish one, nor with the fact that the Danish called it either "Swedish hair", "German/Prussian hair" or even "Bundesliga-hår".)
posted by progosk at 8:01 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]

relevant enough
posted by stinkfoot at 8:21 AM on August 18

i'm not certain there's any characters in fury road with mullets but nevertheless "i live! i die! i live again!" was my immediate thought upon looking at that australian mullet fest page.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:35 AM on August 18

This came up two nights ago playing Fibbage with my family on our weekly zoom call, with the question of which term the OED cites the Beastie Boys as coining. I was the only one who knew it (which in this case just means "guessed correctly.")
posted by Navelgazer at 8:57 AM on August 18

The Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team is somewhat of a seasonal fixture on Metafilter.
posted by ardgedee at 9:45 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]

To the point that the Düsseldorf pop-punk band Die Ärtzte dedicated a whole album to it - Le Frisur -

1. Aargh! Die Ärzte are very proudly from Berlin (Die Toten Hosen are from Düsseldorf).
2. Le Frisur is a concept album about hair in general. Only one song deals with the mullet.

Sorry. I could not let that travesty stand. Düsseldorf. Shudder.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 9:52 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]

People would eat [mullet] fish, though they are also not known for being very good to eat, but if you fry them as if they were catfish they can be tolerable.

This former southerner is here to tell you they're pretty good smoked, too.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:55 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]

I had heard the story before that Mike D made up the term, but it never occurred to me that the OED would spend time running down original usage of slang terms.

Mike D seems to enjoy mercilessly trolling his interviewers, so I’m not sure they would have gotten a trustworthy answer even if they had gotten him to talk to them.
posted by KGMoney at 10:02 AM on August 18

(People would eat those fish, though they are also not known for being very good to eat, but if you fry them as if they were catfish they can be tolerable.)

Biloxi bacon, my dad calls 'em. I think they're well more than tolerable, though I admit that could be a nostalgia thing - I always thought they weren't popular because the amount of filet you get for the size fish is not a winning ratio (plus they fight a hell of a lot harder on a line than anything that size should reasonably be able to).

I don't have any fun story about anyone being called a "mullet-head", despite also having lived in that area, though it rings a faint bell.

(I *do* have a great story about fish from the MS gulf coast that aren't great to eat, but that's probably getting a bit too far afield of the discussion.)
posted by solotoro at 10:44 AM on August 18

"Vokuhila", the acronym for "Vorne kurz hinten lang"

Dangit! I came in to say that is one of my most favorite German words!
posted by Snowishberlin at 10:50 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]

I know exactly when this haircut (called a "bi-level") came to my N. Tx suburb, because my sister was in hair stylist school and it was the new hotness. She persuaded me to get it (WITH a perm) in 1989, right before I got my senior pictures done.

One of those pictures was me posing, chin on fist, on a giant white 89 prop. All the evidence one could wish for, honestly.
posted by emjaybee at 10:56 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I just remembered - the first band I was ever in was called "The Mullets". We did classic-rock (we just called them "rock" at the time) covers. The name had nothing to do with our hairstyles...
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:09 AM on August 18

I can’t watch a TV show from the early nineties without wanting to reach through the screen and lop off the hair in the back of at least one character.

(In Victorian times they called it the “back hair,” but that means something else now.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:27 AM on August 18

I love that the earliest appearance of it was apparently on a Kansai Yamamoto model, which inspired Bowie to get one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:40 AM on August 18

1980s, Washington State. This hairstyle was associated with "parachute pants" and "fall guy trucks" but nobody called it a mullet. I think the first use of the term I remember was from the late 90s, long after it was passe, and someone had to explain it to me, definitely including "party in the back".
On bicycles the term can refer to a number of set-ups: a mountain bike with larger front wheel, a gravel/monstercross with drop bars and huge cassette, or a road bike with disc brake on the fork and rim brake on the rear wheel.
posted by St. Oops at 11:54 AM on August 18

"Mullets" were definitely a part of the 70's in Vancouver. IMHO one of the reasons it fell from favour is that teenybopper idols like David Cassidy, Leif Garret, The Bay City Rollers wore the hairstyle making it kryptonite for the hippie adjacent, long haired "cool kids". "Jocks" were the exception and seemed to continue on with it.

Why did the "jocks" takeup the short-long? Perhaps because way back in the day the short haired, macho, generally conservative sport playing "jocks" were seen as "square" by the long haired, dope smoking, leftist, not so sporty, hippie/cool crowd, aka the "heads"*. But as time went by, maybe the "jocks" looked for a long hair style that would be practical when playing sports and at the same time would reduce their "squareness". Just a guess, really.

*as in dope head.
posted by Zedcaster at 12:17 PM on August 18

I should add that no one called them mullets back at the time it was a fashion. The short-long, or even the beavertail but not mullet. Stunned mullet was an expression for someone who was a acting a bit dense or slow.
posted by Zedcaster at 12:21 PM on August 18

I had a solid mullet in the in the mid 1980s in elementary school because I was a dumb kid and thought that was how you grew your hair long - just let the very back grow. I really don't remember what that hairstyle was called. I could have sworn mullet then (also remember mullet head being a PG-rated insult. ) We didn't have beavers so no way we called it that.

The middle part 'butt cut' was the early 1990s; mullets were very much out of favor by then.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:00 PM on August 18

Why did the "jocks" takeup the short-long?

I always assumed it was because most sports involve some kind of headwear, and the back is the most convenient place for hair to stick out.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:08 PM on August 18

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