Enter the Mulletnik

I’ve read a lot of horrific stories about Russia over the years. Tales about hazing in the military, torture, assassinations, wanton thievery, corruption, not to mention, the often tragic comedy found on the now sadly defunct Mosnews. But never have I read an article so disturbing, so utterly chilling to the bones as when I read “Russia’s Mullet Revolution” in the eXile.

That’s right. Mullets. The shlong. The ape-drape. Business in the font, party in the back. The Tennessee top hat. The Billy Ray Cirus. The Kentucky Waterfall. The Ben Franklin. They are simply the fashion scourge of the earth.

Alas, mullets are alive and well in Russia, and unlike in the States, they are sported, sprayed, combed and flayed without any irony whatsoever. As Yasha Levine writes,

The mullet continues to thrive in every nook and corner of the Third Rome, especially in the capital. It stares out at you from pirate DVD kiosk windows and the passenger seats of Shawarma Shuttles. You see them everywhere: ordering oysters in high class restaurants, riding the metro, loitering around the Manezh, and, yes, enjoying the heated embrace of Russian babes.

The Russian mullet is not like the Western mullet. It lacks irony and it is here to stay. Infecting cities, towns, and villages alike, the Russian mullet signifies style and sophistication. It’s mutated into several sub-species, depending on your social class.

Sub-species depending on your social class!? While there are many, many mullet categories (best collected on the site Mullets Galore), American mullets, whether they be the Femullet, the Mullatino, the Frolet, or the Classic Mullet, are the providence of the American working class. Mulleteers are the lone symbol of class unity among racial diversity. In Russia, the mullet is rather a vehicle for perpetuating and concretizing class hierarchy. The style of mullet a Russian sports is a symbol to one’s social, economic, and cultural difference.

According to Levine, the Russian mullet’s origins date to Russia’s “rock renaissance” of the early 1980s. But rock alone could not sustain the mullet’s cultural force and it died with the Soviet Union. But now it seems that it is making a comeback.

The 21st century mullet got its start in Eurofag techno culture. According to Julia Mashnich, editor of the Russian version of Numero magazine, a French high fashion glossy, mullets made a worldwide comeback around 2001, at a time when 80s retro was becoming ironically cool. That trend didn’t last long.
. . .
Except in Russia. By 2004, even as the cheesiest eurofags in Italy and England reshaped their mullets, here the mullet-craze was just warming up.

Its proliferation across the Russian youth body politic seems to be the result of Russopop star and Eurovision 2006 runner up, Dima Bilan. If there ever was an evil so vile, I have yet to witness it. In fact, there seems to be an intimate connection between Bilan’s success and the growth of his mullet. Perhaps he sold his soul (and fashion sense) at the crossroads? I dare say this sounds like a job for a koldun. Where’ s my damn Komsomol’skaya pravda?

Bilan’s mullet evolved a long way from the classic style, growing in proportion to his success. The bigger he got, the more elaborate his mullet. By the time he got to Eurovision 2006, his “bilan” was more mullet than even Billy Ray Cyrus’ mullet: a big jelled peacock fin on top, techno-short on the sides, and an all-night hoedown in back. After the Eurovision contest, Bilan’s “bilan” was plastered on every afisha and billboard across Russia, and beamed to millions of TVs. The dyevs loved it. And the dudes lined up to get cut just like their new favorite pop star.

Thus the dimabilan was born. Perhaps to an entire nation’s fashion peril.