Friday, September 22, 2006

The Czech Republic is a fine place for mullet spotting. I’m not talking about smug, ironic mullets – what a stupid bloody idea anyway – or your painfully fashionable grown-out Hoxton fin, which upon closer inspection is merely a hideous re-hash of the 80s original, and in years to come is assuredly doomed to suffer the same incredulous derision. No, I’m talking about MULLETS. Big, fat, flapping, unreconstructed belters. We’ve got ’em to spare.

This isn’t to say that the Czech Republic is a particularly unfashionable country. It’s rightly noted for its highly presentable womenfolk, and the younger generation of males is now becoming fast drawn in to the cult of the metrosexual. Nevertheless here, unlike in the UK, the mullet remains immortal.

In dear old Albion I remember the mullet being deemed coiffure non grata way back in the summer of 1985 – anyone returning to school in September that year with one still attached was subjected to merciless ridicule. Only the truly gallant and foolhardy made it to October. A few footballers, possibly because they were too old for school, seemed impervious and continued to carry the torch for a few years. The proudest moment in my home town’s entire recent history, is in fact marked by a mullet – when our fearsome captain Brian “Killer” Kilcline, whose indomitable mulletude paralysed the Tottenham defence and forced the deciding own goal, lifted the FA Cup for the Sky Blues in 1987 with blond, poodle-permed locks cascading down his back and a humdinger of a moustache to boot. Them were the days. It couldn’t be sustained though, and when Chris Waddle, a losing finalist in the same encounter and English football’s longest serving mulleteer, cut off his plumage in an act of self-flagellation following his disastrous missed penalty in the 1990 World Cup, the mullet was officially pronounced extinct on our shores.

Not here! When I first arrived in this country in the mid 90s I could hardly believe my eyes. Gangs of mullets stalked the streets. Imagine my sense of cultural alienation when I found that in virtually every pub there were whole tables populated exclusively by them, holding heated debates in a language I couldn’t understand. Going to watch my local football team, Sigma Olomouc, I remember the days when almost every single player on the pitch sported one. Referred to here as the “carp”, thus remaining faithful to the piscine metaphor (quite naturally, as a landlocked country, opting for a freshwater variety), it hasn’t enjoyed quite such auspicious times since, and has beat something of a tactical retreat. Rarely seen these days in the trendy, cosmopolitan centre of Prague, driven back by the invasion of foreign influences and the aforementioned advent of the metrosexual, it has dug its trenches deep in the villages and urban housing estates, where it still enjoys widespread popular support.

Its natural habitat is either the village pub, or in the towns, the all night “Herna” bar – horrendous, smoke-filled dives full of cheesy, flashing-bleeping fruit machines and filthy graveyards for those desperate to carry on drinking. It surfaces in a variety of forms, but the Holy Grail is probably greasy rat tails at the back, tapering up to gelled spikes on top and for that extra touch of class the “reverse sideburn” effect, whereby a triangle is shaved off the temple to make a straight line connecting the top of the ear and the fringe. Important accessories include the quintessential beer gut and moustache, along with shell suit bottoms and chunky gold or silver chain worn over a T-shirt or even skin-tight polo neck for the true stalwarts. And it is this familiar combination of sportswear and jewellery, as well as the predilection for smoking and the basest forms of gambling, that is so revealing. Yes, mullets here are Chav Dads.

Just as their bastard offspring in the UK confounded us by reviving the grotesque 80s tracky botts phenomenon we thought we’d seen the back of when Acid House came along, the chavs’ Czech Dads (and who’s to say they aren’t their real dads?) continue to wage their guerrilla war against taste here. In spirit they are similar to, if a great deal less stylish than the old Teddy Boys, who, now pensioners, still slap on the brylcreem, or white haired ex-skinheads who stay true to the army crop. These fishy characters, for as long as they live, are unshakeable in their determination never to let us forget the golden age when Scorpions, Opus and Modern Talking topped the hit parade.

And a glance at those names provides a clue as to why we’re so uncomprehending and left out in the cold: It’s a Euro thing, you wouldn’t understand.


Post a Comment

<< Home