‘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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The mullet, the hockey hair, the Kentucky waterfall, the Missouri compromise, the short/long hairstyle (or whatever you call it)—the all encompassing and unignorable hairstyle is the definition of ‘business up front, party in the back’. With a fluctuating popularity over the decades, it’s been creeping around our peripheral visions (and art schools) for the past five years or so, but now, the trend is back in full force. Although having been sported worldwide since the 1980s, the hairdo has been around for a lot longer than the majority of us think. Are you ready for some history, and possibly a fresh cut? Because I’m half way swayed already.
Let’s go back in time, shall we? The well known Greek poet Homer once described the Abantes, which was a group of spearmen, as wearing “their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the backs” in his poem The Iliad. Just to put into perspective how long people have been rocking the hairdo, this was written in the 8th century Before the Common Era (BCE). If you really think about it, the hairstyle is practicality at its finest: adaptable in shape, and it keeps your neck warm and dry without getting in your eyes. There’s a reason Alan Henderson wrote a book called Mullet Madness, a history of the look—if you really want to dig your teeth into more. For now though, here’s a brief overview for the curious.
The term ‘mullet’ wasn’t officially coined until 1994, thanks to the Beastie Boys’ song ‘Mullet Head’, but in ancient Rome, what was referred to as a ‘Hun cut’ was an early style that wealthy young ‘hooligans’ wore in the 6th century BC. These groups supported the popular sport (back then) of chariot racing. Another writer, the Greek-Byzantine scholar Procopius, described the look in his Secret History manifesto, writing that “The hair on their heads they cut off in front back to the temples, leaving the part behind to hang down to a very great length in a senseless fashion.”
According to History, in the late 18th century, Ben Franklin used his ‘skullet’ to help charm France into increasing its financial and diplomatic support of America. With his new, albeit rather rogue and free hairstyle in the days of perfect wig wearing, Franklin looked the role of a “rough-hewn new world sage” which shocked French courts, but also promoted revolutionary vision. In the US, the style goes all the way back to Native American tribes that often combined a mullet and a mohawk.
The 70s came along, and so did David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona. A bright orange waterfall plummeting from the roof of his head was enough to turn everyone’s attention, and the trend (as we know it) was reborn. Bowie was famous for his androgynous style, and this one particular hairstyle captured its essence in the way that traditionally, females had long hair and males rocked it short, while he had the best of both worlds. The musician first wore the hairstyle in the year of his coming out press conference.
The look defined a decade, and effectively “pushed the margins of hair and dress” according to hair historian Janet Stephens—it was the decade that really challenged ideas on identity and gender boundaries.
The trend cascaded into a masquerade of ‘out there’ mullets, from other famous artists like Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, and even Patrick Swayze (from Dirty Dancing) who had a short-lived moment with the hairstyle. Kiefer Sutherland’s character in The Lost Boys, and many others followed their lead, including the highstreet, also known as the rest of us. It also blurred into the 80s, with Metallica’s James Hetfield, Billy Ray Cyrus, and the list really could go on and on. The attraction to it was that fundamentally, the style fit all kinds of people and cultures, with the common cause of acting rebelliously.
The 90s brought a sad and slow decline of the trend, people’s opinions started to change, and the masses no longer wanted to look ‘scruffy’, but instead freshly cut and ‘clean’. The style started to wear a bit of taboo, according to Dazed the hairstyle “depicted low-income families in backwater towns, redneck dudes in dive bars who clung to their beloved country music.” In 2010, Iran actually banned the cut, hoping to stop the spread of what it called as a “western invasion.”
Since around 2018, the trend has been creeping back. Then all it took was one uproar of reason to rebel (as its reason to exist back in the 70s) and the trend is now bustling towards a comeback. 2020, the year of flustered change in all senses, was all it took.
It may or may not have been egged on by the fact that hairdressers were forced shut due to the pandemic lockdown measures. People just pressed the ‘fuck it’ button on grooming tendencies, and fair enough! Not only is the hairdo easy to achieve by yourself in the mirror, due to the fact that you can literally just ignore what’s going on in the back, but New York hairstylist Magda Ryczko also told Men’s Health Magazine that “It’s the perfect haircut for a Zoom meeting,” continuing in saying that “It’s business in the front and party in the back. Or these days, it’s business in the front and a small gathering of six or less in the back.”
So whether you’re ready for it, or like it or not, mullets are back, baby! And I’m here for it. So, if you have semi-long hair, or hair at least reaching your earlobes, here’s how you can fix those locks into a look: just chop down the front sides and top until you want to stop. No neatness necessary. Worse comes to worst, shave it all off? Skinheads are in too.