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Mullets: the queer history and rebellion against ideal beauty standards of one hairstyle

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

There's more than what meets the eye in this iconic haircut.

Written by: Chase Congleton

In the midst of uncertain times, one of the few certain things is the unbreakable evolution of fashion.

With lockdowns occurring last year and the season of isolation beginning, people were able to explore different styles without fear of judgment.

One particular style that has seen a comeback in recent years is the mullet hairstyle.

Mullets have always been quite a staple within Southern and Southwestern cultures in the United States, especially in the country music scene.

Music icons such as Joe Diffie and Billy Ray Cyrus, in which the latter wrote a song called “I Want My Mullet Back,” became synonymous with the hairstyle in the 1980s and 1990s.

Aside from country culture, the mullet was a crucial component of lesbian culture in the 1980s. Gay women would use the haircut as a way of identifying themselves as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The term “queer coding” describes this trend and other ones where LGBTQ+ people can seek out each other without directly outing themselves to other people in a primary heterosexual society.

Queer people throughout history used “queer coding” as a basic survival technique in a world inundated with homophobia and transphobia.

Whether it was gay men wearing earrings on their right ear in the 1980s or lesbian women wearing plaid flannel shirts in today’s times, this method of self-identification belongs to a community longing to be found by like-minded individuals.

In the past couple of years, more communities have adopted the hairstyle as a part of counterculture rebellion as well as furthering self-expression. In particular, the LGBTQ+ community has further experimented with the mullet trend.

Queer celebrities and performers such as Troye Sivan, Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart and Christine, and the Queens all chopped their locks to the simple “business in the front, party in the back” hairstyle.

Other modern fashion icons such as Rihanna and Zendaya experimented with the look themselves in the past decade. The daring hairstyle turned into a form of counterculture rebellion against the cultural standards of normative beauty.

The low-maintenance style became increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading i-D Magazine to call 2020 “the year of the mullet.” With salons closing down, many people were left to their own devices in how they styled their hair.

What once was a haircut that had gone out of style has now become iconic and synonymous with queer culture and digital counterculture. Social media breaking the barriers and blurring the lines between society’s cliques has allowed this exchange to occur.

To wear the mullet is to subvert traditional standards, which has always been the hidden meaning of the style all along.


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