When you think of a mullet, your mind likely drifts to the severe haircut that dominated the ‘80s: the “business in the front, party in the back” style made popular by glam rockers and the decade’s campiest flicks. And with that image in mind, the thought of trying a mullet for yourself probably doesn’t sound all that appealing. But while mullets have an undeniably retro vibe, modern takes on the trend are anything but dated. With the right styling, a shaggy mullet can frame your face, emphasize your hair’s natural texture, and give your look a confident edge.
Want proof? Here, we’re detailing everything you need to know about the modern mullet, including what differentiates it from the harsh cut you once spotted in a vintage magazine. Plus, find 15 different ways to style your mullet, from soft curly mullets to spiky styles that exude youthful attitude. Find it all ahead.
What is a mullet haircut?
Mullets are a type of high-low haircut in which the front, top, and sides of the hair are cut short, and the back is left long. Bangs—specifically, baby bangs—are often a feature of this retro cut, too. While the traditional mullet may look a bit harsh, the modern version forgoes the stark jump from short to long. Instead, they feature blended layers for a softer, shaggier effect.
Are mullets back in style in 2023?
The mullet is definitely back in style—and, according to Matrix artist Philip Wolff, we have social media to thank. “As with anything, there are the early adopters, trend followers, the masses, and then people who never left the original times,” he says. “With social media having the ability to spread words and images faster than word-of-mouth, it allows anything to trend at a faster rate. Everything eventually makes a comeback with that specific era’s twist.”
L’Oréal Professionnel artist Erica Moomey agrees and adds that the mullet hairstyle isn’t likely to fall out of favor in the near future. It may, however, continue to evolve to fit modern trends, styles, and techniques (like the viral volume-enhancing calligraphy cut).
Who do mullets work best for?
As Redken brand artist Heather King puts it, mullets “are the ultimate convertible hairstyle.” The choppy, layered cut can work with a range of hair lengths and textures, including short hair (they’re also a great transitional style for those growing out pixie cuts, she adds). Curly mullets are an especially chic, grown-up way to wear the edgy look.
If your concern is that a mullet will look too retro or rebellious, there are plenty of ways to soften the look to suit your needs. Consider asking your stylist for soft, blended layers to get a more shaggy mullet-inspired cut.
How do you style a mullet?
One of the biggest selling points of a mullet haircut is how easy it is to style. If you want to keep your styling routine as low maintenance as possible, Moomey recommends trying a wash-and-go mullet and embracing your hair’s natural texture. Mullets tend to work best when your hair has some body, so consider swapping your current shampoo and conditioner for a volumizing system, like Redken Volume Injection Shampoo and Conditioner. Spritz your strands with Redken Beach Spray and air-dry your hair to complete your tousled, undone look.
For days when you want a more polished finish, King recommends opting for a slicked-back mullet style. Start by shampooing and conditioning your strands as usual, then apply a heat protectant (our pick: Redken One United Leave-In Conditioner) and blow-dry your hair back with a paddle brush. Once your stands are fully dry, mist Redken Shine Flash Spray onto your mane for a sleek, glossy finish.
15 Ways to Rock a Modern Mullet Hairstyle
Classic mullet hairstyles have a distinctly rebellious vibe (probably because of the whole ‘80s rock association). Lean into that edginess by bleaching your hair and letting your roots grow in for a grungy, lived-in look that screams “cool.”
If you’re feeling weighed down by heavy curls, consider a mullet cut. It’ll help lighten up your hair without altering your natural texture or curl pattern. Keep in mind that for the best results, you’ll want to visit a stylist who’s well-versed in curly cuts.
Those interested in experimenting with a mullet hairstyle but not ready to fully commit can dip their toes in with this choppy shag—it’s a slightly messier version of the trendy wolf cut. While this effortless hairstyle can work with a variety of textures, it’s especially flattering on wavy hair.
If you need a testament to the versatility of the modern mullet, take a look at this softened, shoulder-grazing cut. It’s unique enough to have a bit of personality but put together enough that it won’t look out of place at the office.
Mullet With Shaved Sides
Dial your mullet up to ten by having your stylist add soft layers throughout, then shave the sides of your head for a punky look reminiscent of an overgrown mohawk.
Show off your natural texture with a modern mullet cut that hits a few inches below your shoulders. The cut’s choppy layers will help emphasize your waves and amp up your natural volume.
You don’t need long hair to rock a mullet. This short-cropped style features a bixie cut (in other words, a pixie-bob hybrid) paired with short, piecey bangs. Unlike a traditional mullet, which tends to come across a bit edgier, this pixified mullet has a decidedly demure vibe.
Mullet With Full Bangs
Bangs aren’t often considered low-maintenance, but this textured mullet hairstyle proves that they can be. If your hair is prone to frizz, rake a smoothing leave-in treatment (we love Redken Frizz Dismiss Instant Deflate Oil-in-Serum) through your mane before letting it air-dry.
Give your mullet a vibrant upgrade by dyeing your mane a bright fantasy color. We love the neon peach pictured above, but other hues to consider include lavender, teal, and orange.
Mullet With Baby Bangs
Baby bangs add a playful twist to an otherwise low-key layered mullet hairstyle. Have your stylist cut your bangs an inch or so above your eyebrows to start (you can always ask them to trim more if you want to raise your fringe further).
It may seem contradictory, but mullets can be glam—and this sleek iteration of the ‘80s style is proof. Instead of messy, lived-in texture, the key to this look is glossy shine, so don’t be afraid to lean on hair oils and other shine-enhancing styling aids.
Because mullets are all about texture, you’ll often see the style on those with wavy strands. But that’s not to say you can’t partake in the trend if you have straight hair. Have your stylist add texture with lots of flowing layers for a shaggy style that’s perfect for straight strands.
If you love fun colors but aren’t ready to commit to a full change, consider this playful peekaboo look. Adding color to the shorter layers around your face will give your mane an edge—but without the tedious upkeep associated with a total color overhaul.
While more mullet-inspired than a true mullet, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include this airy, beachy wolf cut on this list. Consider it an easy (and incredibly flattering) introduction to the world of mullets.
If you want to give your mullet a punky twist, ask for a short cut and use a moldable styling paste, like Redken Texture Paste, to spike up your layers.
Header photo credit: @adlydesign