And so began the Menomonie, Wis., youth’s transformation into “Mullet Boy.”
Emmitt’s mane — blond hair kept short and spiky on the top, with long, curly locks flowing in the back — first turned heads among locals. Then it sent him soaring through the preliminary rounds of the 2022 Kid’s Mullet Championships, earning him viral fame and his new nickname. On Sunday, he was crowned the winner.
Asked how it felt to have the best kid’s mullet in America, Emmitt had only one word: “Awesome.”
The rising third-grader, who is also a fan of pro wrestling, fishing and sports (but not school) and dreams of being a racecar driver, was still on a high from his big win when he joined The Washington Post for a Zoom interview Tuesday. He appeared wearing his Pit Vipers — the wraparound neon sunglasses he donned in photos he submitted for the contest. He kept them on for the duration of the chat.
“They’re just a part of my look,” he said, giggling.
Emmitt’s look is “pretty amazing,” said Kevin Begola, the Fenton, Mich., man who founded the USA Mullet Championships. He thinks the “blond, blond” hair plus the shades helped the 8-year-old from Wisconsin beat out almost 700 other entrants.
Begola, the owner of a men’s store called Bridge Street Exchange, started the contest in 2020, believing the distinctive ’80s hairstyle was making a comeback. Alas, he doesn’t have one himself: “The funny thing is, I’m bald,” he said by phone from his shop.
He was inspired, he said, by others he’s seen sporting mullets.
“You think, ‘That guy over there, he’s been rocking a mullet for 20 or 30 years. Who is that guy?’ ” Begola said. “That’s one of those things you see in the wild and you’re like, ‘That takes commitment.’ ”
The contest had 130 entrants in the first year and quickly took on a life of its own, with categories for men, women, teens and kids. Hundreds of people vie for the title and the $2,500 prize, submitting front and side profile photos. Begola and others with mullet expertise — including a stylist who cuts them, a past winner and a man called the “Godfather of the Mullet” — narrow the pool and from there, it goes to an online vote.
The key, Begola said, is “you’ve got to be able to look at a picture and know they live the lifestyle.”
That’s true for Emmitt, according to his family. The oldest of two boys, he “definitely has his own style,” said his mom, Erin. The 8-year-old, who wrestles and plays football, hockey and baseball, “just doesn’t take a lot too seriously,” she said.
“He wouldn’t really care if someone said, like, ‘Why do you have your hair like that?’ ” she continued. “It’s what he likes and what he wants, making his own decisions. He doesn’t tend to let a lot bother him and get him down too much. I think that shows through in the mullet lifestyle.”
Emmitt made the judges’ cut and then emerged as a fan favorite — especially after a local news interview where he mugged for the camera in his shades. When the reporter asked if he would cut off his mullet after the contest, he grinned and asked, “Why would I do that?”
On Sunday, his family gathered to hear the results of the online vote. His parents had prepared him for the possibility he might not take the prize. When Emmitt was announced as the first-place winner, he said, “I jumped like 10 feet in the air.”
“I was hooting and hollering,” said his dad, Eric. “I just, I couldn’t believe he did it.”
Already, Emmitt has a plan for his cash prize: “Buy a go-kart,” he said. “Because I want to race.”
It’s been a whirlwind for the Bailey family since Emmitt’s victory. They’ve appeared on national television, often wearing the Pit Viper sunglasses, and fielded scores of interview requests. Eric said he’s gotten Facebook messages from people around the world. He’s also been approached about throwing out the first pitch at an upcoming baseball game.
Despite Emmitt’s celebrity, his dad joked, “He still has to do the dishes.”
“Oh my gosh, it’s been so crazy,” his mom said. “I never, ever would have expected to be talking to this many people about my 8-year-old’s haircut.”
Laughing, she added: “I guess I was wrong from the beginning.”