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c. 1970s - 1980s

Mullet heads

When bad hair happens to good people

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Kyle MacLachlan (with mullet). January 1, 1985
Photo by CBS via Getty Images

Unlike neon hues, Dad-sneakers and even stonewash jeans, the Mullet is one 1980s style that has yet to be reclaimed from the fashion graveyard. 

Mid-length on top, short around the sides, and long – oh-so-long – at the back, it was the absolute pinnacle of 80s hair, and very few people escaped unscathed.

Including people whom you hope might know better. David Bowie, perhaps, could claim to be a mullet originator, with Ziggy Stardust’s flame red Kabuki hair cut of 1972. As could Paul McCartney, who had followed suit in 1973. But Lou Reed? Really?

Not that it was called a mullet in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 1994 that the moniker ‘mullet’ was coined by…. the Beastie Boys.

Not that it was called a mullet in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 1994 that the moniker ‘mullet’ was coined by…. the Beastie Boys. Yes, the rap trio behind 1987’s ‘Fight for the Right to Party’ invented the term in their 1994 track ‘Mullet Head.’ And let’s be clear, that was in 1994.

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The 80s might have disappeared over the horizon, but the mullet lingered on, as illustrated by Michael Bolton in 1997. 

As the Beastie Boys said: “You’re coming off like you’re Van Damme…number one on the side and don’t touch the back, number six on the top and don’t cut it wack, Jack.”

1973
Paul McCartney sporting a mullet
Evening Standard / Getty Images
1982
Lisa Hartman, actress in Knots Landing
CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images
1985
Kyle MacLachlan
CBS / Getty Images
1985
Bono of U2, on stage
Bill Marino / Sygma / Getty Images
1987
David Bowie on his Glass Spider tour
Patrick Riviere / Getty Images
1987
Ellen DeGeneres
Joseph Del Valle / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank / Getty Images
1988
Indiana rocker Henry Lee Summer, Los Angeles, California.
Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images
1989
Lou Reed at the St. James Theater in New York City.
Getty Images
1993
Jean-Claude Van Damme interviewed by host Jay Leno
Margaret Norton / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank / Getty Images
1997
Michael Bolton, New York City
Rose Hartman / Archive Photos / Getty Images

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