Mullets: A Pittsburgh tradition

By MELISSA MEINZER

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Pittsburgh is a town of dubious distinction.

We have an unusual fondness for pierogies… Pittsburgh is a town of dubious distinction.

We have an unusual fondness for pierogies and Arhn City Beer, we guzzle pop and we deify Myron freakin’ Cope. Yoi.

We also have the highest per-capita mullet rate in the nation.

You know what a mullet is. It’s short in the front, it’s long in the rear – it straddles two worlds and forges a bridge between them. No other hairstyle has so many Web sites devoted to its glory.

Talaya Rodriguez, a stylist at Puccini in Oakland, said mullets are more common in Pittsburgh than anyplace else and are a phenomenon most stylists aren’t prepared to encounter.

“A mullet totally defies everything you’ll ever learn in school,” she said. “There’s no way to make it look good.”

While she’s never ushered a new mullet into the world, she did extensive mullet maintenance when she worked Downtown at Supercuts.

“That’s pretty much all we got,” she said.

Before she moved to Pittsburgh, Rodriguez never encountered a single mullet.

So where do they hang out? Where does a typical mullet go in this town to let down his hair?

The obvious answer is Hooters at Station Square during a wrestling Pay-Per-View match, of course – the most white-trash event on the planet in the classiest lumber-and-neon-beer-sign setting around.

On the night in question, I could see four mullets without craning my neck. In a place with a dining room capacity of 235, that’s a lot of mullets.

There was the Chubba Mullet, a kid in his late teens or early 20s, sitting with his mousy girlfriend. His greasy curls cascaded just past his collar. If asked, it would be a safe bet that this kid could produce a twelve-sided die or even a Dungeon Masters Guide.

A few tables over was the rarest mullet genus, the Femmullet, or lady mullet. She wore a Steelers T-shirt and her stubby legs were encased in black knit pants with heavy white tube socks and white Nikes.

Seated with his family, a professional-type in his mid-40s embodied the “business up front, party in the rear” ethos of the middle-aged mullet. In a short-sleeved knit shirt and Docker’s khakis, he could have easily just come from the office. Between bites of a burger and fries, he impressed his wife and son with his encyclopedic knowledge of various wrestlers’ catch phrases and finishing moves.

Kenny, the most classic example of a mullet I have ever seen, easily eclipsed all this mulletude. Kenny and his four friends had a constant stream of baskets of wings and pitchers of Iron City beer delivered to their table. Kenny had obviously been hittin’ the Arhn before he arrived at Hooters.

In his Kiss tank top and single gold hoop earring, he was transported from another era, perhaps that first golden age of professional wrestling. Looking at Kenny, it would be easy to imagine Andre the Giant and Capt. Lou Albano were the main event. Other than offering me some of his precious Iron City, the most coherent thing Kenny uttered all evening was “WOOOOOO!” at moments appropriate to the contest on screen, and at some purely random ones.

In grand mullet tradition, Kenny had two crappy tattoos showing. Bert of Sesame Street fame graced his slender bicep. A fuzzy representation of Marvin the Martian peered out from his nearly hairless leg.

Mullets are everywhere in Pittsburgh. At PNC Park, mullets grab the spotlight on the Jumbotron in “Mullet Moments,” shots of local mullets taking in the game. Stars from John Stamos and David Bowie to Paul McCartney and Michael Bolton have at one point in history sported the glorious, notorious look. Of course, most folks in the public eye have since opted for cold necks.

It seems the mullet, like the muscle shirt and acid-washed jeans, is a cultural icon that, on the official radar, has slipped into the mists of history.

In reality, though, it is now and ever shall be a bastion of Pittsburgh cultural identity.

Melissa Meinzer promises if she ever cuts her hair short, she’ll wear a mullet for a few days before she takes it all off. She can be reached at mmeinzer@pittnews.com.

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