SALEM BARBERSHOP Few takers for a mullet, but many love the sign
The barber hears more people make jokes about the cut than ask for it.
SALEM -- Of all the haircuts Randy Bauman advertises on the front of his downtown Salem barbershop, it's the one hardly anyone wants that generates the most interest.
Beloved or ridiculed, depending on whose head it's on, mullet is a broad term to describe any haircut that's real short on the front, top and sides of the head, but long -- make that brazenly long -- in the back.
Considered by most mainstream stylists to be, in diplomatic terms, a decidedly country coiffure, the mullet's position in pop culture lore is driven by its impressive ability to prompt a reaction.
Even Bauman, 27, who opened his barbershop 18 months ago, has been surprised by the power of the mullet.
When he took over for a previous owner and had the new business name painted on the front windows, he went a step further and added the types of haircuts he offers in big block letters: caesers, fades, high and tight, flat-tops, ROTC, butches -- and the mullet.
The flat-top, Bauman said, is by far his most requested haircut, with the fade also popular.
But only the mullet has the power to stop traffic on Ellsworth Avenue.
"I've had people stop and roll down their windows and get their picture taken in front of that sign. I've had people put on a mullet wig and get their picture taken," he said. "I really wasn't thinking anything when I put it up there, but it's good advertising."
And yet, Bauman said, 95 percent of his customers don't want a mullet.
"But you can find a mullet here," he said. "There are mullets in Salem."
The main reasons people like to make fun of mullets, Bauman said, is because of its "redneck or hillbilly" reputation.
That, and how it looks.
"But the people who have mullets, they don't think that. They like them," he said.
The mullet has spawned dozens of nicknames, such as "Tennessee Waterfall," "Kentucky Tophat" and "Business in the front, party in the back." There's even a version for women -- the femullet.
And Bauman's customers never seem to tire of mullet jokes.
"It gets a lot of comments. I've had two kids run in here ahead of their Dad and say, 'He wants a mullet.' They wanted me to give him a mullet. And then I got him in the chair and asked if that's what he wanted. He said, 'Hell no!'
"I thought that was kind of funny."