Mozart was likely the most famous seven-year-old in history. Then there’s King Tut, Shirley Temple, and who could ever forget Drew Barrymore as Gertie in E.T. ?
Moore County’s Emmett Miller could soon be added to that list.
Though no great composer, boy king or child screen star, this Carthage 7-year-old has a hair-raising story. The long and wavy road for this rising second-grader commenced on July 24, when Emmett’s haircut became one of the top 25 mullets in the United States. Rock on.
Ancient Roots, or Emmett’s Vision?
While its name is relatively new, the distinct hairstyle that is short in front and long in the back has been a mainstay for centuries. In Homer’s “Iliad,” the spearmen have “their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the back.” At the hottest place to be seen around town in those days — the Colosseum and its chariot races — the obnoxious Roman sports fans rocked the style.
The 6th-century scholar Procopius described the ‘do as “cut off in front back to the temples leaving the part behind to hang down to a very great length in a senseless fashion.”
Fast-forward to recent times. Like many families during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Millers didn’t get their hair cut. Most places were closed anyway, giving carte blanche to countless men who let the cabbage grow.
“Emmett was five at the time and he didn’t mind growing it out,” his mom, Abby, said.
When the barbershops and salons finally opened back up, Emmett had come up with a big idea. He suggested, proudly, that maybe he could get his hair cut in the front “so he could see,” but keep it long in the back. Dude.
While the cut has a long, distinguished and, at times knotty history, The Beastie Boys were the first to use the word “mullet” in their 1994 song “Mullet Head,” combining it with a description of the haircut: “number one on the side and don’t touch the back, number six on the top and don’t cut it wack, Jack.”
The 2001 movie Joe Dirt was the first to coin the phrase “business in the front, party in the back.”
Emmett’s parents had a good laugh over his ingenuity, but then realized that Emmett had likely never seen a mullet. And he certainly didn’t know the word.
They then had to explain to him that his haircut had a name, had been popular before, and lots of famous people have had one.
David Bowie, David Spade, David Hasselhoff — a lot of Davids really, but certainly not exclusively. Oklahoma State University football coach Mike Gundy rocked one, as did virtually every professional hockey player at one point in time.
While some areas of the world have never let go of the style — GQ magazine credited the coronavirus with playing a part in bringing it back.
“As a trend, this has been bubbling around for a while now,” said barber and founder of Joe & Co., Joe Mills. “Through the first lockdown, we all became obsessed with Netflix’s ‘Tiger King.’”
Part of what made Joe Exotic so exotic was that mullet, right?
Combine that with the shutdown of salons and barbershops and the influx of 80s and 90s style, the mullet was roaring for a comeback.
“I love that he came up with this hairstyle on his own,” Emmett’s mom said. “He had never seen a mullet. He wasn’t trying to be like anyone other than Emmett. In his mind, he invented this haircut.
“We don’t think of the mullet as the mullet. We think of it as Emmett’s haircut. We love that Emmett rocks a mullet. It made him happy then and it makes him happy now.”
Abby was just scrolling through Google one day recently — picture after picture of kids with mullets — and “I saw a picture of the winner of last year’s contest.”
That contest: USA Mullet Championship, youth division.
“I had no idea this type of contest existed,” she said. “I showed it to Emmett — who was now on year two of his mullet — and told him what the contest was.”
Emmett promptly announced he wanted to enter the contest and win.
Almost 700 participants entered the youth division of the championship at the beginning of the summer. The competition has been trimmed to Emmett and 24 other mullets.
The competition is stiff.
“There are some good mullets!” she said. “It’s going to be tough for sure. We think that Emmett’s mullet really sticks out though with how his top is cut. We also have Vass Barbershop and Subzero Siren Photography to thank and no one else has them.”
Voting is tentatively set for Aug. 15-19, with people allowed one vote per day per email address. Voting is through mulletchamp.com.
Rebels and Emmetts, Unite
The mullet works for anyone with a little pep in their step. All colors, all generations, men and women.
Other notable mullets throughout time: Benjamin Franklin, Joan Jett, Prince, Rihanna, John Daly, and Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus. London-based “Hair Historian” Rachael Gibson described the cut to The New York Times as “a powerful statement of being an outsider.” Hairstylist Guido Palau concurred, calling the mullet’s intentions to be “a shock to society; You’d walk down the road with one and people would cross over to avoid you.”
Men’s Hairstyle Trends notes that “the mullet has some attitude, it’s not for the timid.”
Abby remembered when “we showed him pictures of Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton and Toby Keith with mullets.” Emmett immediately responded with, “Yes, that is my haircut.”
Like fellow mullet aficionados, Emmett has a bit of an individualistic streak. He shares that lots of his friends have asked “Why is your hair like that? Why is your hair long?”
His response, every time? “Because I like it like that.”
“Of course, some people do not like it,” Abby Miller says, “but Emmett does not care one bit.”
Asked about the best part about competing in the mullet championship, Emmett sums it right up: “I can show everyone my hair.”
His mother stifles a laugh.
“That’s what we love about him, not caring what anyone thinks and doing what makes him happy.”
Emmett’s current favorite mullet – aside from his own – is Cole Holcomb, linebacker for the Washington Commanders.
Some have suggested that Emmett looks like a young John Daly. That suits Emmett just fine. A big golf fan, he went to golf camp this summer with First Tee and wants to continue to play.
Mullets are hot in golf at the moment; the winner of the British Open two weeks ago, Australian Cameron Smith, rocks a mullet.
Just as there’s no hiding the tale — or tail — of a mullet, you can’t help but get noticed, which is exactly what happened to Emmett.
Last week, the Big D and Bubba Show, a nationally syndicated radio show airing six days a week on over 80 country music FM radio stations, highlighted Emmett’s story, shared his photo and encouraged listeners to vote. The country music sister act Tigirlily has also been spreading the word to their fans.
Durham TV station WTVD ran a short piece about Emmett on Wednesday as well.
“I was so excited to hear my name on the radio and TV,” Emmett said.
Regardless of how things ultimately end up, “We absolutely have loved it,” Abby said. “It’s totally Emmett. I will be shocked when and if he decides to chop it all off.
“Strangers have come up to us and shared that the mullet is coming back or how they really like his mullet. People have said they wish they could have a mullet like him.
“Friends have been so supportive in sharing and getting the word out. They love that Emmett has just embraced his own style.”
Fame, of course, entails a bit of giving back, too. Emmett decided to be a generous mullet wearer with his attention.
“He found out that some children lose their hair and we told him about Wigs for Kids,” his mother said.
“He thought about it for a little bit and said IF he ever gets his cut, he wants to donate his hair to them.”
Abby laughs thinking about the questions they had been asked, “What even is your typical mullet family? Well, for the record, I will not rock a mullet. My husband says that he will not either. This is all Emmett, all on his own.”
Abby did add that Emmett’s grandpa ‘Pap’ “admitted to him that he had a mullet back in the day, so he has been trying to grow one again – to keep up with Emmett.”
It’s business now; party in the back later. Emmett doesn’t need to mullet over; he is ready.
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