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February 2, 2008
The Spanish Mullet
Spain is arguably the most culturally isolated of all of the countries in Western Europe. Rich in its own regional identities, the rush of cosmopolitanism taking place elsewhere seems yet to have reached Spain except through a trickle of dubbed cinema, the odd Chinese buffet or kebab stall.
What items have been allowed to permeate the national cultural membrane is reminiscent of the first whispers I heard of a broader world as a child growing up in Middle America during the 1980s. Foreign thrills came to us through Mongolian Barbeque, Bruce Lee (and the boom of martial arts schools that followed), Hawaiian pizza, and catching the odd glimpse of an immigrant family struggling to find suitable food at the Red Owl supermarket.
The cultural growing pains of the 1980s seem to be a necessary stage of development for a country about to join the rest of the world in the age of globalization. If the destination on this journey is to do as the Parisians or New Yorkers do then the first steps may be to eat chicken chow mein and wear a mullet. That's right: the mullet; the "business in front, party in the back" hairdo that was the hallmark style of our favorite 80s bands, wrestlers, and loser couch-surfing uncles alike.
Many of the travelled Spanish that I met were ashamed about their country's relative unavailability of foreign culture. To these things the standard, "we blame Franco," mantra would apply. Beyond a doubt, Franco delayed the country's development by decades. However, what is more truthful is that the Spanish love their mullets.
When I asked the Spanish people of what they thought of the mullet the answers I got were nearly universal: the mullet was cool, it was counter culture, and it made you hip. If you locked it in the back it made you "laid-back" or "Rasta." If you cut out and braided little rat-tails into it that made you seem to be like a drifter, a traveler, perhaps the Spanish Jack Kerouac type. I failed to see any of these things. My American sensibilities made the mullet wearer evocative of a Ted Nugent fans.
It certainly didn't help that most of the mullet wearers I ran into in Spain were often bleary eyed drunks smashing beer bottles on the cobble stones at the end of the night. Take my girlfriend-beating neighbor for instance: he was the proud maintainer of a dirty shoulder-length mane I used to call the Qui-Gon Jinn. His dumpy friend, the Jedi Apprentice, used to sport my favorite little number which featured three braided rat-tails in the back.
Granted the true origin of the hairdo likely has more to do with soccer than it does with with the 80s. Stars of teams in Europe have been sporting the Continental version of hockey hair for decades. It may be that no other region in the world has such a high density of the asymmetrical hairstyle.
I love the Spanish mullet. It used to give us foreigners something to connect on. I cannot tell you how many great conversations started with, "oh my god, can you believe all the mullets?"
A quick search on the Internet revealed similar exuberance for the Spanish version of the Kentucky Waterfall:
- Spain Loves the 80s (posted back in 2005!)
- The Spanish Mane
- Mullets and Other Unexpected Surprises
- The Spanish Mullet
As with all trends, I am sure this one has a limited life span. Soon the mullets will give way to full-on grunge hair. Time will tell what the Spanish version of a plaid work shirt will be. I await with bated breath.
Posted by jordanh at February 2, 2008 6:21 PM |
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