The mullet is perhaps one of the more controversial of hairstyles. In a low point of modern culture this hairstyle reached unprecedented popularity in the 80’s. However if you’ve braved the taunts and abuse feel proud in the fact that you are in a long line of people facing similar repression over the mullet.
In the medieval period the Gaelic Irish sported a hairstyle known as a cúlán (pronounced cool – awn). This was described in the 1297 parliament as having their “heads half shaved and grow their hair long at the back”. This parliament in Dublin banned Anglo Normans cutting their hair in this fashion describing it as “degenerate”. The Anglo Normans had no time for such hair cuts believing that long hair was a sign of femininity. As a result men in Anglo Norman society wore their hair short. Indeed at the time of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 they had clean shaven faces with a v shaped shaved into their hair from the crown of their heads to the their necks.
And the here’s the historical context………
The Normans were not fashion guru’s who thought the Gaelic Irish were out of fashion. The 1297 parliament was convened “to establish peace more firmly” and issued a range of edicts to try and establish some control over a land that increasingly lawless. They banned Anglo Normans dressing in native Irish dress or cutting their hair in this fashion in an effort to visibly distinguish and seperate the two groups. Incidentally they also introduced numerous other laws about limiting the power of the nobility to make war. Only three years early one of the most violent periods of the decade took place when John Fitzthomas kidnapped and imprisoned the Earl of Ulster Richard de Burgh. After this, as the Annals of Loch Ce describes, “all Erinn was thrown into a state of disturbance”. None of the measures worked and all mullet lovers out there will be delighted to know that the Norman nobility continued to become more “Irish than the Irish themselves” over the following century.
The 14th century is the subject of an upcoming book I am writing on the societal crisis Ireland faced in the 14th century when famine war and plague brought Ireland to the brink. You can read more about this here. The book will be released in 2013. To receive updates sign up on facebook or twitter or leave your email in the top right hand corner.