SNARK WEEK: Top 5 Mullets in Historical Costume Movies

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The mullet — that famous hairstyle of the 1980s-90s, in which men around the world (but particularly in the U.S.) cut their hair short in front and let it grow gloriously long in back. Or, famously, “business in front, party in the back.” Despite being very much a style of the 20th century, it somehow managed to sneak its way into history via that most accurate of representations: the historical costume film and TV series.

For Snark Week, let’s celebrate the top manifestations of this hairstyle that never fails to impress…

 

5. Patrick Swayze in North & South (1985)

On the one hand, you can’t fault him, because he’s The Swayze, and he committed to this hairstyle basically from birth to death. On the other — bwahahahhaha! It’s the Civil War, but who needs historically accurate hair when you could have THIS:

North and South (1985)

Can you handle the lovingly feathered front?

North and South (1985)

The wavy tousle?

North and South (1985)

Don’t you just want to run your (sparkly gloved) fingers through it?

Obviously some years later, given the spray-in gray at Swayze’s temples, The Swayzester gets married … by which time the back of his hair couldn’t be more long and luscious.

North and South (1985)

The woman in the middle is thinking: “THE HORROR.”

And because it increases my amusement, let us compare The Swayzster with some real Civil War soldiers:

Confederate soldiers, Richmond History Center.

Confederate soldiers, Richmond History Center.

 

4. Stefano Dionisi in Farinelli (1994)

Farinelli — famous Italian castrato (singer) of the mid-18th century. You would think he’d be dressed to the nines in fabulous high fashion, but instead you get this:

Farinelli (1994)

It starts as a baby mullet.

Farinelli (1994)

But just add water, and suddenly the back grows while the top just gets poufier!

Farinelli (1994)

Did they do razor-cuts in the 18th century?

Farinelli (1994)

“Let’s add more gel!”

And for added hilarity, the real Farinelli:

Carlo Broschi (Farinelli) by Jacopo Amigoni, c. 1750-1752.

Carlo Broschi (Farinelli) by Jacopo Amigoni, c. 1750-1752.

 

3. Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) Dances With Wolves (1990)

You guys — everyone loves to mock Kevin Costner for his Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves mullet. And yes, there’s a definite abundance of thinning, feathered, mousy brown hair:

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

How could any lay-dee resist this?

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Thin on top, lush in back!

But we all seem to have forgotten the travesty masterpiece that is Dances With Wolves! Okay so yes, 1990-91 is the height of the mullet’s actual fashionable-ness (shudder). But check OUT Costner’s post-Civil-War soldier, rocking the bouffant feather in front, pow-wow in back along with exxxxxxcellent mustache:

Dances With Wolves (1990)

Is he going to start singing “Sweet Home Alabama” or is it me?

But wait there’s more: the white guy who’s going to teach us about the Native Americans* helpfully meets a white chick who’s been raised by Native Americans, and so gets a racially appropriate love interest. In celebration, Costner decides to let the back get festive:

* Okay so yes, Dances With Wolves was laudable for a very positive view of Native Americans. But it uses the trope of the Sensitive White Guy to translate the Native Americans to us, rather than letting the Native Americans be the story, for which I snark.

Dances With Wolves (1990)

“I pledge thee my troth. And vow to give up combs forever.”

And as Costner semi-commits to a life with the Native Americans, he manages to keep the front of his thinning hair under semi-control while the back goes FULL KEGGER.

 

Dances With Wolves (1990)

Let us remember he was considered a SEX SYMBOL too.

 

2. Colin Farrell in Alexander (2004)

This one shoots higher up the list because by god, IT’S 2004 AND YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER. Clearly Colin Farrell gets a lot of unfortunate hair in this travesty of a movie:

Alexander (2004)

He’s young and he loves his curling iron!

Alexander (2004)

He’s more manly and rugged now, which we know because of his five-o-clock shadow … and his manly mullet. Also, note shitty bleach job.

Alexander (2004)

He doesn’t need a shirt when he lounges manfully — he has his hair to keep him warm.

Alexander (2004)

The mullet adds to the air of tragedy.

Alexader (2004)

 

1. Gabriel Byrne, Leonard DiCaprio, and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

Again, YOU GUYS. IT’S 1998. I’m pretty sure even Billy Ray Cyrus had cut off most of his mullet by then. But you know what, it’s the 17th century, an era known for its long, curly, “full-bottomed” wigs short layered fronts and long, silky tresses in back.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

Gabriel Byrne has a little bit of a twist to his front feather.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

But that front is cut, not just styled.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

Leo as Louis XIV. He can’t rule the country with all that hair in his face!

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

But he can’t romance the lay-deeze without some Rapunzel hair in back!

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

His identical twin rocks the same style.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

It’s like a bob in front and a train in back! (That’s hair on his shoulder, not fur).

And the real Louis as a young man:

King Louis XIV of France by Justus van Egmont, c. 1651-1654.

King Louis XIV of France by Justus van Egmont, c. 1651-1654.

 

Let us all hope for many, many more historical mullets in our future to mock.

 

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

22 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    I hated Costner in Dances with Trees. Wanted the Sheriff to win. He’s even more obnoxious in Dances with Wolves. I am not a Costner fan.

    Leo, on the other hand, mullet and all is much more to my taste. The Swazester is also hunky

    Reply
    • Shirley

      I’ve never liked Kevin Costner either! I had to sit through The Postman with family when I was a teenager, and I cannot and will not forgive him for that movie. But even before then, he always seemed way too self-important in all of his movies.

      For that reason, I also found him insufferable in Dances with Wolves. And, in my opinion, the Sheriff is the only reason to watch Costner’s Robin Hood. (RIP, Alan Rickman.)

      Reply
      • Kendra

        Costner’s just always seemed like a block of wood to me. Very, very, VERY mellow, boring midwestern accent, no inflection in his voice. zzzzzzzzzzz

        Reply
        • Shirley

          Agreed! One of my friends had a huge crush on him and was so horrified my hatred. I never could see what she saw in him.

          Reply
    • Sarah Lorraine

      I must be the only female on the planet who does not understand why Leonardo Di Caprio is considered hot. Before there was Jonathan Rhys Meyer there was Leo invading all costume flicks everywhere with his weird shaped head.

      But unlike JRM, Leo is a very good actor so I don’t actually have any contempt for his existence. I just don’t get why he’s supposed to be attractive.

      Reply
      • Trystan L. Bass

        I’m with you on Leo — that’s a huge part of why I hated the most recent Great Gatsby. Di Caprio just can’t cut it in such big, charismatic roles. He’s great as a small, indie film actor. But not a heartthrob Hollywood guy.

        Reply
        • Kendra

          I’m sort of with you guys — I thought Leo was fine when he was super young, then by Titanic and for decades after — YES, he was this scrawny kid dressing up in his dad’s clothes. WTF? He’s FINALLY now gotten a few wrinkles and a bit of gravitas… just a bit!

          Reply
      • Emily Barry

        You’re not alone! I’ve never understood all the fuss about Leo either. He’s gotten a bit more appealing as he’s matured, in my opinion (I thought he made a decent Gatsby), but back when Titanic came out in seventh grade, I was SO confused. I mean Kate Winslet was so lush and mature for her age, and then there’s Leo, the scrawny, squinty-eyed child-man? Eh, whatever!

        Reply
      • Al

        I call Leo “Lumpy Blonde Guy” as I also fail to see his allure. As he ages he just reminds me more of my ex, and that isn’t doing him any favors, either.

        Reply
    • Shirley

      Mel Gibson’s Braveheart mullet.

      Also, I don’t know if it technically counts as a mullet, but I always thought Heath Ledger’s hair looked suspiciously mullet-like in The Patriot, specifically during his death scene. I snicker every time I see it.

      Reply
        • Shirley

          I see what you mean about the bangs in Braveheart! Hmm I’m not sure what to classify his hairstyle as.

          Yeah I wasn’t sure if Ledger’s hair was period-accurate or not, but it still makes me snicker every time. (I’m mean that way.) I only really noticed it in that one scene too, which just made it worse, given the nature of what’s happening.

          Reply
  2. Charity

    Looking at those images is actually painful for me. I detest mullets. I wish I could banish them all from my sight — forever.

    Reply
  3. Adam Lid

    Dances With Wolves was godawful on many levels and the mullet definitely hammered it home. Pretty much looked like Waterworld with dry hair.

    Reply
  4. Clara

    Oh my god I LOVE THAT THE ALEXANDER WIG MADE THE CUT.
    (lbr that mullet is a character on its own)

    Reply
  5. Adina

    Alexander was hilarious!
    The hair was terrible, it looked like a cheap plastic wig. I made the joke to my mom that the internet calls everything “fake and gay” and the the movie, certainly was fake, but it wasn’t gay enough.
    Though the best part had to be the scenes where Angelina Jolie is pretty much bouncing off the walls screaming, and then they cut to Colin Farell who’s just standing there slab faced.

    Reply
  6. Sonya Heaney

    I laughed out loud at that first Dances With Wolves Costner picture.

    I saw Alexander at a cinema in India, and the version they showed there had 45 minutes cut out of it so they could make more money with more screenings. They edited it so Alexander was killed by a king in India.
    The short version was more than enough for me.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      I still haven’t seen Alexander — I kind of want to see how bad it is, but I’m also scared because I have standards.

      Reply
  7. The Author

    You KNOW there had to be someone during filming of “Gettysburg” around the same time who was just fretting him or herself to death about the endless beards and mustaches and sideburns (Burnsides?) and mutton-chops going “But…but…how can modern viewers possibly comprehend a society without glossy tresses and blow-driers?”

    Reply

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