Alexandra Haddow looks at the fervour around Irish actor Paul Mescal’s latest hairstyle and asks the pressing question: is there anything he could do that we wouldn’t love?
Paul Mescal, to the untrained eye, is a nice Irish boy who’s good at acting. He’s not, perhaps, the most classically good-looking man you’ve ever seen. If you met him in a bar, you’d probably think he was quite charming in a quiet, cool way; a bit of a laugh maybe.
But here’s the thing: Paul can do no wrong. His recent mullet, sported on the red carpet, prompted even Mescal Ultras, like myself, to ask what the hell he was playing at. ‘Please be for a role’ – I thought to myself, watching my lockdown crush swan around looking like he works at a petrol garage in the deep South of America.
But here’s another thing: I think Paul is testing us. His new barnet has prompted a surge in requests for a mullet. One of my most stylish male friends got one last week. It’s everywhere. Paul is trying to see what he could possibly do that people wouldn’t love. If he can make even the least sexy of hairstyles popular, what else can he do? He is all-powerful. But why? How? Why have we all gone crazy for him?
Let’s look at his timeline. Normal People, the Sally Rooney novel serialised for TV in which Paul starred as Connell alongside Daisy Edgar-Jones, burst onto our screens just as we needed. Lockdown 2020 was a sexually starved time for the vast majority of the population that hadn’t just moved in with a new partner. We binged these two troubled but ultimately connected characters to have realistic romantic encounters on screen whilst we sat in our joggers and panicked that we’d never feel the touch of another human again. Writer Joel Golby tweeted “That boy’s DMs must be a warzone this morning,” after a particularly steamy episode aired.
Well, indeed, but I rose above all that. In a state of mild lockdown insanity, I, too, joined the Paul Mescal DM bandwagon, in what was, I think, my only time messaging a celebrity. I decided I’d differentiate myself by telling him that I thought his acting was great in the show. I sent it in the sweet spot before the global obsession, when he only had a few thousand followers. Also, rumour had it (due to immediate stalking by myself and my housemate and a few texts from pals) that he didn’t live far from us in East London. Paul never even saw the message, and deleted his Instagram about a month later, presumably because the only two reasons for having the app are to tell people about your work, and to try to get laid. Both are redundant for him now. I imagine his app could barely open under the weight of the messages anyway. To date, this is possibly the cringiest moment of my life so far.
What followed were fan accounts dedicated to Connell’s chain, pap shots of him coming out of the Co-Op in Clapton (we were right!) in tiny shorts, and a relationship with his own celebrity crush, Phoebe Bridgers. After watching the show, she tweeted: “Finished Normal People and now I’m sad and horny oh wait,” to which Paul replied, “I’m officially dead.” Then the world watched on as we saw them get together IN REAL LIFE! This boy from Maynooth in Ireland was not only a world-famous heartthrob, he was dating his own pin-up. We even saw her in East London between lockdowns. It was true!
As much as this might sound like pie-in-the-sky stuff, it just made Paul more one of us. He was the underdog, he was just a… Normal Person (sorry) who’d been swept up in this celebrity world in front of our eyes and had the acting skills to back it up. Since then he’s gone on to get an Oscar nomination for his role as a troubled young dad (they knew what they were doing here) in Aftersun, and it’s rumoured he’s broken up with Bridgers, which only endears him more to us. A breakup with your first celebrity crush? Come round, Paul, we’ll make you a brew and stroke your hair – even if it is a mullet.
In the last year or so, Paul has taken some risks, sartorially. We’ve seen him look like a baddie from Indiana Jones in a white Gucci blazer; he’s become a champion for a suit with a vest, and now, our final test with this hair. All business in the front, all party at the back. Will we stand by him? The mullet stats seem to say yes. So what COULD Paul do?
WEAR boot-cut jeans and tan brogues. Would we forgive him for donning the Simon Cowell tuxedo? Do we dare? Could we still fancy him? (I originally went to write Cuban heel there but realised he’s already done it in the aforementioned Indiana Jones outfit and managed to somehow still be fit).
HAVE a pet snake. If he could still make this cool, we’d have to launch some sort of study into him, on a cellular level.
SAY “you can’t say anything any more!” Please stay on the right side of history, Paul.
BELIEVE the earth is flat.
EAT Rustlers burgers. The only full food ick left that isn’t secretly delicious.
SHOP anywhere that sells gilets. Even I’d have to finally abandon him for that.
Wherever Paul goes from here, we wish him well. We hope he’s always slightly baffled by his own fame. Seems like he’d be great craic on a night out, and most of all, I hope he never re-downloads Instagram. My shame couldn’t handle it.
Alexandra Haddow is performing her debut stand-up show ‘Not My Finest Hour’ around the UK in 2024. Tickets available here