There is a current fashion statement that fascinates me greatly. I see it at restaurants, churches, festivals, the grocery store…just about everywhere I go. After careful observation, analysis, and bafflement (“Why?” I keep saying out loud. “I just don’t get the attraction to this exhibit.”). Then, one night while observing this trend at a trendy restaurant, it hit me: The hipster beard with a clean-cut hairstyle is the equivalent of the 80s mullet.
In the 80s, the mullet made the bold statement: “Business in the front, party in the back!” most often accompanied by the also-famous-in-the-eighties “copstache,” a cut-off-sleeve rock band t-shirt, cut-off, too-short jean shorts, and a can of Busch Light.
Today, the hipster beard and shaved haircut makes the mullet statement in reverse. It gets right down to why these men are here: “Party in the front, business in the back.”
Unlike the mullet – which attempted to convey intelligence, aptitude, and respectability at first impression, saving the rowdier partier persona for when you got to know the gentlemen better outside of the office environment – the hipster beard gets right to point, pulls no punches: “I’m here for the party.” Flat out. “I might be college-educated, hold a steady, respectable, high-paying, artsy position writing copy for an advertising agency, but, when I’m not wearing overpriced business-casual work attire, I’m a laid-back, craft beer-drinking, painted-on-skinny-jeans-wearing, tattooed kind of guy with an abundance of woolly facial hair.”
“Does he comb that beard?” my boyfriend asks, quizzically. “Does he get food stuck in it? Does his girlfriend like it?”
I would not, I tell him. Nope. I don’t understand the sex appeal, but most of the mullet-bearded men I see are standing next to attractive-looking women who are dressed nicely, and don’t appear to be as hipster as their guys. Opposites attract? The bad-boy fetish, perhaps?
I like beards. I have always liked beards. In fact, my dad grew one shortly after I was born and the first time I ever saw him in person without one, I was in my twenties. It was the night he decided to shave his face completely “just to see what I look like.” I walked in the door at my parents’ house, saw Dad sitting on the couch with his naked face and blurted, “OH MY GOD. WHERE IS YOUR BEARD?”
I like goatees. I like scruff. I like the five o’clock shadow. But, holy cow, I do NOT like the my-beard-is-so-bushy-I-can-decorate-it-for-Christmas-or-hide-a-small-furry-animal-in-it visage. Why? How do you even kiss a guy with that much facial hair? Doesn’t it rub all over your face like wire scrubbing burnt food off a frying pan?
Another variation of the accompanying hairstyle to the mullet-beard – the shaved head with longer hair over the top coiffure, pompadour style – is just as confusing. “What is that?” my boyfriend keeps asking me each time we see it, both of us staring at the hair in question. “Why is all that shaved on the sides but the top is so long and poufy?”
His fifteen-year-old daughter gets it – at least the swoopy hairstyle part. She has even suggested that her dad grow his hair out just like that. “It’s awesome,” she swoons. “I love it when guys have really great hair.”
That’s exactly how I felt when I first saw Jon Bon Jovi and John Cougar and Steven Tyler and all the guys from Def Leppard and Poison when I was 15.
Maybe we’re getting older. Maybe we don’t get the cool twenties and thirties hair and fashion anymore. Just like our parents didn’t get the whole mullet phenomenon. Or parachute pants.
Every generation has its fashion statements and faux pas. Evidently, we are running out of original ideas, so today’s hipsters have been forced to recycle the 80s mullet by wearing it in reverse. I guess they’ve made it cool again to have short and long on your head all at the same time. Although I don’t fully understand it, at least they have much better taste in beer than their 80s predecessors. I’ll give ‘em that.