The Worst Sports Haircuts Of All Time

When "The Simpsons" guest star, baseball legend Don Mattingly, showcased his ridiculous haircut after Mr. Burns ordered him to "trim those sideburns," one would be forgiven for thinking the cartoon buzzcut was too absurd to ever exist in real life. Think again. There is a whole squad of sports stars who have showcased truly disastrous haircuts. It was Issac Asimov who once said, "Be accustomed to a bald head, sufficiently accustomed, and hair on it would seem monstrous." And monstrous these haircuts are.

There once was a time when the hairdressing faux pas of sports stars would go largely unnoticed. But thanks to the power of memes and the almighty viral vid, there is no escaping the fashion referees. Whether born out of countercultural sensibilities or wealthy egos divorced from reality, sportspeople are all too keen to embrace preposterous pompadours and comical coiffures. For many, radical hair is a form of emancipation in a conformist profession. After all, not everyone can have the perfectly sculpted locks of Tom Brady or the enviable tresses of Serena Williams.

It seems that the more power athletes have, the more their confidence grows, and all too often it goes to their head — and their hair. Get ready for some truly horrendous hairdon'ts as we give the lowdown on the worst sports haircuts of all time.

Rodrigo Palacio's rat tail takes the cheese

Of all the soccer stars who have sported some questionable 'dos, we're going to rat on Rodrigo Palacio. The soccer player has represented Argentina in two World Cups, with Reuters noting that he is "one of his most tactically astute players." He may be a highly gifted player on the pitch, but those skills don't seem to transfer to the bathroom mirror.

At first glance, Palacio is an elegantly poised athlete — but just wait until he turns around. At the 2014 World Cup, a solitary strand of hair was seen hanging from Palacio's shaved head. No, his barber didn't miss a spot. It turned out that this was no accident: Palacio does indeed have the skinniest ponytail you ever did see, one which bears an uncanny resemblance to a rat tail. Inevitably, his scraggly strand went viral and spawned many a meme, including a hairy interpretation of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball." Cheese and crackers!

Detailing his infamous rat tail's origin story, Palacio told Prima Serata (via Inter) that, despite some negative backlash, he wouldn't dare cut off his peculiar pony since it has become his most defining feature. "First I had long hair, but then I decided to cut it short and just leave the braid," he explained. "Do my team-mates ever tease me and tell me they'll cut it off? Yes." To some, Palacio's haircut may look like a (very skinny) drowned rat, but he certainly thinks it's the big cheese.

Becks with the bad hair

Posh and Becks were, undoubtedly, the power couple of the late '90s and early 2000s, with their peak Y2K aesthetic becoming the stuff of pop culture legend. But perhaps it's David Beckham's hair that remains most notorious. Back in the day, every time Becks changed his hairstyle, it immediately became headline news. From his floppy step to his mohawk, he is in no shortage of bad hair days. But perhaps the worst offender was his cornrows. As Byrdie points out, "Cornrows were explicitly designed for afro-textured hair," so non-Black people wearing the style is a form of cultural appropriation.

Becks has since expressed some regret over adopting the hairstyle. The soccer star sported the braids back in 2003 and he admitted to People that he "couldn't have picked a worst time" to wear cornrows since he met Nelson Mandela in South Africa not long after. He told The Sunday Project (via Mirror) that he felt deeply embarrassed about donning the 'do while greeting the venerable South African leader. "There I was with one of the greatest and inspirational men and I've got cornrows!" he exclaimed.

In an interview with Shortlist, he reflected on his decision to get the culturally insensitive hairstyle. Becks said that he viewed them as "something a bit different ... So I thought, 'Why not do that?'," noting that he may have been a tad drunk when he made the inappropriate decision. "I wouldn't do them now, but at the time they felt good," he conceded.

Dennis Rodman the green machine

Dennis Rodman is many things: NBA legend, grunge rock aficionado, BFF to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and purveyor of outlandish hairdos. In the '90s, the Chicago Bulls' power forward was one of the biggest basketball superstars, but he was as famous for his hair as he was for his skills on the court. Rodman has donned everything from neon green hair to platinum mohawks. The latter style is particularly notorious: Rodman was late for the opening of the Alamodome as he was busy bleaching his locks, per Sportscasting.

Though his hair may have appeared outrageous, Rodman's penchant for the unconventional is central to his status as a queer icon. As Muse Magazine highlights, "In the 1990s ... men were expected to conform to the mold created by society and the media. Rodman rejected this ideal image by instead aiming to shock the media as much as possible in order to defy this mold." At a time when homophobia and transphobia were arguably rife, Rodman played by his own rules and always gave his A game.

While not all of his hairstyles may have been winners, there's no denying that Rodman's hair remains an indelible image of '90s pop culture. Maybe he can help his buddy Kim Jong-Un let his hair down every once in a while, seeing as the North Korean leader famously banned mullets in 2021. 

We need to mullet over Jaromir Jagr's hair

Ah, the mullet. It conjures images of bad '80s school photo shoots, Kenny Powers, and, of course, Tiger King Joe Exotic. With his luscious locks, we can't help but wonder why ice hockey player Jaromir Jagr decided to sport a mop top gone wrong.

In the '90s, the Czech athlete was one of the biggest names in hockey, a prolific player second only to the legendary Wayne Gretzky, per NHL. But for all his accomplishments on the hockey field, including two consecutive Stanley Cup victories with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he's perhaps best known for his infamous mullet. Hockey players aren't exactly famed for their fashion-forward sensibilities, and the sport is thus pretty notorious for terrible haircuts. Jagr won the esteemed honor of second worst hockey haircut of all time by Bleacher Report, losing by a strand to Al Iafrate and his skullet. Jagr's chestnut curls are equal parts Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" and mushroom head.

For all the flack he received, some have highlighted the merits of Jagr's notorious haircut, with GQ declaring it "legendary." It seems that his peers would agree: the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh described Jagr as "a legend of the game and a legend of the hair game as well." A mullet is undoubtedly a difficult 'do to pull off and only few have the moves like Jagr.

Peter Wright makes a mountain out of a mohawk

Scotsman Peter Wright not only gives impressive performances as a darts player, but he brings a welcome splash of color to an otherwise stereotypically beer-swiveling, macho sport. Resembling Johnny Rotten and Guy Fieri's love child, Wright also dons prominent reptilian head paint as an accompaniment to his motley python of a hairdo. The eccentric sportsman even once dressed as the Grinch, complete with neon green hair and a matching beard, per the Glasgow Times. You're a mean one, Mr. Right.

Chatting with the Daily Mail, Wright revealed that his wife, a hairdresser, is responsible for sculpting his impressive mohawk. Rather sweetly, he admitted that his daughter inspired him to bring some color into his life. "It's down to my daughter because she's the one who has all different color hair and I thought 'I'll try that,'" he said. "No other dart players have tried it and it just stuck. I class it as going to war with my war paint on ready for battle." With the exception of the bling king Bobby George, it's uncommon for darts players to be so outlandish in their personal style. And with his array of dazzlingly defiant mohawks, Wright breaks the mold.

A two-time winner of the World Darts Championship, Wright has perfected the game to a fine art — just like his hair. Though his mohawk may be ridiculed, he knows he's doing the Wright thing.

Paul Pogba wins for most inventive hair

French soccer star Paul Pogba has quite the repertoire of zany haircuts. He's showcased everything from neon lines shaved into his hair, leopard print tresses, a faux-hawk, and a mesmerizing bouquet of white and blue curls. Pogba's unabashed eagerness to embrace the unknown truly reflects his creative skills on the pitch. Having won the World Cup in 2018, scoring in the final against Croatia, Pogba had an unusually conservative hairstyle at the time. During an Instagram Q&A (via Daily Mail), he admitted that he eschewed his trademark colorful hair for the pivotal tournament because he wanted to be judged solely on his soccer skills as opposed to his hair "so there is no excuse, they could only criticize the football."

While one fan tweeted (via The Sun) that "His hair is bad like his play," there's no denying that Pogba goes where no other soccer star dares. Chatting with The Times, he took on hair critics, suggesting that he's only mocked for his aesthetics when his team loses. "It's not a problem and it's never a problem when we win," he said. "When we don't win or we lose or I have a bad performance, it becomes a problem."

In 2022, he shocked fans by showcasing a bald head, per Daily Star. Whether this is merely the seeds sowed for a new, even quirkier hairstyle or the end of his zany barnet phase, Pogba certainly leaves us with some hair-raising memories.

Ronaldo lived to regret his dreadful hairdon't

The haircut that, regrettably, kids the world over copied, Brazilian soccer icon Ronaldo donned a truly horrific 'do during the 2002 World Cup. Although Brazil went on to win the tournament, where the soccer legend scored a whopping eight goals, Ronaldo generated headlines for less admirable reasons. We are, of course, talking about that bizarre strip of hair sat atop his otherwise shaved head, which ended up resembling a bikini wax gone wrong.

Ronaldo told ESPN that the cut was intended as a distraction from an injury that sent tongues wagging. "I decided to cut my hair and leave the small thing there. I come to training and everybody saw me with bad hair," he explained. "Everybody was talking about the hair and forgot about the injury. I could stay more calm and relaxed and focused on my training." He confessed that while he was "not proud about the hair itself because it was pretty strange," the cut came as a welcome distraction. While the offending hairdressing disaster was a failure on Ronaldo's head, it was winning on the field.

Despite the horrific nature of the look, kids began donning the hairdon't (alas, some youngsters are still copying it to this day – much to their teachers' chagrin). "I apologize to all the mothers who saw their children get the same haircut," Ronaldo later told Sports Illustrated (via Daily Mail). And so he should. Won't somebody please think of the children?

Jared Allen didn't choose the mullet life; it chose him

NFL mainstay Jared Allen is famed for playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings as a powerful defensive end. He is also renowned for his bizarre take on the mullet. With a bellowing, raspy voice and a physique built like a Marvel Avenger, namely The Hulk, Allen's hair is well and truly Ruffaloed. His choppy haircut is complete with lines shaved into his head, making it look like he suffered an unfortunate lawn mowing accident. Considering that Allen made a cameo in "Jackass 3D," we can't help but wonder if his barnet was the result of a stunt gone wrong. Well, he did once say, "Mostly everything I do in life, usually comes from a bet." You're not kidding, Jared.

But for Allen, his mullet is more than a mere haircut; it's a way of life. "The mullet isn't just a hairdo. It's definitely a lifestyle. You're carrying on a legacy," Jared Allen told the NFL Players Association. "If I approach you from the front, it's like, 'Wow, that dude is pretty serious.' Then I walk away and you're like, 'Damn, he likes to party. With two Rs." It seems that Allen is something of a Jekyll and Hyde, if Hyde had a mullet.

Tragically, as Allen explained in a chat with SkoLOL, a receding hairline led to the death of his famous look. Hair today, gone tomorrow: R.I.P. Viking mullet.

Joe Cole's 'do was hanging on by a hair's breadth

A three time Premier League winner, British soccer player Joe Cole was at the peak of his powers in the mid 2000s. The now-retired England international and Chelsea winger enjoyed over a decade of career prosperity. As successful and skilful as he was — and with boyish good looks to boot — Cole could not escape the horrors of the barber's chair that seem to haunt so many soccer stars.

While playing for West Ham in 2002, he was known for his rather conventional appearance. So, when he appeared on the pitch one day with a bright red "J" strip across his shaved head, the tabloids were abuzz. That's one haircut that truly deserves the red card. The look was so hair-raising that Cole made it to the final of Paddy Power's Bad Hair tournament, sadly losing out to the lesser known Giovanni Simeone and his monstrosity of a hairdo.

When Cole retired in 2018, his club West Ham tweeted, "We'll definitely miss all the haircuts!" Now that Cole has hung up his soccer boots, he's returned to a more conservative look and subsequently decided to take swipes at the hairdos of his peers. Per The Daily Star, Cole joked that Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, who is rumored to wear a toupee, "paid a lot for that barnet." Maybe those in glass houses shouldn't kick soccer balls.

Tim Tebow's barnet is enough to make your hair curl

NFL quarterback Tim Tebow had, quite possibly, the most disastrous haircut in sporting history. In 2010, the Denver Broncos player graced the turf with a bald head surrounded by a crown of tresses, which led to his bushy beard. Known as the "Friar" haircut, it reminds us of the scene in "Matilda" where the eponymous prankster glues a hat onto Danny DeVito's head, which is then viciously yanked off.

Per ESPN, the cataclysmic haircut was the result of Tebow being hazed as a rookie by Denver Broncos vets. Unsurprisingly, the quarterback was voted as having the worst haircut in NFL history. As one bemused voter exclaimed, "Yikes. He looked like a plucked chicken." It's enough to shake your tail feathers.

USA Today reported that the tradition of rookie cuts reached such horrific lows that the Broncos revealed they would faze the haze in 2019, saving future footballers from Tebow's hair-curling fate. According to an insider who chatted to Celebuzz, Tebow has become decidedly more selective in his haircuts since the horror show of his haze head. Apparently, he now requests "a woman to cut his hair who doesn't curse." Considering that Tebow's previous barnet resembled a hairy version of the infamous floral crown from creepy flick "Midsommar," presumably the result of a sinister sporting curse, we can't really blame him.

Antonio Garay has eyes at the back of his head

At the height of his fame, NFL star Antonio Garay was renowned for his quirky sensibilities. Garay, who played as a nose tackle for prominent teams such the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, drove a Hello Kitty smart car, and proudly sported some of the fanciest facial hair in NFL history, having more than a few zany haircuts. Speaking of those jaw-dropping locks, he is notorious for his penchant for intricate and colorful hair patterns, including aqua blue zig zags and pink and yellow swirls.

Humor, Garay has said, is key to embracing those brazen buzz cuts in a profession marked by overt displays of machismo. "I'm just a guy with a good sense of humor," he told The Blonde Side regarding his quirky stylistic choices. "I don't take life too seriously; I take it for what it's worth. I think everyone should have a good time, and laugh a little more."

As for his unusual haircuts, he revealed that one of his famous styles is called "Two-Face," which consists of a normal left side with a standard taper cut, and a right side that's "completely designed in black and turquoise and my beard is designed out." And two-faced he is. As Sports Illustrated highlights, he once had a colorful face shaved into the back of his head. So, the next time you want to mock Garay for his unconventional aesthetic, tell it to his face. Both of them.

Coordinating with Ivan Perisic

We all love a stylish coord. The simplicity of a matchy-matchy set enables peak coordination with minimal effort. But sometimes, the almighty coord can be taken to extremes. In the case of Croatian international soccer winger Ivan Perisic, he got a red and white checkerboard haircut to match his team's uniform at the 2016 European Championships, per USA Today. We've heard of a fit check, but this is something else entirely.

Perisic's striking new look was such a defining feature of the Croatia vs. Portugal match that FourFourTwo asked fans to describe his hair in three words during the game. Perhaps the most apt summations were "Battenburg head band" and "fell asleep drunk." Alas, his patriotic efforts came to an end when Croatia were knocked out by eventual tournament winners, Portugal.

Incredibly, this wasn't the first wacky haircut that Perisic donned for the Euros. Earlier on in the tournament, he exhibited the number "4" shaved into one side of his head and a crude map of Croatia on the other side, per Joe. He's taking patriotism to a whole new level. "I always enjoy playing for my country," he told FIFA. "That was my dream and I'll always try and do my best for Croatia." Judging by his commitment to representing his country both on the field and on his head, Perisic is a Croatian icon through and through.

Jeff Reed didn't steeler our hearts with these loopy locks

Looking like an early 2000s nu-metal bro, NFL placekicker Jeff Reed unveiled his bleach blond spikes and wouldn't have looked out of place as a member of Korn.Chatting to Steeler Nation about the origin story of his platinum locks, he explained that inspiration came from an unlikely place: the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, a wrestler known for his iconic blond curls, and for whom Reed once worked. "I told my teammates, 'As soon as we make the playoffs ... I'm gonna die my hair like Ric Flair,'" he revealed. "And James Farrior was the first one to say 'Whatever you're not gonna do that.'"

Well, Reed did defy the odds and the team made the playoffs. The placekicker lived up to his end of the bargain, dazzling his teammates with his new hairdo — and shocking Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin. "Coach Tomlin said 'What are you doing?' and I said 'Man, you know I'm unpredictable man, all you need to worry about is me making field goals. Don't worry about my hair,'" he added.

Unfortunately, Coach Tomlin did have more than mere hair to worry about. In 2010, after one two many misses, Reed was cut from the Steelers, per ESPN. In addition to his problems on the field, Reed has been accused of criminal behavior – but there's arguably no crime worse than that hair.

Chris Waddle's hairbrained experiment

There's just something about British soccer players being drawn to hideous haircuts. In the '80s and '90s, then England international and Tottenham Hotspur player Chris Waddle debuted his jaw-dropping haircut. It's like a spiked fade cut and a mullet mated to spawn this ridiculous 'do. The attacking midfielder went truly off-field with this one.

Rather than being a reflection of '80s aesthetics, Waddle's mullet was actually the result of superstition. "People thought when I had the mullet done that it was a fashion statement, but it was actually down to superstition," Waddle told Female First. "I had short hair when I started playing and I got injured a lot. Then I let it grow a bit and the injuries stayed away from me." He revealed that an Italian newspaper offered to chop off his locks for £10,000, and he agreed. However, his performance on the pitch suffered. Blasting the soccer ball into the heavens, he missed the deciding penalty that saw England get knocked out of the 1990 World Cup, so perhaps his superstition was justified. This really was a case of Samson and Italia.

This wouldn't be the last time Waddle's hair would make headline news. In 2020, he turned heads with a trendy hipster haircut that wouldn't look out of place in a British indie band, prompting one fan to ask (via The Sun), "How can it be possible for Chris Waddle to have worse hair now than he did in the 80s?" We're wondering that, too.