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The art of crafting the perfect mullet

The mullet: business in the front, party in the back.

Most people really love it, or really hate it. Either way, mullets have made a comeback in a big way. The Show went to a hair salon in Tempe to witness someone getting the infamous cut and see how it’s done. 

Jenny Wells specializes in mullets and shags. On a bright, Friday afternoon, the 25-year-old is rocking an orange “shullet” with bleach blonde roots. It has the length of a typical shag, but because of its strategic layers it looks more like a mullet when Wells tucks it behind their ears. We met at Altered Ego Salon in Tempe, and watched Wells transform their colleague Eliza Ridley-Prevost’s grown-out shag into a full-on mullet.

"My whole schedule is typically just full of shags, mullets, different razor, fun creative cuts," said Wells. "That’s been like pretty much my entire career."

After washing and detangling the hair, Wells parts it into sections.

"I like to first start with kind of like their natural part, Eliza’s part naturally kind of splits down the middle, and then I also like to separate everything that wants to live forward versus back," said Wells. "If you literally lift it up, do you see how it split like exactly right there?"

Wells then uses a straight razor to, as they say, carve out the mullet. The front section is cut above the ear and the longer back section gets lots of short layers.

"I always say that using scissors is like writing in print, whereas using a razor is like writing in cursive," said Wells. "I’m able to really control where I want to add texture."

Wells has had a shag since 2019, when they attended a class on how to do the haircut. At the time, they had shoulder-length hair with face-framing pieces but not a lot of texture.  

"The owner that held the space for the class was like, 'Yo, can I use you as a model?' And I was like, 'Yeah! Absolutely! How fun!' said Wells. "And I gave her, like, complete creative freedom, and then I walked out with layers about like two inches on the top of my head. It was such a fun experience. And then I never went back, it was like, 'Yes, this is who I am now.'"

Layers, according to Wells, are also an important part of a good mullet. 

"I like to create a lot of just, fun movements, you know, kind of through the front have lots of fun shorter layers that still connect to the back, but give a really fun disconnection," said Wells.

Once the hair has enough texture and movement for Wells' liking, they use a diffuser to dry and style it. 

There’s a whole subsection of haircuts that technically count as mullets, including the jellyfish cut, which is a more unusual style.

"I actually have this guest that I do a bowl cut mullet on," said Wells. "So like the top is bowl cut and then he has these fun little tails on the back so it literally from behind makes him look like he has a jellyfish."

Wells, who is nonbinary, likes mullets because of how androgynous the cut is. 

"It’s not a quote unquote female cut, it’s not a masculine cut," said Wells. "It’s really just catered to every person’s individualized facial structure and shape. It’s been really fun, especially being behind the chair, getting to meet the different souls that come in.

"Like, I have nurses, I have musicians, artists, people that are working in service even, like, I have some moms straight up coming in getting super intense mullets, too. So I feel like it’s really for anyone that just kind of wants to play with their own style."

The mullet has never belonged to just one type of person. In the 1970s and 80s, when the cut was at peak popularity, it was worn by a wide range of celebrities, including Patrick Swaze, Joan Jett, and of course, David Bowie. And recently, Wells has noticed a comeback. 

"I think they really started like 20- or resurfaced, I should say, like 2019 and then I feel like they’ve just continued to skyrocket," said Wells. "For so long what was really in was like smooth, sleek, very structured. Especially since, like, the break of 2020, everyone was like 'Let’s get a little wild, let’s have some fun!'"

If you’ve been looking for ways to strike a work-life balance, it may be time to consider keeping your business in the front and party in the back.

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Amber Victoria Singer is a producer for KJZZ's The Show. Singer is a graduate of the Water Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.