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What's with the Spanish mullet?

Por: | 14 de julio de 2014

  Spanish mullet

It's a question many foreigners new to Spain find themselves pondering: what's with the ubiquitous mullet?

For much of the world, this "business at the front, party at the back" hairdo has become a fondly remembered if often ridiculed relic of the 1980s.

But here in Spain, the mullet lives on in full, unapologetic glory. From spotty teenagers to middle-aged men, the mullet’s signature close-cropped front and sides and long back walks the streets of cities right across the country.

Turns out, it’s more than a hairstyle. It’s a way of life.

Like elsewhere around the planet, the ‘do was inspired by the heady 70s and 80s punk rock era that swept the US and UK. The fast, hard-edged music and political, antiestablishment lyrics found strong support in northern Spain, particularly among the politically engaged populace of the Basque Country, which had visibly and at times violently opposed the 36-year dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

As Spain transitioned to democracy in the late 1970s, the Basque separatists continued their aggressive push for independence, birthing the Kale Borroka or Urban Fight, a group of 16-25 year olds intent on taking back their country via urban guerrilla actions.

Many of these antiestablishment young nationalists proudly sported mullets. To some here, the hairdo is even known as the “Kale Borroka style”.

But why, more than 30 years on, is this odd cut still so popular and widespread across Spain? I turned to my 51-year-old flatmate for answers. His now-greying locks have been clipped into a mullet for the past 25 years, save for an “unhappy” five-year hiatus during which his employer forced him to lop off the party at the back.

“This is an expression of freedom,” he told me. “It means that you are your own boss, you’re not under the control of anyone. That’s the reason I dress in this way and wear my hair like this. It’s a way of saying: ‘This is me, this is who I am and I’m not going to be a sheep.’”

Spanish mullet
My flatmate's fabulous Spanish mullet / Photo: Koren Helbig

The style is often accompanied by a kind of uniform: plain jeans and dark-coloured t-shirts, maybe the odd tattoo or two. Some employers, my flatmate admitted, are reluctant to hire people who dress like this, knowing it can reflect a left-leaning counterculture intent on rebelling against the mainstream.

“Everybody was thinking the same under Franco, everybody was doing what the government wanted,” he said. “There was an order here but that order was black and white, it had no colour. Then democracy came but the mentality of the people was the same. This style became a way of saying: ‘I don’t agree with you.’”

Others, perhaps unkindly, insist these days the style is embraced by folk of the vulgar, aggressive or thug kind, known in Spain as “macarras” or “canis”.

There’s possibly a flamenco link, too, considering famed Spanish flamenco singer José Monge Cruz, better known by his stage name Camarón de la Isla, rocked a fabulously full-bodied mullet of curls until his death in 1992.

The mullet’s apparently popularity has even sparked sub-styles: always clipped close at the front, the longer locks behind can fly loose in the wind or be dreadlocked or plaited into little rats-tails for a more nonconformist, hippy look. I’ve even spotted the occasional gloriously over-bleached blonde mullet making its way through a crowd.

But not everyone is impressed by the style. Spanish online newspaper Público dryly noted in February that the cut “severs all traces of femininity” on women. The article quoted Basque hairdresser Ángel Círez as saying: “It’s a downright unflattering style, which suits almost no one, especially girls with very round features.”

Personally, I take an unhealthy delight in regular mullet sightings. Though I’m in no rush to crop my own locks and join the rebellion, I say viva el mullet and its fabulously entertaining indifference to style.


Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist, writer and blogger currently based in Alicante. She writes about Spanish life and culture for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. She hangs out on Google+ and on Twitter at @KorenHelbig.

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Mullets are still very popular in Barcelona among those involved in the anarchist movement: squatters (okupas.) The Barcelona neighborhood of Sants is one of the best places for mullet sightings.

I did notice this when I first visited Barcelona in 2003 but it seems to have all but disappeared today. Mullets were never associated with punk in the US, at least not in New York (nor in the UK as far as I can tell). I did see some Spanish punks sporting mullets though.

In NY mohawks were the way to go.

I usually read this blog in order to find how foreigners see us (Spaniards). And also trying to improve my written English (which I haven't achieved yet, as you see).
I always find the different articles quite interesting, and usually useful.
This is the first time I would describe the post as no interesting at all. Congratulations, you finally made it.

The only people i see with mullets in Spain are from the USA

I find this odd. Having lived in several countries, I would say Spain is one of the places where mullets are the least popular. As you mention, they are seen in the flamenco world, and among nationalists - but that is also the case among nationalists in Quebec, for instance. Otherwise, anyone sporting a mullet here is much more likely to be German or British than Spanish. And if you live on the Mediterranean coast, that likelihood grows exponentially. Are you asking everyone you see with a mullet where they are from?

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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