Mullets and the U.S. Marine Corps share a few parallels: a great representation of America and exemplifying freedom wherever they go. Though Zachary Mills didn’t have a mullet during his four years in the Marine Corps, he and his righteous “Carolina Shrimp Tail” mullet are out to dominate the 2023 USA Mullet Championship.
Mills is in the championship’s final round, and he’s hoping to take home the big ‘W.’ The vote count stops Friday at midnight, which is when he will find out if he is the Big Cheese. The winner will take home the Mullet trophy, a grand prize of $10,000, and bragging rights for life.
It’s not just the top mop win, either. Mills is on a mission to raise $10,000 for former Minnesota Viking Jared Allen’s Homes For Wounded Warriors. It’s a non-profit that provides critically injured veterans with fully accessible and mortgage-free homes.
“I’ve heard of his organization before this competition, and it was real neat for me to see that Allen’s non-profit was going to be the focal point of donations for the competition,” Mills said. “That’s a real huge aspect for me for this competition and being able to support and give back however I can.”
Allen’s non-profit is the official recipient of the USA Mullet Championship fundraiser, with each contestant working to fundraise during the competition. Mills has raised $699 via 14 donations so far and is asking for help to reach his goal of $10,000.
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That’s not his only charitable contribution to society. After serving his country as a Marine, Mills started working as a Christian missionary for the non-profit The Navigators. He felt a calling towards a mission to help his fellow Marines.
“I disciple, mentor, lead, and train active duty Marines and sailors to grow in their spiritual walk,” Mills said. “So they are able to live and thrive and mature and grow mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
Mills grew up rocking the mullet. Though it was popular at the time, it eventually phased out — so did his mullet. He had the complete opposite hairstyle during his devil dog days, so naturally, he grew it out when he received his DD-214 in 2012. When his wife grew tired of the long hair, he cut it again.
But blood was in the water, and Mills was the shark. He had to have that mullet back someday.
“Then I just kind of stewed on the idea of having a mullet one day,” Mills said. “I was able to convince my wife that it would be a good idea in December of 2021, but she said I had to wait until after Christmas.”
The life of the Carolina Shrimp Tail mullet was left up to chance, giving it a 50/50 chance of survival on Ground Hog’s Day. If Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow and winter was coming to an end, Mills had to cut it. But as fate would have it, Phil didn’t show, and Mills continued cultivating his righteous mullet.
Mill’s wife, Nadia, wasn’t initially a big fan of the mullet’s return but has since become integral to the process as the chief mullet sculptor — a true artist. She’s also become the teacher, showing Mills how to care for his freedom-loving mane — everything from the right conditioner to combing techniques that prevent snarls from forming.
“So I’ve been taking this crash course on probably what a lot of girls grow up doing, and now I’m learning what it looks like to take care of long hair as an adult man,” Mills said.
Nadia is also the main photographer. With his mean green Marine silkies and style straight out of the 1980s, Mills dazzled the camera as he went dockside shrimping. When he isn’t wearing those beautiful plastic aviators, he stashes them away in his squallet — a taxidermied squirrel with a zipper-style pocket his friend gifted Mills on his birthday.
Mills’ long hair journey will come to an end Friday at midnight. Win or lose, he’s thankful for the experience and said he and his wife have enjoyed the bonding experience. Not only that, but Mills has enjoyed some of the mechanical advantages of a mullet.
“I actually think it’s probably one of the most practical haircuts ever devised. I have not had a sunburned neck in over two years,” Mills said, skipping past the obvious utility of the mullet’s business in the front/party in the back aesthetic. “So the reality is, it’s been a real neat haircut, real fun. I never thought I’d have long hair, but man, my hair is pretty long. It’s competing with my wife’s hair at this point.”
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