Get ready for a party in the back, America.
Kids and teens across the United States are competing to be this year’s USA Mullet Champion, and the finalists certainly don’t disappoint.
From spiky tailored tops and curly locks to buzzed sides and patterned designs, 11 teenagers and 25 kid finalists have made it past nearly 600 nationwide submissions to fight for the chance to take home the Mullet Trophy in their respective divisions — with a $2,500 grand prize.
And the competition is fierce.
Created in early 2020 by Kevin Begola, the owner of the Michigan-based men’s clothing store Bridge Street Exchange, the competition initially began as a local, in-store contest called the Michigan Mudflap, to crown the best men's mullet in town. Then came the pandemic.
“I kicked it off, and then COVID hit, and everybody was in lockdown. So I was like, well, there goes that contest, and I kind of put it away," Begola tells Yahoo Life. A few months later, in October 2020, when businesses started to open again (and more people were in dire need of haircuts), he took a chance and decided to revamp the competition. Almost instantly, it earned nationwide recognition.
“We had 130 people actually show up in my shop to enter," he remembers of the first competition, which received heavy promotion on social media at the time. It even got the attention of ESPN, which filmed the 2020 contest and aired it the next year.
The contest has since expanded to include the current kids' and teens' divisions, as well as a women's competition (registration for which will be announced soon), all of which have gained popularity in the last couple of years, adds Begola.
“We're seeing numbers grow rapidly. Everybody wants to root for these kids because they're from small towns, and their names are amazing," he says, referring to contestants including Axel, Cash, Epic, Catchyn, Fisher, Ridge and Garon (see the full list here).
There’s a charitable component, too. Half of the total entry fees in the kids division ($5 per contestant) is going to Maggie’s Wigs for Kids, a Michigan-based nonprofit helping kids who need a wig because of cancer treatments or other conditions that cause temporary or long-term hair loss.
Additionally, half of the total entry fees in the men's division are going to Stop Soldier Suicide, an organization helping war veterans with mental health support.
So, what makes a 'perfect' mullet?
Begola, who is one of three judges for the competition, explains there is a particular list of must-haves.
“The main quote everybody likes to use is ‘business in the front and party in the back.’ Well, we stay true to that,” he says. “One of the key indicators we look for is that the hair typically has to start right behind the ear. If they're going to shave the side, like, if they shave it too far back and it goes back towards the neckline too far, it becomes a mohawk.”
The actual definition of a mullet, he continues, "is that the hair is going to remain long right behind the ears and go backwards. If you can take somebody's hair in the back and kinda tuck it into their shirt. Or, like, if you put it in a ponytail and look at them straight on, and you don't really see the mullet, and instead you see the ‘business look,’ then you’ve got a good mullet.”
Begola adds that, while it's not a requirement, judges like to see the hair reach "the shoulders" so it can deliver a more "wild" look that mullet-lovers "will respect."
Indeed, mullets have evolved since gaining popularity in the 1980s. Recent trends, such as having patriotic designs shaved into the side of the head, are popular among contestants.
“There's a ton of people getting stuff carved into the side,” Begola says. “I think the mullet from the ’80s was more of that feathered, commercial look, which was always associated with a black leather jacket. What you're seeing now is what we call the ‘modern mullet,’ and people are doing really extreme fades on the side and carving stuff into it. The USA flag has been a big one. We see people put stars in there, too. I think the younger kids are jumping on that a little bit more than the adults are.”
For Begola and the dedicated contest fans, the mullet is more than just a hairstyle — it's a mode of expression.
"There's a whole mantra of: It's not just a haircut, it's a lifestyle. And I really truly believe that," he says.
“The last couple of years have been pretty stressful on people. [The competition] is a way to have some fun," he adds. "Most of the people you'll meet with mullets have a good personality, and they don't take life too seriously."
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