Chop and change: a retro shaggy mullet will be the hairstyle for summer

In the three weeks since hair salons have reopened, Brixton Cowie says he has cut dozens of mullets. “Except none of my customers are coming in directly asking for a mullet. They don’t use that word, but they say they want it a bit long but a bit short, choppier, with more layers, and shaggier.”

It is left to Cowie to interpret the wants of his client base at Windle, a central London salon best known for classy but conservative haircuts rather than edgy, trendsetting ones. “What we’re ending up with is a cross between the 90s shag and the harder 80s mullet,” he says. The result? Cowie calls it the “shullet” – the cut the industry is predicting will be the biggest hair trend of the summer.

Just to be clear, this is not the long, unstructured slick currently being worn by Tony Blair and Paul Weller. The shullet demands more deliberate and layered snipping, and should make your hair look bouncy and wispy. Think Miley Cyrus in 2021 – a pixie-ish modern mullet – rather than her father Billy Ray Cyrus in 1991, sporting what came to be generously described as “business in front, party at the back”.

Rather than accessorising their mullets with pickup trucks and sleeveless vests, as per the cliche, contemporary shullet wearers are more likely to be women – of all ages – united by the post-lockdown urge for radical hair change.

“There’s no age limit on this style,” says Cowie, who debunks the fashion diktat that if someone is old enough to remember a trend the first time round, they can’t wear it when it comes back. “If the customer has the right attitude and style, who’s to say they can’t carry it off? Ultimately what we’re seeing a lot of at the moment is people being much braver – they want something fresh and they want something new.”

The sense of optimism for the summer is palpable on salon floors. Even George Northwood, master of the bob, has seen a change: customers are coming in looking to swerve that un-done Alexa Chung style he has made famous for what he calls “a shaggier, softer, blended mullet”. The vibe at Northwood’s salon is “a subtler version” of the shullet that he expects will translate more easily across the country. “A lot of people are coming in and saying ‘do what you want’ and I’m doing a hell of a lot of cuts that take that mid-length bob look that’s our signature, taking the corners off it so it’s longer at the back, and feathering it across down the front at the collarbone. Customers are wanting to cut off a lot of hair.”

“There’s definitely more confidence than we’ve seen in a long time,” agrees Luke Hersheson, whose salons have become a bellwether for major hair trends. His customers are fed up with their long, lockdown hair and are keen for something more experimental. Shullets, he confirms, are doing a roaring trade. “I think what makes this cut cooler and new and more wearable is when it’s worn with more of a natural texture.”

Hersheson helped popularise the perm on its comeback a couple of years ago, and believes the shullet is an extension of that look. “Hair that’s a bit curlier disguises the extremity of the shape,” he says, “so it goes less Pat Sharp, more Stevie Nicks.”

Unlike hemlines and lipstick sales, haircuts are rarely used to assess the health of the economy, but stylists across the country believe the easy, breezy shullet is reflecting a more buoyant national mood. On Pinterest searches for “wolf cut hair women” in April have risen by 75% since April 2020, while there have been 145% more searches for “wolf cut girl hair” in the same period.

On a midweek afternoon in Hackney, east London – arguably the national centre of fashionably awkward haircuts – the Blue Tit salon is busy with overgrown plants and overgrown hair. Stylist Ben Rossiter – proudly sporting a curly mullet – is keen to explain the shullet’s cultural and aesthetic appeal. “Rihanna made it sexy, Miley Cyrus made it mainstream, but to be honest, we’re getting a lot of people – a lot – bringing in pictures of Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett and Debbie Harry. People have had a lot of time looking at themselves on Zoom meetings in the last few months and this sense of feeling fed up and wanting adventure is being taken out on hair – in a good way.”

For those thinking the look might be a London fad, Hersheson points to the success of Sophia Hilton, owner of Not Another Salon, who specialises in rainbow-coloured shullets and teaches specialist online courses on how to properly cut the style. “Believe me,” she told her hundreds of thousands of followers last week, “shags and mullets are coming to your area – the small villages, the towns where things take a long time … listen to me: 100%. At the very least, the shag haircut is going to become your new long layers and sweepy fringe.”