The 25-year-old says he first entered the world of mullets out of curiosity with the help of his long-time barber.
“Initially, I was like ‘no way’… a mullet is a big statement,” he says. “But then after seeing more photos and the different ways you can style it, I thought ‘why not?’”
“Everyone loved it and I was really into it, too – I felt confident, powerful and really good about myself.”
Perplexing as its rise may be, the style speaks to a certain fearlessness among Millennial men. The great charm of the mullet is that it is rooted in larrikinism and a simpler time. With a mullet, everyone gets to have fun.
Indeed, football fans could be forgiven for thinking they were watching a rerun of an ’80s match starring Warwick Capper or Dermott Brereton, but it’s not your blurry lockdown vision: 2020’s footy frenzy feels like groundhog day in more ways than one.
While some may argue such a hairstyle is unwelcome in professional sport, perhaps it is not surprising that we are seeing a resurgence in the current global climate; this is a haircut that carries an almost comedic allure. The opposite of the clean-cut, short styles synonymous with high profile athletes and lucrative sponsorship deals.
“Australian men are leaning into a very woke space of self-expression where they can have fun with completely hilarious haircuts without fear of judgment,” says Geelong-based fashion stylist Deni Todorovic.
There are different iterations and names for the cut depending on where you are in the world. In Sweden, the mullet is called “hockey hair” in that it allows players to grow their hair long, but still fit their head inside the helmet. During the ’70s in the US, it was known as “the shag”, and in New Zealand, the rear part of the mullet is called the “mud flap”.
Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe and David Bowie rocked a version of the mullet throughout the ’80s, and by the ’90s in Australia, the resilient haircut made its way to our screens in the form of Toadfish from Neighbours and Eric Bana on Full Frontal.
Soon though, it was banished. And for years, the style became associated with poor taste and the unemployed. But now, as a deadly virus sweeps the world, the mullet is back.
“Australian men are leaning into a very woke space of self-expression where they can have fun with completely hilarious haircuts without fear of judgment.”
Deni Todorovic, fashion and celebrity stylist
Expressing yourself through your hairstyle is something Richmond’s Dustin Martin has been doing for years. He married both the mohawk and the mullet for his 2010 debut and in recent years, other players have followed suit dabbling in everything from peroxide blond transformations to faux hawks.
For Burns and his bandmates, who release their second album Forever In Bloom next month, your hairstyle goes beyond aesthetics.
“Going to the barber is like an act of self-care,” says Burns. “And I think men are becoming more attuned to that, like it’s becoming more normalised to care about your appearance – whether that’s hair or fashion – rather than it being a sign of weakness or unmanliness.”
Todorovic describes the mullet as being a departure from the “safe” men’s styles of the ’00s. “It’s like, let’s get rid of the tip cap, hair gel moment and return to the late ’80s, early ’90s nostalgia.”
A fashion cliche? Perhaps. But one that might just get us through the reality of our lockdown lives.
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Julia Naughton is the National Lifestyle Editor.