When I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, I was shocked to see that I've grown a mullet.

When I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, I was shocked to see that I've grown a mullet.

I have no idea how this happened.

Much has been made of my increasingly shaggy hair of late. Normally, I keep this sad brown mop hacked down to a respectable eighth of an inch.

Friends and co-workers criticized the buzz, saying it made me look menacing. I've endured my share of neo-Nazi comparisons while on assignment.

But any look — yes, including being likened to a neo-Nazi psycho — is better than this.

My hair issues go way back. As a kid my parents, who never seemed to care a smidge about how I looked, took me to a family friend for my bimonthly haircut.

This friend, God bless her, must've figured that someday I might make a fitting stunt double for Mark Hamill, because she always managed to sculpt my locks into his unfortunate bowl cut, circa "Return of the Jedi."

That's not to say I didn't strive for style. In fifth grade I succumbed to brutal pre-teen social pressures and donned what was called a "spike."

To achieve the "spike" one had to chop the hair at the top of the scalp down to half an inch, apply a generous palmful of goop and then comb so that the entire mess stood on end.

I once ran out of goop and had to use Suave hairspray I found under the bathroom sink. I am man enough to admit this to you now, after many years have gone by.

Remnants of the "spike" still exist in trailer parks across this great land, usually accented by West Coast Choppers T-shirts and bright red Kool-Aid stains around the mouth.

In high school I fancied myself a rebel of sorts, my inner soundtrack provided by The Ramones, Megadeth, but most of all, Nirvana.

Like Kurt Cobain, I took to wearing worn flannel shirts and grew my hair so that it hung grunge-like down into my face, you know, to hide my disaffected, angst-filled eyes.

Shortly after Kurt ate the business end of that shotgun, it became uncool to ape his haircut. Faced with the possibility of regresses to my Jedi days, I decided to shave off the whole mess.

I haven't looked back since. Until recently.

According to the classifications listed on www.mulletsgalore.com I sport the tried-and-true Classicmullet. The Web masters suggest I buy a digital watch, a tight mesh tank top and drive around blasting the Steve Miller Band from my car.

I'm not sure why I let it go these last few months. Could I be protesting something? Always a possibility.

I could be angry that the Chicago Bears insist on trotting Rex Grossman out to lead my football team. Or that the Cubs are considering selling naming rights to Wrigley Field.

I may even be miffed that "Norbit" was nominated for an Academy Award and the brilliant "Zodiac" was shut out.

It truly hit me that what has sprung from the deepest depths of my scalp is indeed a mullet this past Saturday while walking in downtown Ashland, my mulleted shadow cast before me. I saw the ends there on the sidewalk, curled up three inches below my ears. They were dancing in the chill evening breeze.

Since then I've been haunted by the Shadow of the Mullet.

I don't feel bad, though. Considering what passes for style nowadays, I'll keep the mullet, thank you very much.

These are tough times for men's haircuts. How many fauxhawks did you see this weekend at the Kat Wok or Ground Zero? Twelve? Fifteen?

To me, the fauxhawk is the logical end pointing to the commodification of punk rock sensibility. Fauxhawkers are kinda rebellious, but not too much. Don't want to make anyone too uncomfortable.

The last person I saw who could pull it off is Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. And you are no Siouxsie Sioux, Mr. Ground Zero/Kat Wok. There are not enough roofies in the world that could force me to bend to your ridiculous style.

The mullet does have its perks. For years I've endured a freezing back of the neck in the winter months. Not so, now. This thick cascade of hair provides a stiff barrier turning away Mother Nature's cruel breath.

So how long do I plan to keep the mullet? Every day I wake up and tell myself that I'm going to stop by Great Clips on my way to work and be done with it. But I don't.

Who knows how long I'll subject myself to the ruthless quips of my friends and co-workers?

It could always get worse. Soon I may have enough for a ponytail.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.