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Joe Exotic
courtesy of Instagram/@joe_exotic

Unpacking the mystique and magnetism of Joe Exotic’s mullet

The problematic Tiger King’s mullet is hypnotic and powerful and will be the hairstyle of 2020

Hello all you cool cats and kittens.

If somehow you’ve managed to avoid watching Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness on Netflix, you’re in the minority. Kim Kardashian is tweeting about it, Cardi B knows Carole snuffed her hubby. Those watching have been swept up in a haze of pick-up trucks, explosives, sequins, tiger cubs, nipple piercings, mobile homes, attempted assassinations and mullets. Thank god for Americans.

The show which is half way murder-mystery meets a poorly put together circus act has caught the general public’s imagination for several reasons, but, most surprisingly for it’s fashion and beauty trends.

The main protagonist, Joe Exotic AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage, neé Schreibvogel, is a meth-loving, polyamorous gay man who also once ran for Governor of Oklahoma, and President of the Unites States of America (weirder things have happened, evidently).  It goes without saying that Joe is a problematic character and his rise to fame (whilst incarcerated) is murky. His mistreatment of animals is shocking, as is his ensnaring of husbands 1, 2 and 3. Despite his morally dubious actions his story is gaining attention– not least because it’s stranger than fiction.

Despite the controversy, Joe, who owns at least 10 fringed leather jackets, and several open-chested sequined shirts that would make Torville and Dean blush, is this year’s first cult beauty and fashion icon. 

Less than two months after one of his husband’s deaths, we meet Joe, preparing to go on a date in his extremely filthy bathroom. As he gazes lovingly into his cabinet mirror, he spruces his peroxide mullet. “Gotta get the curls out,” he says to himself, “they’re my sex appeal.” And – you know what? He’s not entirely wrong.

It would seem that Joe’s hair, that is essentially made up of  sex + rare animal musk + bleach, has blind-sided us all. We’re now unable to remember that Joe is probably a cult-leader, definitely a ratchet Zoo owner and kind-of-confirmed drug addict. In fact the gamine Joe is able to turn two hulking straight men, gay. As the credits roll on the final episode only one thing remains. Joe’s mullet. And, maybe the memory of the monkey nibbling the pizza as Jeff’s business partner drives. I digress. We should be remembering that Joe is probably a cult-leader, definitely a ratchet Zoo owner and kind-of-confirmed drug addict.

As Tiger King reached number one on the Netflix charts a meme was circulating on the internet. A mug-shot of the now imprisoned Exotic, with the sentence : “FaceTiming my hairdresser to ask how I fix the cut and colour I gave myself.” 

While for some Joe’s mullet is the unthinkable hair move, many hipsters have reclaimed the mullet in 2020. So oppositional is the mullet to ‘good taste’ and ‘normal life’ that it’s in fact enjoyed a renaissance of sorts. Shia Labeouf, Christine and The Queens, Barbie Ferraria and Miley Cyrus have all embraced the feathered crop. With the rise of rodeo fashion has come the made-to-match 80s beauty looks; bouffant hair, deep side partings, red lacquered lips and Wallmart-blue eyeshadow. What a time to be alive!

While Joe’s meteoric rise to cult stardom has been somewhat distracting and extremely entertaining, it’s important to state that we don’t condone his horrible treatment of animals and often people. His almost fictional lustre means it's all to easy to compartmentalise his own actions as fantasy, when of course they’re not.

We’re only appreciating the mullet. We’re not suggesting for a moment that you do this, but surely the timely appeal of Exioic’s do will be in part that most of us, if so desired, could achieve this look with a few bottles of a bleach and a pair of kitchen scissors? Don’t forget the curls though.