We are showing you the Australian version of our site: would you prefer a different location?
The Ironic Curtain
I’ve always had a problem with ironic adulation. I personally wanted to look cool because I either looked like I didn’t give a shit, or because I just simply looked cool. In my opinion, ironic fashions try too hard and are a terribly fine line to walk. As such, I have never been one to admire the ‘Euro-Mullet’ that seems, amongst cyclists, to have developed a status well beyond the sum of its parts over the past years.
Getting a haircut right in professional cycling can be a tricky thing to do. There is nothing more uninteresting than a crew cut, revealing a forehead streaked with tan lines from the vents in a helmet. Yet, thanks to the insistence that pro-riders have to always wear helmets, anything more than an inch or so of hair becomes a difficult proposition to manage. Maybe this could be the reason that the mullet has had such a strong following amongst bike riders? The fact that the only space left to express oneself isn’t on top, but out the back of the lid.
Trends catch on quickly amongst bike riders. Even when the top pros started to bleach their hair in a bid to disguise the clues to the illegal substances that could show up when their hair was tested, it caught on and juniors were seen prancing about thinking they looked pro, but were actually alluding to being loaded on growth hormones. Whatever the reason, there can be no denying the mullet’s existence in the cycling world.
From the way I see it though, the mullet has managed to perpetuate itself by being strikingly crap. The mullet was the preserve of second division footballers and Bono in the mid-eighties. It’s a horrible thing that doesn’t really know what kind of haircut it actually wants to be, long or short – make you’re damn mind up.
I do have to admit that in primary school (the good old 88-89 season) I sported a particularly lengthy mullet. However, I can forgive myself for that childish error as I was nine and simply years behind the times. I didn’t have a clue.
By the time I had a mullet it had come and gone along with Peter Beardsley (see Newcastle Utd. circa 1985) and the New Romantics (see Duran Duran circa anytime). Yet it somehow got transported across the ravages of time and mother Russia to the bedrooms of the future athletes of the former eastern bloc. It also, by the looks of things, took a fair amount of time to do some sightseeing in Belgium and parts of Germany on the way.
The migration of the mullet wasn’t a bad thing; fashions, like movie stars doing promo, have a way of treading their way around the globe saying the very same things. Yet at the crucial moment where it should have laid down like a tired dog and died, eastern Europeans suddenly gained the freedom to race professionally in a post-mullet world. The Mullet came bounding back to us with its long locks flowing in the wake of the fallen Berlin wall. Ekimov, Bolts, Zabel: Great riders with perplexingly bad haircuts.
Up until this point (in my mind) nothing bad had yet happened. There was nothing wrong with these guys turning up and kicking backsides with dated haircuts, as to them, after all, they weren’t dated. The lines were drawn and things were clear.
But what came next has made an ugly mess for all of us, and will last for who knows how long: Irony. Clever guys who should have known better started to get mullets for the sake of being cool by being ironic. They knew better, and that gave them the right to wear the mullet, it was post-modern, it was euro; it was cool. Or so they thought.
The trouble is though that once that happened you couldn’t tell who meant it and who didn’t. It was pretty easy to spot that some of the Aussies that were quick to adopt their interpretation of the mullet were doing so with tounges firmly in cheek, as it was a fairly tame affair, little more than a bit of dirty length at the back, but it didn’t really have the length to prove itself as a real mullet. And yet there are some fairly remote outposts in the outback – who’s to say that they weren’t just in admiration of Shane Sutton in his bananas Banana days?
Then there are the Belgians. Are they the suave, culturally alert, Hercule Poirot types that host the centre of the European union? Or are they the Eurodisco tracksuit types, as obliviously lost in a time warp as the goggle-eyed and toothless inhabitants of the bars that serve as the backdrop of Kermesse racing. You just can’t tell.
What about the eastern Europeans themselves? They, to be fair, have never really budged from the mullet as the de-rigeur choice of the bike rider. However, are they still sporting their cuts from the first time around? Could they be doing it as a proud display of their cycling heritage? Or are they themselves now doing this in an ironic manner? Most of them do come through the highly discerning Italian amateur system – where looks come a very close second in the importance stakes to managing not to eat for an entire season.
I think that Scott McGrory (Australian cycling coach and commentator) put it best (he often does) when he pulled our mate Mitch Docker aside after his first year as a pro with Skil-Shimano. Mitch rode his first year in the big time with one of the largest and most impressive thick blond mullets I have ever seen this side of Sergei Ouchakov. I’ve known Mitch for a few years, and he is just one of those guys who is cool. He’s a true Melburnian, and so far out there I sometimes wonder if he can even see the rest of us from where he sits. There is no doubt that Mitch is cool, and he managed to pull off the mullet spectacularly, albeit knowingly with that ironic twist.
Scott’s advice though was, “Mate, I know you think it’s funny, and that you look cool now. But in ten years no one is going to know if you are joking or not. I mean Brochard might have been having a right old laugh, but we all think he’s just an idiot”.
Even though I can’t deny Mitch looked cool in his headband because I know him well, I have to agree with Scott on this one. What is more, by making the awful hairdo look cool, Mitch too was contributing to the mullet potentially lasting, ironically or not, for yet another generation of bike riders.
I say make it stop. Unless you really honestly do like your front short and your back way out there… In which case, I give up.
- @flammecast @AaronBuggle His Shrone is fine !!!
- Big thanks to all marshals,coms and medical staff on the @anpostras today. Great work despite the numerous demands on their services today.
- Just to let all his girl fans know @AaronBuggle is ok. He's in hospital and will need some surgery on a cut to his chin. Will update later.
- We've just added 13 new rides since the weekend to our Rapha #womens100 Find a Ride list. → http://t.co/ux8c1JCuQc
- The team also racing the Ras in Ireland this week. Currently Aaron Buggle is the team's top placed rider in 15th overall.
- Tour Series resumes tonight in Stoke on Trent. RCJ line up is House, Clancy, McCallum, English and Mellor.
- Arboretum → http://t.co/cJXOyDWnK0 #raphasurvey #sanfrancisco #sf #cycling
- There are still a few of these sweet Rapha + Raeburn jackets at the SF @raphacycleclub. http://t.co/C2d98yCRL0
- The hills above. #raphasurvey http://t.co/jlIkXowxyT
- U23 winner in 2012 what's in store for @RichHandley90 in the @anpostras http://t.co/xyZWX3NbtG