The OED defines mullet as ‘A hairstyle, worn esp. by men, in which the hair is cut short at the front and sides, and left long at the back.’ It was certainly popularized, if not coined, by the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, whose song ‘Mullet Head’ is the first known use of the term:
You wanna know what’s a mullet? Well I got a little story to tell About a hair style, that’s way of life.
1994 Beastie Boys Mullet Head (song)
It is often claimed that the term derives from mullet-head, a colloquial reference to a stupid person. But a 1995 article in Grand Royal, a magazine published by the Beastie Boys, proposes several other, largely humorous origins, including a relationship with the mullet fish.
Can you help find an earlier example of mullet? Or any proof that it truly was coined by the Beasties?
UPDATE (21 February 2018): During the course of this appeal, images were posted online of what appears to be a January 1992 issue of the Australian periodical Street Machine Magazine containing an antedating of mullet in the phrase “mullet-haired teenager”. So far this issue has not been located, however, only a double issue for January-February 1992, which does not contain the antedating. You can see the images containing the word “mullet” on the Oxford Academic Tumblr page or learn more by listening to our podcast about the “mullet” mystery on the OUP blog. If you have any further information about this issue of Street Machine or can assist us in locating a physical copy, please tweet us @OED.
Posted by OED_Editor on 22 April 2013 13.30