The thing you need to know about Darius P. Nabors is that he commits to a bit.

In high school, for example, he and a friend decided to dress like Harry and Lloyd from Dumb & Dumber (the tuxedos, the canes, the ruffled shirts) for prom. Except his date wanted no part of the joke. Rather than back down, Nabors went stag.

At the University of Virginia, the preppy Southern brothers in Nabors’ fraternity poked fun at his Colorado origins by labeling him the “Most Likely to Wear a Wolf Shirt.” (As in, a shirt emblazoned with an image of the woodland creature, not one made of fur.) Nabors started buying up all the lupine shirts he could find, wearing most of them and gifting some to others. When he gave a TedX Talk in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2013, a light-purple wolf shirt featured prominently.

“If you embrace it,” Nabors says, “then it kind of steals their ability to make fun of you.” For Nabors, self-skewering is the best defense—which is how he came to grow the most magnificent mullet in all of Colorado.

See, in the spring of this year, Nabors broke up with a woman he’d been dating for a while. They couldn’t agree on kids, where they wanted to live, or religion, and while Nabors felt like he’d been flexible, his girlfriend, he says, would not relent on the issues dividing them. The relationship ended.

Maybe as an epitaph, Nabors decided to get a haircut that trumpeted his newfound flexibility, and the mullet, famously, is prepared for any occasion: business in the front and a party in the back. Nabors had been growing his hair out since the spring of 2019, so a trim off the top and a shear on the sides left him with a glorious footlong flow.

Nabors kept the hairstyle around because his 15-year college reunion was coming up, and he knew that most attendees would dress to impress even if their lives were in disarray. His mullet, then, would serve as a metaphor for pandemic-era angst. “In the front, everybody looks a certain way, and they’re pretending like everything’s OK,” Nabors says. “But behind the scenes it’s a wild mess. That’s kind of what the mullet is, right?”

Then in August, his employer, a Louisville–based software company, held its first in-person meeting since Nabors joined the staff. His co-workers only knew him from video calls, during which he’d always tied his mullet back. Wouldn’t it be funny if, when they met for the first time in the flesh, he let his flow go? So he did. “It’s one of those things where you can see the conflict in their eyes,” Nabors says. “Because they don’t want to tell you that they don’t think it’s cool, but you can tell that they don’t think it’s cool.”

Nabors was going to cut his hair after the company meeting, but then a buddy texted him about a mullet competition at the Colorado State Fair & Rodeo in late August.

In 2020, the owner of a men’s clothing store in Fenton, Michigan, created the USA Mullet Championships as a marketing stunt. Local success led to a nationwide expansion, and this year, the contest attracted more than 500 entries. To winnow down the participants to the final 25 (aka the “Mane Event”), judges selected five finalists, online voters picked 14 more, and live trials—including one held at the Colorado State Fair—decided the final five.

At Pueblo, contestants were judged on four factors: the walkout, the turn, a speech about the importance of the mullet lifestyle, and, finally, the shake. Nabors shored up his sides in preparation, shaved his beard into a Joe Dirt–tribute goatee (he asked David Spade to be his mullet mentor, but never heard back), and prepared his remarks. When he finished his speech (about the self-confidence that a mullet imparts in its host), Nabors heard a judge say, “Holy s—, that was actually really good.” Nabors won, earning $500 and a pair of Pit Viper sunglasses (they look exactly like you’d hope they would) for his trouble.

The national championship will be decided by an online vote, which ends today. Nabors understands that his mullet, which he’s dubbed the Colorado Hair Avalanche, faces stiff competition; some contestants have produced high-quality campaign videos featuring powerful mullet propaganda, such as motorcycles and American flags. Nabors told his prom story (he’d also grown a mullet to go along with the Dumb & Dumber tuxedos).

Whether he wins or not, Nabors says his mullet will not see Thanksgiving. He’s planning to chop his locks into different famous mullets from history (Billy Ray Cyrus, Andre Agassi, the Tiger King), before finally buzzing his scalp after Halloween.

Nabors’ mullet has served its purpose. “The pandemic wasn’t necessarily the best time. I had some family and dating stuff going on that also wasn’t great,” Nabors says. “I think when you have really stressful things going on, it’s kind of hard to remind yourself to laugh on a daily basis and to, you know, just have a good time. And for me, I could just put my hair down and walk down the street and somebody would laugh and the cost to me was nothing.”