West Pottsgrove boy, 6, reaches national mullet contest finals
Once scorned as the scruffy haircut of good ol’ boys and hockey centers, the mullet is said to be making something of a comeback.
And who better to lead the resurgence of the coif famously described as “business in the front, party in the back,” than 6-year-old Rory Ehrlich of West Pottsgrove, Montgomery County, a finalist in the USA Mullet Championships, based in Michigan.
He’s currently number 25 out of an original 399 in the age 5 to 8 category. Final online voting will be next week, ending on Aug. 11.
Out of nowhere one day, Rory announced to his family that he wanted a mullet, according to his mom, Airen Ehrlich, 33, who works in the human resources department of a bio-pharmaceutical company.
“We’re not sure how it came about,” Ehrlich said Wednesday afternoon on the family’s 10-acre farm. “He has a mind of his own.”
He also has a laptop — safe-guarded by strict parental controls, of course — that allows him to watch baseball games (yes, the Phillies are his favorite).
“I notice lots of ballplayers have mullets,” Ehrlich said, perhaps aware that Phillies players such as John Kruk, Mitch Williams, and Austin Davis once adorned their heads in such a manner. “That could be it.”
When he was 5, Rory, now a rising first-grader at .West Pottsgrove Elementary School, marched into Sal’s Barbershop in Boyertown and asked barber Owen Thomas O’Conner for a mullet, straight up.
“He actually showed me a picture of a guy with a mullet,” O’Conner said. “At first, we did it spiky on top, with a good flow of his blond hair in back. Now, he’s into a flat-top.”
At an age when kids are squirming terrors in a barber chair, Rory was as chill as Rob Lowe, or Patrick Swayze, or Brad Pitt — all of whom have rocked mullets at one time or other.
“He’s one of my best-sitting clients,” said O’Conner, who judges a man by how straight he keeps his head when the scissors fly. “It’s hard to believe he’s so young.”
Asked why he’s into the mullet, Rory said in an interview Wednesday, “It keeps you comfy and warm. And when I play baseball, it blows in the wind when I run. It’s cool.”
After his first mullet cut, Rory told his mom and dad, Sean Ehrlich, 34, who does programming for a software company, that there was a mullet contest he wanted to enter.
“This is so odd,” Ehrlich said. “Again, I don’t know how he found out about it. I had to Google it. It turns out there is such a thing.”
That thing — the Mullet Championship — was started in 2020 by Kevin Begola, proprietor of a men’s shop in Fenton, Mich., called Bridge Street Exchange.
Inspired by beard contests he’d seen in years past, Begola thought it would be fun to judge mullets nationwide. Participants must raise money for Jared Allen’s Homes 4 Wounded Warriors, formed in 2009 by Allen, a former defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings (among other NFL teams). The nonprofit, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., builds and remodels accessible, mortgage-free homes for critically injured military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So far this year, the women, men, and children in the contest have raised around $100,000, some $1,000 of which comes from Rory, who solicited funds from family, friends, and neighbors.
Rory is hoping to win the $5,000 first prize, Ehrlich said. Selfless as he is au courant, Rory has pledged to use any winnings to buy his 7-year-old sister, Emmaline, an alpaca. “She wanted one for two years,” he said matter-of-factly.
Ehrlich said, “We’re trying to convince him to think of something for himself, but he’s just not coming up with anything.”
In addition to the prize money, Ehrlich added that she believes some participants also get sunglasses.
Of course they do, Begola said. Mullets and sunglasses are synchronous in style and attitude.
“Mullet is not just a haircut, but a lifestyle,” Begola said. “Most of our contestants are fun-loving people who don’t take life so seriously.”
Popular in the 1980s, the mullet suffered the haircut equivalent of an ostracizing exile, not seen again until very recently.
“Decades past have hosted debates on whether the mullet was stylish or laughable,” according to #beautyhair on Instagram. “But right now, mullets are cool again.”
Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Billie Eilish have all indulged, according to Glam.com. What could be more charismatic?
While he may not be cognizant of the nuances of mullet-wearing, Rory does know that people will be voting for him on mulletchamp.com.
“He gets home from camp each day and asks, ‘How many votes did I get today?’” Ehrlich said. “I’ve grown fond of the contest because it’s something he’s really invested in.
“Even if he doesn’t win, it’s valuable. I just love seeing how passionate it makes him.”