Sometimes in the doom and gloom of modern life and politics there is a quirky story that cuts through. Which is why I’m writing today in defence of mullet liberation.
I’m sure Trinity College Perth is an excellent school with the best of intentions when it comes to its students.
But the college’s mullet ban — taking the shears to freedom of expression — is, in my humble opinion a snip too far.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines mullet as “a hairstyle, worn especially by men, in which the hair is cut short at the front and sides, and left long at the back.” But I prefer the punter’s definition: “Business at the front, party at the back.”
Efforts at suppression might only drive mullet pride underground and lend it an illicit charm leading to greater uptake of the contentious coiffure — or what might be called a “mullet spring”.
The great Australian mullet (in fancy circles pronounced mull-ay) cannot be tamed.
Indeed, part of the appeal of the mullet is the way it can sneak up on you — looking perfectly respectable front-on before breaking bad at the back.
Astute observers know you can’t surveil or suppress the mullet. You can only wait it out.
As a fashion it will disappear for thirty years at a time before bursting back into the mainstream.
For my generation the hairstyle was seared into our consciousness in 1992 when Billy Ray Cyrus sported a proud country mullet as he conquered the charts with his hit Achy Breaky Heart. (For younger readers — that’s Miley’s dad.)
The mullet then disappeared into hibernation for nearly 30 years before re-emerging — most prominently among AFL players like Western Bulldogs’ Bailey Smith and former Collingwood Magpie Lynden Dunn, and then their fans.
Now I understand the mullet is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve never sported one myself, although there was once a photograph of me at Parliament with my colleague Amanda Rishworth standing behind me that gave the opposite impression. I have, however, been guilty of my own fashion crimes as a young man, once attending a Melbourne nightclub feeling pretty cool dressed entirely in white, but looking like I’d left the ice cream van parked outside.
But ill-advised acts of self-expression that don’t age well and will one day make your older self cringe are all part of the rites of passage for young people growing up.
In holding this view I find myself in good company — including with the Emperor of WA Mark McGowan who has declared himself pro-mullet.
Now I must confess while willing to defend the mullet against school bans on the basis of freedom of expression, I do agree with the college that it is not the most attractive of haircuts.
In fact, I think many wearers of the mullet do it as a bit of a joke and a bit of a conversation starter. Resisting peer pressure and becoming independent of societal judgment are excellent qualities we should be trying to develop in young Australians.
I’m a big fan of the old world Stoics like Marcus Aurelius and Zeno of Cyprus who believed that the key to the good life was in accepting the present moment and not allowing yourself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain. Similarly the Roman statesman Cato, in seeking to lead a life that was independent of the opinion of others, would deliberately wear the most outlandish of outfits and walk in the streets.
He did this to accustom himself to be ashamed only of what deserves shame and to immunise himself against the misjudgement of others.
In this way, wearing a mullet can be a stoic act of character building stemming from the dawn of recorded history.
The young mulletistas of Perth and across the nation should be celebrated not persecuted.
Put down the shears Trinity College and let a thousand mullets bloom.