hipster mullet, Jake Nyberg mullet
Jake Nyberg

Minnesota Man’s Mullet Experiment Exposes Fashion Prejudice

May 28, 2009 07:30 AM
by Anne Szustek
Jake Nyberg uses his 1980s hairstyle as a tool to reveal snobbery and raise money.

Amateur Sociologist Chronicles His Experiences With “Mulletism”

In the latest project by Jake Nyberg, a writer and director based in St. Paul, Minn., he takes on the role of social scientist. Nyberg is assessing reactions to his new hairstyle—the 1980s ’do known as the mullet. So far, his hair has elicited plenty of mean-spirited giggles from passersby in the western suburbs of Minneapolis.

Short in front, long in back, the often-mocked cut used to be fashionable, but is now associated primarily with America’s lower socioeconomic classes and hockey players. Given that the latter are endemic to Minnesota, some might see it as particularly cruel that so many Minnesotans appear to be guilty of “mulletism.”
Nyberg is blogging his “brushes” with mullet prejudice on; the name is a satiric homage to John Howard Griffin’s “Black Like Me,” in which a white journalist darkened his skin to better understand how African-Americans were treated in the 1950s. Nyberg describes his own experiment thusly: “a man with markedly less courage takes on a mission with markedly lower stakes.” Visitors to Nyberg’s site can donate to his campaign to raise money to buy a mullet-appropriate TransAm or Camaro that he will give to Goodwill Industries.

The mullet enjoyed a brief resurgence in popularity earlier this decade, first in Europe, then among America’s urban, college-educated 20-somethings.

Earlier this month, singer Seal jokingly sported the “business in front, party in the back” hairstyle to renew his wedding vows with supermodel and “Project Runway” host Heidi Klum.

Related Topic: The 20-year fashion cycle

The resurgence of the mullet may be a mere phase of the 20-year fashion cycle. That would dictate a redux of 1980s styles, including the aforementioned mullets as well as shoulder pads, which made their way onto runways at Paris Fall 2009 Fashion Week in March.

The preppy aesthetic, another popular 1980s fashion trend, also appears to be taking hold again. Preppy purveyor J. Crew saw a sales bump earlier this year, on the back of admiration for the Obama family’s inauguration outfits and a general trend toward attire at once stylish and timeless in a collegiate sort of vein. Perhaps it’s ironic that among those deriding Nyberg’s '80s-style mullet were J. Crew employees.

The Wall Street Journal reports a renewed appreciation for an essential preppy accoutrement, the old-fashioned bowtie. “It's for if you're feeling a little nerdy but in an intelligent way,” Kevin Arkadie, Los Angeles television producer and screenwriter, told the paper.

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