Your Guide To The Octopus Haircut, The Chic Shag-Mullet Hybrid

The edgy chop has taken TikTok by storm.

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Meet the octopus haircut, the mullet-shag crossover that's taking over TikTok.
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Shags and mullets are trendier than ever, but as the cuts grow out they transform into another look that’s rising in popularity — and it happens to have a very cute name despite its edgy aesthetic. The style in question? The octopus haircut.

The cut does indeed resemble an octopus, and celebrity hairstylist Cristina Boatman considers it a hybrid: “Think if a shag and mullet had a baby,” she tells Bustle. While the current version originated on TikTok (as plenty of buzzy beauty trends do), Boatman notes the octopus haircut is actually a retro style that’s been around for a long time. So you can chalk it up as another beauty trend TikTok has recycled and renamed, she says.

Dan Williams, hair artist at Hair & CO BKLYN, also points to TikTok as a primary source of inspo in the hair space. “TikTok is so big with hair trends right now — I have so many clients coming to me with screenshots of a TikTok they saw or showing TikTok videos to describe how they want their hair,” he tells Bustle. And seeing as the hashtags #octopushair, #octopuscut, and #octopushaircut total just over 55M views on the app, it’s clear the octopus haircut is well on its way to hairstyle stardom. Read on for expert tips on how to achieve the look on your own.

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What Is The Octopus Haircut?

Compared to the shag and mullet, Amy Abramite, creative director and stylist at Maxine Salon, tells Bustle the octopus has more weight carved out between the short and long layers. And that’s how it gets that octopus-like shape: “The top layers hug the head shape for roundness and taper in at the bottom to form a flipping movement, like tentacles,” she says.

According to hairstylist Jennifer Korab, the octopus tends to be longer in length than the mullet. Besides that, Blake Reed Evans, Global Redken Artist and owner of Shear Art Salon, notes that mullets often have the sides cut off completely (or cut shorter) and are noticeably longer in the back. “There’s also a lot of disconnection from the top layers to the length on the bottom in a mullet versus the octopus,” he tells Bustle.

The octopus cut is most similar to the wolf cut, a style commonly associated with alt-hair trendsetter Billie Eilish, though it differs ever so slightly. “The difference between a wolf cut and octopus cut is the octopus is heavy on the short top layers, creating a thinner longer length,” Boatman says. Surprisingly enough, she notes it’s quite similar to the ultra-layered “Rachel cut” of ’90s infamy (aka Jennifer Aniston’s ’do on Friends).

Though the octopus cut pulls from a handful of retro hairstyles, some stylists think it has the potential to actively replace them moving forward. More specifically, Williams believes that the octopus haircut will take over for traditional mullets, ultimately rising in popularity alongside shags. “Octopus cuts are super trendy because of their hybrid evolution,” he says. “They’re new and exciting with hints of nostalgia, which we all love.” Not only that, but the octopus is low-maintenance, which only adds to its appeal. “This cut pairs well with fringe and is an excellent style for people who do not like to do a lot of blow drying to their hair,” says Evans.

What To Know Before Getting An Octopus Cut

While the octopus cut works with all hair types and lengths, Evans notes that it’s best on straight to wavy strands. But stylists recommend that a professional should do the chopping as it requires lots of layering. “This haircut involves very short and heavy layers, making the length long and thin, almost like a disconnected shag,” Boatman explains. When you’re talking to your hairstylist, Abramite says to ask them to cut the top layers short and round to remove maximum weight. “This results in finer, slender layers below,” she continues. She and Williams also suggest achieving it with a combination of dry and wet cutting: Cut the main shape wet, then dry cut the remainder.

Octopus Haircut For Short Hair

Getty images/ Mike Coppola / Staff

If your hair’s on the shorter side, you can work with the octopus by plotting where your layers will land. “Make sure you have enough length to reach your cheeks to get a similar effect as long hair,” adds Evans. “Styling, use a styling paste like Redken Rough Paste 12 to create separation.evans

Octopus Haircut For Medium To Long Hair

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For those who have longer strands, you have plenty to work with. Begin by determining where you want your shortest layer, says Evans. “I recommend around your chin/cheek area to get the look,” he shares.

If your hair’s extra long, Korab suggests getting choppy, visible layers that resemble the octopus tentacle silhouette. “The haircut is long, which differentiates it from other edgy styles, but it's more top-heavy, with wispy, angled pieces cascading down your shoulders,” she tells Bustle.

How To Style An Octopus Haircut

One of the best things about the octopus haircut is that it can thrive without you even having to touch it. “Air-drying complements the overall edgy, effortless vibe perfectly,” says Korab. Products can help, of course: “Simply apply a leave-in product to help smooth down any errant frizzies and enhance your natural texture,” she suggests.

According to Boatman, styling the octopus cut really depends on your hair’s texture. “With curly hair, it basically styles itself,” she tells Bustle, adding that with straighter and/or finer hair, it’s best to style with texture spray. “Think purposely messy,” she says. Williams is especially fond of Amika, R+Co, and Oribe’s sprays for enhancing the layers of the octopus. Evans is also a fan of using a wave spray followed by a mousse on damp hair — like the Mizani Foam Wrap mousse — to encourage more texture.

If you’re super into styling, however, Abramite recommends round brushing the layers when blowing out your hair. “This will exaggerate the shape for volume up top, and the bottom layers can be worn curved under or flipped out,” she says. For this, she suggests using the Trademark Beauty Easy Blo blow-dryer (after applying heat protectant, of course). “This combines a dryer and brush in one. It’s easy to grip with one or both hands to maneuver for volumizing roots, smoothing hair, and styling ends like a pro,” she says.

For curly and/or textured hair, Williams suggests a soft hold curl serum and/or gel for hydration and definition. Finally, finish off the look with shine serum on the ends, and voila: You’ve mastered the octopus cut.

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