In the mid-1980s, Mark Wilwerding grew his hair into a mullet.
He was single then, in his mid-20s. He wore jeans and T-shirts and drove a Pontiac Trans Am. The mullet — popularized in no small part by Bono's flowing, feathered version — completed the look.
“Back then, it was real popular,” Mark said.
When he married his wife, Andria, nearly 22 years ago, he still had the mullet. He kept it through the births of their three children, the youngest of whom is now 10. He kept it as mullets first became passé and then were mocked and outright ridiculed.
As the years passed, Andria encouraged him — gently at first and then more persistently — to cut his hair. About a year ago, their 12-year-old daughter, Taylor, joined in the chorus.
It wasn't that Mark, now 51, didn't want to cut his hair. He knew the mullet had fallen from favor. He just couldn't quite envision the change.
“I liked it,” he said. “Even though the times changed, I got comfortable, and I didn't change.”
He had long since given up the Trans Am, but he had started pairing his mullet with a wardrobe made up mostly of camouflage. It seemed practical, said Mark, who likes to hunt, fish and hike. He lives in the country not far from Fort Calhoun. He didn't think he needed to cut his hair or venture beyond camo.
Andria disagreed. She had begun to fear that she would never see her husband without that hairstyle. So she took matters into her own hands.
One day, as she searched the Web for recipes, she noticed that the Rachael Ray talk show was seeking participants for a male makeover episode. Andria immediately sent an email nominating Mark.
She heard back from a producer not long after, and Mark, his mullet and his camouflage wardrobe were officially in the running.
As Mark advanced through several rounds of casting, Andria didn't tell Mark about what she had done — though she did discourage him from getting a trim when he mentioned he needed one. (Andria knew that Rachael wanted the mullet extra shaggy.)
Finally, when Mark insisted on cutting his hair, Andria told him that he had been selected for the show.
Mark was surprised. But he also was game.
Three weeks ago, they flew to New York and Mark bid his 11-inch mullet goodbye on the show, taped for national television and airing today at 9 a.m. on KETV in Omaha.
After the fateful cut, he was met with a mullet-free reflection for the first time in nearly three decades.
“I thought I looked great,” he said.
He went home with new hair, a new outfit and a new appreciation for noncamouflage attire, though he couldn't yet tell anyone where it all came from.
Co-workers at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, where Mark is a radiation tech, didn't recognize him. Andria couldn't find him for lunch one day, even though he was standing just feet away. Since filming the episode, he has bought new button-down shirts and sports coats, replacing half his wardrobe.
“I like getting dressed up,” he said.
And for the first time in years — and maybe ever — his wife and daughter have only compliments for his hair.
“He looks wonderful,” Andria said.
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