All hail the mullet. No, not the silvery jumping fish but the follicular form popular among Aussie males in the 1980s – and still occasionally spotted among the human megafauna of our cities and country towns. We're talking long, lavish, lustrous locks at the back, a brutally short number-one or -two cut at the sides, finished off with a dodgy fringe at the front: a signature mane immortalised in the early 1990s by comedian turned actor Eric Bana's larrikin, petrolhead TV character Poida.
Last year, the small NSW Hunter Valley town of Kurri Kurri became the world capital of the classic Aussie hairstyle – and the focus of news stories stretching from Australia to the UK, Germany and Russia – when it held its inaugural Mullet Fest contest.
A cut above … competitors show off their best sides at last year’s Mullet Fest.
More than 150 hopeful mullets fronted up to the Chelmsford Hotel, Kurri Kurri's main watering hole, to be judged in categories such as Every Day, Ranga, Grubby and Junior; the trophy for Best Mullet went to Shane "Shag" Hanrahan for his pony-like mane.
How did this mulletmania start? "A group of us were sitting around the table of knowledge [a wooden table in the pub] tossing around ideas to generate more interest in the town when my friend Sara suggested a mullet contest," says Chelmsford Hotel licensee Laura Hawkins, whose 40-year-old husband "JJ" sports a "skullet" (a bald head with hair hanging down the back) and 17-year-old son a standard mullet. "We were blown away by the media interest."
Judges at the inaugural event last February included federal MP Meryl Swanson, who grew up in Kurri Kurri and still lives close to the town, and, from nearby Newcastle, Dan "Mullet Lord" Brown, whose Instagram account is a pictorial homage to the cut. "We had very tight judging criteria," says Swanson. "There was style, length, hair condition and stage presence, including how they flicked their mullet," she adds with a laugh.
This year's Mullet Fest, which takes place on February 23 at the Chelmsford Hotel, promises to be even bigger and shaggier. "It's given the town a boost," says Swanson, who adds that the closure of the nearby aluminium smelter in 2012 was a kick in the guts to Kurri Kurri's 6000-strong population. Swanson's message to the gentlemen of Australia: start your hairdryers.