When small business owner Kevin Begole noticed an increase in mullet hairstyles at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he decided the best thing to do was feature them in a local competition.
Now, Begole oversees a nationwide contest that garners hundreds of nominations and features some of the smallest, fiercest mullets in the country. The U.S.A. Mullet Championships expanded to include "a kid's contest, across the whole country, just to keep things going," after seeing the success of the adult version.
"That really blew up," Begole noted. "We actually had to cap (the number of entries) at 500 kids, because we were getting hundreds of entries a day, and I couldn't imagine going through a contest with thousands of kids."
To enter the contest, a child only has to submit a front and side view of their mullet, along with a $10 fee. Half of that fee is donated to a charity. For the adult competition, the charity of choice is an organization that works to help veterans. For the children's, the money is going to a local pediatric hospital.
From there, the photos are uploaded to Facebook, where fans vote. The top 100 mullets — those with the most likes — go onto Begole and his panel of judges, who handpick "the 10 kids that we feel have awesome mullets."
"We obviously look for the whole 'business in the front, party in the rear,'" said Begole. "Within the mullet community, if you can look straight on at somebody and see their hair short in the front and not necessarily tell what's in the back ... And then when they turn their head and you see that long flow of hair, that's a solid mullet."
Begole and his panel also look at "overall length," preferring mullets that reach the shoulders or further, and pay serious attention to entrants who "live in that mullet lifestyle."
"A lot of the adults have had a mullet for 30, 40 years. They've been rocking that hairstyle forever. They live that mullet hairstyle," Begole said. "They're a little more carefree. They don't take things as serious. They know that obviously people laugh at their hair a little bit, but they love it. ... Some of these kids have had a mullet for four or five years already. If they're eight years old and they've had a mullet for four years, that's half their life and they definitely own it."
In addition to the panel voting, another 15 mullets are selected through fan voting, for a total of 25 top mullets. Out of these, a champion is crowned.
"We're trying to make it fun," said Begole, comparing the process to a cross between "American Idol" and a a sports competition. "The cool thing is it's cut through politics, it's cut through COVID. People love it and some of these kids are super empowered right now."
Begole said that in both the kids' and men's competitions, entire towns and cities have rallied behind their entrants. The top three winners receive a cash prize and a gift card package.
"Some of these kids, they're from really small towns, so they get here and it's a little bit of 15 minutes of fame," Begole said. "They really feel awesome ... It's fun. I stress that this is for fun. We're just trying to have a little bit of fun along the way, and mullets are kind of wild, so we're definitely enjoying it."
Despite his passion for the hairstyle, Begole himself is not rocking the iconic look.
"It's really bad," Begole said, laughing. "I'm bald."
Begole said that right now, he is trying to scale up the competition and plan some live events as the pandemic allows.
"It's definitely something that I see sticking around," Begole said. "Our plan is to make it bigger and better."
Voting ends October 11. To meet all 25 finalists and cast your vote, head here.