Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mullet versus Beards

When I published yesterday's post about facial hair, I was completely unaware of the recent news about a conflict within Ohio's Amish community.  Sam Mullet, leader of a compound that has broken away from the mainstream Amish in the area, doesn't like the fact that some people call his group a "cult."  Although he has made a few enemies recently, he and his followers have come up with a sinister method of instilling fear in those who dishonor Mullet: cutting off their beards.  Amish men consider their beards not only an important sign of their manhood, but also a sacred duty based in the Biblical mandate not to trim the beard (see references to Leviticus 19 and 21 in my previous post).  So cutting off the trademark Amish chinstrap - with electric shears, no less - is a vicious and emasculating thing to do to your fellow Amish, much like the Ammonites did to King David's servants (again, see yesterday's post, reference to 2 Samuel).  It's interesting to think about how something like facial hair has played a strong cultural role throughout history; but when I hear stories like this one, not far from home, I'm reminded of how interesting cultural studies can be in the present day.

Though the Amish are known for their pacifism,
their look might rank among the scariest this Halloween.

I don't mean to make light of what's going on in Ohio.  I have a lot of respect for the Amish lifestyle, and I despise violence, no matter who it happens to.  But I just have to say something about the fact that the man at the center of this controversy is named Mullet.  I heard this story on the radio while driving to work last night, and I actually laughed out loud.  The "mullet," for those who don't know, is a hairstyle that has come and gone over the years, and it's one of those fashion phenomena that have never made much sense to me (although I sorta had one in 7th grade, for a few weeks).  Don't worry, I'm not going to go into the history of the mullet now, but I do have to share one interesting couple of facts I just came across. Last year, the mullet was one of a few styles on a list of forbidden hairstyles in Iran, an attempt to remove "decadent Western cuts" from society.  Aside from the puzzling choice of what's acceptable, including hair gel and the previously-forbidden goatee, what I find most amusing about this mullet ban in Iran is that the earliest historical recording of the mullet (that I've found, anyway) is a 6th-century Byzantine historian's reference to this style being typical among a nomadic Iranian tribe called the Massagettae, later known as the Huns.  So the Iranian government, in an attempt to reject evil Western influence, has officially banned the famous style that may have first appeared right there in Iran.  Irany?

Rumors are spreading that Bono will
bring back his '80s look in an effort
to restore fashion rights in Iran.

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