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Hair Metal, also known as Glam Metal, is the name given to a subgenre of metal music which emerged and had its peak of popularity during the 80's decade until its decadence in the early 90's. Originally emerged in the United States, this musical genre differs from the rest of the metal subgenres at that time due to its use of a striking, androgynous and glamorous image, present in the musicians of these bands, as well as their songs with a high emphasis in the riffs and the shred (mostly used in the guitar solos), melodic hooks, catchy chorus and lyrics focused on topics of love and lust.


Hair Metal had its origins in the late 70's, but it would not be until the 80's that it would obtain its relevance and subsequent success. Many elements seen in this aesthetic are directly inspired or influenced by the artists and bands that were popular in that decade and that belonged to the Glam Rock genre, such as David Bowie or Queen, and American rock bands like Kiss and Alice Cooper; this last band belonging more to the theatrical rock genre, which would also influence a part of Hair Metal scene. Another movement or current that could also have influenced this style could have been the New Wave, not so much in the musical aspect but in the visual and aesthetic aspect, mostly taking characteristics such as the hairstyles, colors and accessories such as the jewelry, as well as part of the clothing.

The interesting thing about the whole question related to this aesthetic is how both the visual image and the musical style developed separately and with a considerable distance of time. In one hand, the androgynous and effeminate aesthetic of this style seems to have its first precedent with the American band of the 70s New York Dolls, who were characterized by wearing "high heels, eccentric hats, satin, makeup, spandex, and dresses", an very similar image if not the same as that the one presented by the eighties bands that belong to this aesthetic – and in the other hand, Hair Metal as a musical style already seemed to have a small precedent of existing before the aesthetic was fully defined, promoted and promulgated worldwide – the first band to incorporate the sound of melodic hard rock with lyrics about irreverent themes related to love and lust was Van Halen with their 1978 self-titled debut album, which would later be a commercial success.

It is said that it was in the year 1981 when the Glam Metal began as a musical style and aesthetic with the growing success of local Los Angeles band Mötley Crüe, which played frequently in bars and nightclubs on the Sunset strip. Additionally, the success of their debut album, Too Fast For Love, lead to the subsequent appearance of multiple other local bands with a similar style and sound, like Cinderella in the mid-80's or Poison in 1983; nonetheless, it wouldn't be until the release of Quiet Riot's Metal Health album that Hair Metal music finally entered into the mainstream. According to an Urban Dictionary definition of Glam Metal, "...much of this had to do with the image-centricity of the bands, and the attention they received from the just-starting MTV. For the next few years, glam [metal] would still be only a moderate success."[1] In later years, Hair Metal would be designed as one of the best-selling musical styles from the 1980's.

The decline of Hair Metal started in the early 90's, with the arrival and later rise of new musical styles such as Grunge, headed by bands like Nirvana or Pearl Jam, as well the Alternative and Nu-Metal scenes. Some Glam Metal bands decided to change their image and style to adapt to this change in the music scene, discarding their old, wild personas in favor of ones that were more relaxed according to the time.

Later, during the 2000s, this genre had a very small comeback, after the emergence of bands like Reckless Love (formed in 2001 in Finland and releasing their debut album in 2010) and Steel Panther (a parody band of this style founded in the 2000 in the United States), and although Hair Metal has not resurfaced with the same force as other vintage aesthetics, there is still a niche of people who use and admire this style, and who long for its return.

(Side note: it appears that the term "Hair Metal" was created and first used by MTV, but this cannot be corroborated beyond an Urban Dictionary definition[2])


As the name of the subgenre indicates, Glam Metal focuses heavily on the glamour of the eighties, especially in elements such as makeup, which some bands tend to wear in a subtle and relaxed way, like Poison or Cinderella, or in a rather flashy and exaggerated way like Mötley Crüe or Twisted Sister. The aesthetic's alternate name, "hair metal", makes an indirect reference to this glamor trait, and that was also an important visual among bands in the genre: the hairstyles, which generally consisted of long, teased, fluffy hair.

Other important visuals could also be seen both in the clothes/costumes of the bands (which are better explained below in the Fashion section), as well as their concerts and live performances, which take a lot of influence from both theatrical rock (for the performances) and glam rock (mostly the outfits, but also part of the performances). The use of elements like fireworks, flashing lights or smoke machines can be seen both in concerts and live performances, as well as in photoshoots or music videos.

Some other potential visuals that could be related to this aesthetic are:

  • Props like skulls, candles, chains or fake blood.
  • Motorcycles.
  • Satanic symbols/iconography; on their early albums and on multiple occasions, Mötley Crüe used imagery like inverted pentagrams.
  • Flags/banners: On certain occasions, these bands may also use the flags of the country they come from in their videos or photoshoots, most likely for patriotic reasons (the most commonly seen one are the United States flag and the United Kingdom flag. Europe, a Swedish band, used their country's flag in a few photos)
  • Instruments: Another common visual elements that can be seen are guitars (either acoustic or electric), drum sets, basses, or microphones (with or without its stand)


Some garments, materials and patterns that are commonly seen in Hair/Glam metal fashion may include:


  • Ripped shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Band t-shirts
  • Leather pants
  • Cowboy boots
  • (Fur) coats
  • Fishnet
  • Leather jackets/vests
  • Studded belts
  • Knee-high boots
  • Jumpsuits


  • (Silk) scarves
  • Suspenders
  • Jewerly: bangles, spiked/studded bracelets or wristbands, crucifixes, rings and earrings
  • Makeup/Face paint
  • Necklaces
  • Chains
  • Handcuffs
  • Straps
  • Sunglasses
  • Fingerless gloves
  • Chokers
  • Bandanas (tied on the head or around the neck)
  • Hats: visored berets, cowboy hats


  • Polka dot
  • Animal Print: zebra, leopard, tiger, snake
  • Stripes



  • Alice Cooper
  • Black Veil Brides
  • Bon Jovi
  • Britny Fox
  • Cinderella
  • Def Leppard
  • Dokken
  • Europe
  • Faster Pussycat
  • Hanoi Rocks
  • Kix
  • L.A. Guns
  • Madam X
  • Mötley Crüe
  • Nitro
  • Poison
  • Pretty Boy Floyd
  • Quiet Riot
  • Ratt
  • Reckless Love
  • Skid Row
  • Steel Panther
  • Tigertailz
  • Tuff
  • Twisted Sister
  • Van Halen
  • Vixen
  • Warrant
  • W.A.S.P.
  • Whitesnake


  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • Lita Ford
  • Ozzy Osbourne


Sleaze Rock[]

Sleaze Rock is a movement derived from glam rock and has a lot of overlap with Hair Metal, since the bands who wore this style were originated, located and performed in the same places in where the most racognized Glam Metal bands did. Unlike conventional glam rock, Sleaze Rock presented a rowdier and more aggressive, street-oriented visual image, which was also accompanied by the little presence or absence of exaggerated makeup and teased hairstyles (although the long hair was a prominent aspect as well).

Some specific examples may be:

  • Mötley Crüe (Girls, Girls, Girls/Dr. Feelgood era)
  • Def Leppard
  • L.A. Guns
  • Skid Row
  • Faster Pussycat
  • Guns N' Roses


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