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From Kpop to TikTok, wolf cuts are here to stay

By Malavika Pradeep

Aug 22, 2021

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‘Business in the front, party in the back’ has become the official pandemic motto—engulfing everything from 10 a.m. team meetings to 10 p.m. video calls on Tinder. What if the same motto was applicable to hairstyles? Meet wolf cuts, an effortlessly lived-in haircut reviving two classic styles without committing to either.

What is a wolf cut?

Also known as a ‘tousled shag’ and ‘modified mullet’, wolf cut is the offspring of—you guessed it—the shag and the mullet. The haircut blends the layers and choppiness of the former with the length and volume of the latter. The result? An edgy mashup resulting in a wild, untamed style that is unique to every hair texture.

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A post shared by 佐脇 正徳/Masanori Sawaki (@norimasasawa)

The major difference between a wolf cut and a classic mullet is the placement of layers. Instead of piling them only at the top of the head, a wolf cut spreads them out evenly. “The base of the style is a mullet, but the cut is wilder, with lots of length, layers and texture,” explained celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger in an interview with Bustle. Although the updated hairstyle sports considerable volume at the top, it tapers towards the bottom—typically finished off with heavy bangs. It is alternatively paired with curtain bangs, another 2021-revived hair trend.

Spin-offs of wolf cuts depend on the length, volume and shagginess level chosen. One can achieve an edgier twist by shaving the sides of their head and playing around with the sideburns. They can either go extreme with ultra shaggy layers tapering narrowly down to the bottom or choose to soften them for a more lived-in vibe. According to Hershberger, the look works on all hair types and textures. Versatile kween, who?

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A post shared by Debby Ryan (@debbyryan)

A wispy history rooted in gender fluidity

Let’s be honest here, mullets are resurrected from the dead every 10 years or so but it always fails to take root as an evergreen hairstyle. Be it the glam rock movement, David Bowie’s stage persona ‘Ziggy Stardust’ or Jane Fonda’s iconic 1970 mugshot, the androgynous look—along with its stylised variants—has defined several decades to reach where it is today.

Although the hairstyle fell out of public favour at one point in the 90s, it has been a staple of Korean popular culture (Kpop)—with idols like Super Junior’s Leeteuk and SHINee’s Taemin bringing its chic variants back to the forefront of South Korean entertainment. As Korean men started embracing layers, the look roared back into trend in 2004 and then again in 2017 as EXO’s Baekhyun donned a two-toned wolf cut in the group’s ‘Ko Ko Bop’ era. However, Teen Vogue noted how Baekhyun’s cut was hotly debated on Korean forums, where fans criticised the ‘dated’ look. “But the daring hairdo eventually started to infiltrate the streets and the wolf cut was reborn as a more fluid statement cut,” the media outlet concluded.

Four years later, A-listers including Miley Cyrus, Barbie Ferreira, Debby Ryan and Bretman Rock are now pulling off different iterations of the wolf cut. Who can forget Billie Eilish’s iconic blond hair transformation for British Vogue? Trickling down to the masses, the search term for ‘wolf cuts’ began skyrocketing on Google Trends in January 2021—hitting an all-time high seven month later. On Pinterest, searches for the cut started receiving a 75 per cent boost last year. All of these statistics point to one fact: wolf cut isn’t just a trend anymore, it’s a lifestyle—at least on TikTok.

With 626.5 million views and counting on #wolfcut, the platform has undoubtedly triggered a Cut-It-yourself (CIY) movement. Users gathered on the hashtag are either seen cutting their own hair or asking a friend to assist them. A rare few are even masking up and heading down to the nearest salon to avoid any regrets.

@kvshq

Tiktok made me do this. Результат в конце❤️ #hair #haircut #wolfcut #mullet #oops

♬ good 4 u - Olivia Rodrigo

Be it a CIY or assisted wolf cut, the process typically involves gathering all of your hair into a ponytail which sits right on the top of your head. Those who misplace their ponytails are criticised for merely “cutting layers” rather than committing to a “full-fledged” wolf cut. What started off as a one-step hairdo, however, has now evolved into a total of three steps—depending on the number of layers you want to add.

In this case, the process requires three ponytails in total: one that sits right on top of your head, the second that leaves one third of your hair down at the bottom and the third that sections two third of your hair out of the ponytail. One pro tip here is to ensure that all three ponytails are angled towards your face while cutting. Oh, and try to avoid crafting scissors if you want to live regret-free. I have no clue how Krenare Tahiri managed to pull it off with a pair of kiddy scissors and nail extensions but let’s be real here: not all of us are bravehearts when it comes to hair-related autonomy.

If you want a wolf cut, best leave it to the experts—because it all comes down to the right proportions and textures to create a flattering finish. So avoid grabbing your 8th grade scissor, blasting ‘good 4 u’ on your AirPods and jumping on the coveted lifestyle. And don’t forget to style it after. Experienced TikTokers stress that your hair ends up flat if not styled on a daily basis.

“I would recommend a texturising paste or spray to add volume and give [it] a piece-y yet soft feel,” Hershberger said to Bustle. If you are on the low-maintenance spectrum, don’t worry. The essence of wolf cuts lie in its unruliness. According to celebrity hairstylist Kristin Ess, natural oils can be used as a texturiser in itself. “Clients of mine who have this cut don’t wash their hair for a week, which I love, and that’s what makes it really good because their natural oils get in there and the ends get all piecey and bangs look all gritty,” she said in an interview with Vogue.

Wolf cuts perfectly fit into the ethos of a generation expressing gender fluidity at its core. So if you’ve been looking for a floaty hairstyle with complimentary fringes, this is it. And if you want to try it at home tonight, march right ahead—maybe watch a Brad Mondo tutorial on the way. I bet you’re one TikTok away from joining the pack anyway.