This has got to be the rock-bottom of smirking, sneering American irony, the absolute plinth—a 128-page book devoted entirely to heaping mock-scholarly abuse on the most ridiculed hairstyle ever. You know the one: the ape drape, the schlong, the Kentucky waterfall, the mud flap, the sphinx. All names for the short in front, long in back hairstyle best exemplified by the coifs of Billy Ray Cyrus or preshorn, blue-eyed, weak tit soul brother Michael Bolton.
Granted, it is a timelessly bad look for male or female. And yes, authors Mark Larson and Barney Hoskyns do go to town on the history, the mystery, the design and the complete taxonomy of the mullet and all its subcultural subspecies. But Jesus, who the hell cares? Have we as a nation really become so intellectually impoverished that we’ll shell out, like, what, 15 bucks just to read about a single, very specific kind of hairstyle? The fact that people will actually buy this and read it and leave it lying around on their coffee tables for their thrift-store-haunting, gas-station-jacket-wearing hipster friends to snirtle at makes me want to blind myself with a fork in protest.
It might be a little more tolerable if the Beastie Boys fanzine Grande Royale hadn’t already beaten them to the punch by several years. It might be a bit fairer to all if the authors had had the cojones to put their own photos in the book somewhere—so that somewhere in the not-too-distant future we’d be able to examine their current tonsures under the same microscope of severely amplified high school yearbook horror that imparts its tone to this waste of trees. My money’s on some slicked-out hipster five-point cut that’ll look just as dumb in five years as that other classic ’80s accessory—braided rattails on men—look to us now. Either that or they both suffer from male pattern baldness and are venting their anger on men who can still grow their own salads but choose to squander this gift on hairstyles deemed unacceptable by the tastemakers who get to decide this kind of thing. Tastemakers like Larson and Hoskyns—so smitten with their own cleverness, writing about hair with such assaultive brilliance. What’s next? An exhaustive Lacanian analysis of “Gilligan’s Island”? The sexual colonialism of “I Dream of Jeannie”? Eat my shorts.