LEWISVILLE, Texas – On the steps of a city hall just north of Dallas, Ginuwine’s “Pony” oozed from loudspeakers as 14 men tossed and pounded their mules in front of a panel of judges – and a crowd peppered with even more mules – hoping to make the final round of this year’s USA Mullet Championships.
To consider were tightly coiled mullet and beach wave mullet, invasive mullet and shoulder blade cascading mullet. Some were uncombed, while others were glistening with product and sweat. One mule was grizzled, and two featured the shape of Texas shaved on one side and the American flag on the other.
Of the 14 mules, who were chosen from an initial field of 30 applicants, one would join a group of 25 that includes some of the lushest, wackiest and most extravagant mules in the country. Some in the Top 25 progressed from other live competitions in places like Pueblo, Colorado; Buffalo, New York; and Indianapolis. Others won online votes or were selected as finalists by special guest judges, including retired NFL defensive end Jared Allen and comedian Theo Von, a former contestant on MTV’s “Road Rules.” .
A champion mullet will be crowned in an online vote that will end on Tuesday. The winning hairstyle will represent the best of approximately 600 mules in total in this year’s competition, which was free; hopefuls had only to provide whims. In addition to bragging rights, the winner will receive prizes including $2,500 and a pair of sunglasses from Pit Viper, a contest sponsor.
But according to competitors in the Lewisville qualifying event on Sept. 23, there is loot beyond money and loot.
For Roger Robinson, 56, a semi-retired farmer from Joaquin, Texas, winning would prove he was right all along when he decided to start farming his oldest mule in the Lewisville contest. “I’ve had this majestic beauty for over 15 years,” he told the cheering crowd. “I’m proud of my mullet,” added Robinson, who only answered a reporter’s questions when speaking to Roger the Great.
And after some contestants talked about so-called baby mullets, or new iterations of the hairstyle, a win for 34-year-old Josh Lindsey would suggest it’s never too late to cultivate one: at 3, her overflowing curly reddish mullet looks more like a toddler’s. “It takes time and it takes courage to grow it,” said Lindsey, a repairman at a credit union who lives in Springtown, Texas.
A gadget that grew
The USA Mullet Championships started like some mules: like a gimmick. But like many mules, once the event took hold, it grew.
Kevin Begola, 42, who lives in Linden, Michigan, started the championships in 2020 as a statewide competition to promote his menswear store, Bridge Street Exchange, in Fenton, Michigan. The first competition, held at a beer hall in July, cost him “a few thousand dollars” to organize, he said.
“It was a question of marketing for my business,” Begola said in a phone interview, during which he made a point of clarifying, “I’m bald.”
To his surprise, a production company asked to cover the 2020 contest, which later aired on ESPN2.
In 2021, Begola reconstituted the competition as a national online competition with categories for women, teens and children. For that year’s championships, he also entered into sponsorship deals with Pit Viper and Manscaped, a grooming company.
As the event grew, requests to see the mules in person also increased. This year, Begola has partnered with Major League Eating, an organization that runs eating contests across the country, to host events such as the one in Lewisville as part of the competition. He and Major League Eating covered the cost of live events and shared the profits from deals made with their sponsors.
Mullet Championships are for a group of people who view mullets not just as a hairstyle, but as a lifestyle, a sentiment mentioned by several competitors in Lewisville. (The two words they used most often to describe this lifestyle: “America” and “beer.”) Defending USA Mullet champion Clint Duncan, a 37-year-old pipefitter from Knoxville, Tennessee, put it like this: “Once you get that mule, it’s just a symbol that you’re carefree. You don’t care what people think.
“You never see someone with a mullet that’s grumpy,” he added.
“Pretty bright red mullets”
Although many of the contestants had been lingering for hours in the burning shadow of City Hall, when they were called to the stage by Qualifying Event host Sam Barclay, a handful were nowhere to be found, including the first mule scheduled to appear, which belonged to Danny Earl Perkins.
Perkins, 31, of Marion, Texas, calls his fluffy mullet the DEW, which stands for Danny Earl Way. He came on stage two minutes after the start of the competition and wanted to walk while smoking a cigarette. But Barclay stopped him before he got on stage.
Smoking wasn’t the only thing prohibited during the competition. Political statements were also discouraged – Dusty Walden, a 37-year-old diesel mechanic from Everman, Texas, was asked to hide a flag with the right-wing slogan ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ in his child’s stroller before riding on stage – and organizers warned contestants against gesturing towards their crotch and other lewd behavior.
“They gave us really good instructions,” said Lindsey, the contestant with the 3-year-old mullet, who on one ankle has a tattoo that reads “Don’t Tread on Me.” “I probably failed them all,” he added with a smile.
As each contestant took the stage, they gave a short speech about what their mule means to them. “My mullet has brought me as close as possible to the life of a hot chick,” Chris Kisling of Poway, Calif., told the crowd. Kisling, 44, a general contractor’s superintendent, also bragged that his mullet – a bunch of long, thick pleats that fell over his shoulders – got him backstage at a concert by country musician Joe Nicholas.
After the contestants finished their speeches, the group tossed and twirled their hair on “Pony” to demonstrate the flow of their mules for the judges and the audience of a few hundred, which included real baby mules or young children. with the hairstyle. The last part of the competition was a group mullet shake.
Less than an hour into the competition, the judges were ready to announce their decision. By then the sun had begun to set and Robinson, or Roger the Great, was throwing glow sticks into the crowd.
Despite his attempt at political showboating, Walden took third place.
Second place goes to Robinson and his 15-year-old mule.
And in first place: Lindsey, who didn’t expect her young mullet to outshine her more seasoned competitors. Arriving at the event, he said he thought, “Well, I definitely don’t have a chance because all these guys had some pretty bright mules.” To beat them, he added, “I had to kind of go crazier on stage.”
But as she won, Lindsey began to recognize the majesty the judges saw in her mullet. “I have this red hair,” he said, “and I guess I maybe take care of mine a little better.”
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