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Feature Story July 13, 2007
 
Russia's Mullet Revolution
By Yasha Levine Browse author Email
 
 

You thought it'd never come back. That it had passed into the dustbin of hairdo history, forever, first as an embarrassing fashion trend, then as grist for the irony mill. But you were wrong. Anyone living in Russia knows what we're talking about: The Mullet. It's back, it's everywhere, and it's bigger than ever, and more than anything, these mullets are 100% irony-free.

In the West, the mullet long ago became an overused hipster punch-line, with occasional sightings on road trips through flyover country. But not here. The mullet continues to thrive in every nook and corner of the Third Rome, especially in the capital. It stares out at you from pirate DVD kiosk windows and the passenger seats of Shawarma Shuttles. You see them everywhere: ordering oysters in high class restaurants, riding the metro, loitering around the Manezh, and, yes, enjoying the heated embrace of Russian babes.

The Russian mullet is not like the Western mullet. It lacks irony and it is here to stay. Infecting cities, towns, and villages alike, the Russian mullet signifies style and sophistication. It's mutated into several sub-species, depending on your social class.

There's the "Manager Mullet," the most popular of all. This is a low-key moderate mullet in which the back-fin extends just a bit down the neck. It's almost an I-don't-really-have-a-mullet mullet, or an I'm-making-my-best-mullet-attempt-even-thought-I-don't-have-time mullet.

Stand outside of any Moscow club, and you're bound to see the ever-popular "Fag Nation Mullet": buzz-cut on sides, hair gelled into a rooster fin on top, and a long tail of messy curls in the rear. The more flamboyant ones even have razor designs in the sides.

Student-types from the non-elitny tusovka have something between the Manager and the Fag Nation, indulging their fashion flair by playing with the temple region: throw in the gel, grow out the bangs, shorten the sides, and get more party space in the back.

As last weekend's Avant Music Festival - which Mudhoney headlined - proved, even Moscow's indie scene is mullet-heavy. Case in point: The bass player from Moi Rakety Vverk, the indie band that also opened up for Sonic Youth a few weeks back, proudly rocked a Giddy Lee-mullet. And these are the kids that are trying to import Western irony to Russia!

Racing jacket-wearing bidlo types are also experimenting with the mullet, accessorizing their closely-cropped hair with mullet drapes down the neck.

In spite of the mullet's unprecedented popularity, most Russians, including progressive indie scenesters, know very little about it. Is there a Russian word for the mullet? Is a mullet by any other name really a mullet?

To understand the Russian mullet, you have to go back to the early 1980s, to the beginning of Russia's "rock renaissance." Specifically, to Viktor Tsoi, the legendary dead front man of Kino, who sported a classic 80s I-used-to-be-stadium-rock-but-now-I'm-New-Wave mullet of the sort you'd see on a Steve Perry of Journey or a Billy Squier. The mullet somehow vibed with Tsoi's Asiatic features (he was half-Korean) and immediately spawned a trend among his millions of fans.

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the mullet collapsed like so much inefficient state industry, giving way to the worst of the West's imports: the eurofag techno hairstyles of the 90s. Like, who can forget the Caesar?

The 21st century mullet got its start in Eurofag techno culture. According to Julia Mashnich, editor of the Russian version of Numero magazine, a French high fashion glossy, mullets made a worldwide comeback around 2001, at a time when 80s retro was becoming ironically cool. That trend didn't last long.

"As a general rule, hairstyles do not stay fashionable for more than a year," Mashnich told The eXile.

Except in Russia. By 2004, even as the cheesiest eurofags in Italy and England reshaped their mullets, here the mullet-craze was just warming up.


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Levine
Browse author
Yasha Levine is an editor at The eXile. You can contact him at yasha@exile.ru
 
 
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