Decoder Ring

Mystery of the Mullet

The history of the mullet is weirder than you think.

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Episode Notes

A man with a mullet
Illustration by Benjamin Frisch.

Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

The mullet, the love-to-hate-it hairstyle, is as associated with the 1980’s as Ronald Reagan, junk bonds, and breakdancing. But in at least one major way, we are suffering from a collective case of false memory syndrome. In this episode we track the rise and fall of the mullet, and also the lexical quandary at its heart: Who named the mullet? We learn how David Bowie, hockey players, the Oxford English Dictionary, the Beastie Boys, a mysterious Reddit user named Topsmate, and a group called Annoy Club all played a part in the strange history of the mullet.

Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include proud mullet-wearer Lauren Wright, amateur mullet-sleuth Oskar Sigvardsson, writer, market researcher, and 1980’s hockey teenager John Warner, head of product for Oxford Languages Katherine Connor Martin, and novelist and Grand Royal contributor Warren Fahy.

Email: decoderring@slate.com

This episode was produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch.

About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

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