Hair Metal Is Gone, but the Awkward Photos Remain

Does hair metal ever get old? Well, the music itself might, but there’s nothing better than seeing how these glam metal bands used to strut their stuff back in the ‘80s. Just look at their outfits. The hair! The stockings! The heels! Oh my. And almost all of these bands consisted of only men.

Whitesnake / Twisted Sister / Judas Priest / Van Halen
Source: Getty Images

Oh, how the times have changed. So, without further ado (and anymore yada yada yada) let’s get straight to the good stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you the best, most awkward, most share-worthy photos of hair metal bands from the era of hair spray, drugs, and wild music. Some you know; some you’ve never even heard of (but wish you had). Check them out!

Poison

Poison’s fashion style put them in the No.1 spot on Yahoo’s Top 25 worst hair metal bands list. Bret Michaels and his boys took the hair metal scene by storm. Guitarist CC DeVille said once that “Everyone would look at the image of the band and think we were posers.”

Poison performs on stage.
Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images

“They wouldn’t even listen to the s**t, they’d just see the make-up and be turned off.” Michaels recalled how they moved from Pennsylvania to LA “to become rock stars – simple.” They worked hard, he said. “We had the hairspray and make-up even when we were handing out flyers. If you don’t have a gimmick, you get lost in the crowd.”

Hanoi Rocks

Frontman Michael Monroe was flamboyant to say the least. Maybe it’s because they were from Finland. They were more successful in Europe and Japan than in America. But still, Hanoi Rocks was cited as a serious influence on bands like Guns N’ Roses and Poison. Even if they weren’t from LA, they fit right into the scene.

Michael Monroe poses with the rest of the band.
Photo by Mike Prior/Redferns/Getty Images

They had already broken up by the time the bands they inspired took over the Sunset Strip in the late ‘80s. They had some good tunes, but the band became known for the death of drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley in a car accident caused by Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil in 1984.

Pretty Boy Floyd

Talk about pretty boys. Pretty Boy Floyd formed in 1987. They set out to make the ultimate band, put a video on MTV, but then broke up in 1994. As soon as Grunge hit the scene, they were a group of has-beens. Their main album pretty much sums up 80’s glam metal: Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz.

Pretty Boy Floyd poses in leather harnesses.
Source: Pinterest

Believe it or not, the band was still making music into the 2010s; they released an album as recently as 2017. Of the four bandmembers, only two are from the original lineup; Steve “Sex” Summers and Kristy “Krash” Majors.

Mötley Crüe

What’s not to say about Mötley Crüe? The Californian metal band reached peak fame in 1989 with their Dr. Feelgood album. Ever since, they’ve become known for their outrageous lifestyle. Back in the ‘80s, their hair was bleached or dyed, and they were obviously influenced by the punk scene with mesh tops and fingerless leather gloves and accessories, bracelets and tattoos.

Mötley Crüe poses in torn raggedy clothing.
Source: YouTube

“People see us as the godfathers of the big-hair scene, but we’re as much punk as anything else,” Tommy Lee said once. Nikki Sixx said, “I could see the writing on the wall for the whole ‘big hair’ thing when Nirvana came on the scene. I remember being on MTV and holding up a copy of the Nevermind album before it was released and saying: ‘This is the future.’”

Manowar

Guitarist Ross “The Boss” Friedman and bassist Joey DeMaio, New York natives, met in 1980 at a Black Sabbath show and bonded over their love of epic tales of fantasy. Together, they planned to create the most powerful heavy metal band: Manowar. Did they succeed? You be the judge.

Joey DeMaio, Ross the Boss, Eric Adams and Scott Columbus.
Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

“We wanted to look like something never before seen in heavy metal,” Ross said once. “We wanted to be wilder than just denim and leather. What would be wilder? Animal fur!” The man had a point.

Twisted Sister

The guys of Manowar called Twisted Sister “sissy boys in makeup.” It’s hilarious to think about the fact that these two glam metal bands were in a feud for quite a while. It got to the point where the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” legends challenged Manowar to a street fight.

Mark Mendoza, Eddie Ojeda, Dee Snider, AJ Pero and Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister.
Photo by Mark Weiss/Getty Images

Manowar never showed up. “There was a time when I wanted to punch Manowar,” Twisted Sister’s Dee Snyder recalled. “We told them to meet us in Covent Garden and we were gonna have fisticuffs. They didn’t show up because they knew I wasn’t kidding. I was in my 20s; I was crazy.”

Bon Jovi

The ‘80s wouldn’t have been the era it was without glam metal gods Bon Jovi. It’s just funny considering that in their early days they got dressed in the dark inside a crappy fashion warehouse. As hilarious as they looked, we still sang along to You Give Love a Bad Name and Livin’ on a Prayer.

Bon Jovi backstage before a performance.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

In the mid-‘80s, the guys loved to tease their hair and wear those long stage coats. They were perfect for the budding MTV era. Despite the bad fashion choices, the band reached epic proportions and managed to grab both male and female fans.

Stryper

They were a Christian metal band who loved the colors yellow and black. Despite all the satanic imagery of the metal scene, Stryper sang about Christian values and, you know what? They were actually accepted by the mainstream.

Stryper poses in their classic black and yellow outfits.
Photo by Paul Harris/Getty Images

Of course, the religious aspect of their music only added to the jokes told about them. Funnily enough, the band used to throw Bibles into the crowd. Singer and guitarist Michael Sweet recalled how they used to “throw out Bibles with no stickers, and they used to get left on the floor of the venues.”

Nitro

Nitro basically put hair into metal. The band was almost entirely defined by – and will forever be remember for – their gimmicks. Lead singer Jim Gillette (now a Jiu-Jitsu fighter) claimed the ability to break glass with his voice.

A group photo of Nitro.
Source: YouTube

As for guitarist Michael Angelo Batio, he was said to be the “fastest” guitarist in the world. Their mission was to take everything to the extreme, hairstyles included. Hell, they named their debut album O.F.R. (Out-F***ing-Rageous). But after their second album, they faded into obscurity.

Night Ranger

With a name like Jack Blades, how could the guy not start his own glam metal band? He and guitarist Brad Gillis (who later performed with Ozzy Osbourne) put Night Ranger on the stage to belt out soaring power ballads.

A portrait of Night Ranger.
Source: Pinterest

Their formula worked since their first three albums all went platinum. Their album cover of Midnight Madness was comic fodder for many. Patton Oswalt had a bit about these guys – one of his more famous ones – and really, how can you not laugh? Just look at that hair.

Guns ‘N’ Roses

Axl Rose came to be known for his bandana and Slash was recognizable for his top hat with a cigarette in his mouth. Both are icons, but Guns ‘N’ Roses had its typical hair metal days and with them, their awkward photos.

A portrait of Guns ‘N’ Roses.
Source: Reddit

The band was the epitome of love, sex and rock ‘n’ roll − and hair metal, too. “Every weekend, the biggest party in LA was down in our place. We’d have 500 people packed in an alley, and our old roadie was selling beers for a buck out of his trunk. We could get away with whatever we wanted, except when the cops came,” Rose described those days.

Whitesnake

Whitesnake might have been the tamer one in the hair metal bunch. But their hairstyles are impossible to miss. Talk about lions’ manes. The band formed in the late ’70s, with David Coverdale leading his band to become one of the defining acts of the hair metal genre.

A group photo of Whitesnake bandmembers.
Source: Reddit

They also had some of the most iconic music videos ever made. Remember Here I Go Again with the model Tawny Kitaen dancing on the Jaguar? How could you forget. That song was just as epic as their style – and maybe even more.

RATT

“We’re a gang, and we’re rock’n’roll. I don’t think the image thing matters in the long run. We want a career that’s similar to Aerosmith – no trends, no hype. This is about songs, music… oh, and the groupies.” Robbin Crosby of Ratt said that, which pretty much sums the band up.

Warren DeMartini, Robbin Crosby, Stephen Pearcy, Juan Croucier and Bobby Blotzer pose backstage.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

They were giants of the hair metal scene. Round and Round was one of the most popular songs to come out of the scene. Guitarist Warren DeMartini made a name for himself as one of the top guitar players around, but frontman Stephen Pearcy took the cake for his looks and pop-metal fashion.

Winger

Beavis and Butthead fans might appreciate this. Both metal-loving doofuses wore metal shirts: Beavis wore a Metallica shirt and Butthead an AC/DC one. It was their semi-nemesis Stewart Stevenson who wore a Winger T-shirt.

A group photo of Winger.
Source: Amazon

Thanks to the cartoon hit, people just couldn’t take bassist Kip Winger and his metal outfit seriously at all. It was pretty lame, despite the fact that Winger himself was a talented player and composer. And the group wasn’t that bad at all. Turns out the band is still active. So, take that Beavis and Butthead.

Cinderella

Cinderella in the ‘80s was all about massive poodle perms, zebra print outfits and snakeskin pants. The band definitely looked the part of a hair metal band, but their sound seemed to have more substance than the other bands of the time. Tom Keifer gave their music a different twist.

the rock band Cinderella backstage in front of a sign that says ATTITUDE.
Photo by Mark Weiss/WireImage/Getty Images

The glam metal band made it big in the US, especially Nobody’s Fool, which reached No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986. Their first two albums also went three times platinum. They eventually broke up in 1995.

W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. still makes appearances in bars, festivals and parks for whoever still finds them relevant. But back in the ‘80s, they were one of the more creative and conceptually visual bands on the scene. Bassist/guitarist/vocalist Blackie Lawless led the group with his interesting costume choices.

A portrait of W.A.S.P. bandmembers.
Source: Pinterest

The band was controversial; they became infamous overnight with their wild live shows (featuring semi-naked models tied to a torture rack). Their first single “Animal (F*** Like A Beast),” was censored, which only added to their hype.

Warrant

You could say Warrant was the boy band of ‘80s hair metal. With their matching outfits and names on their sleeves, along with their choreographed moves and being forever seen on MTV, people tended to focus on the look more than the song. Remember 1990’s Cherry Pie?

A portrait of Warrant as they pose backstage.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Warrant was one of the original hair metal bands from Los Angeles. They were perfect for the scene; their style was exactly what the scene was begging for. But they weren’t the most stable of groups, with over 20 people claiming a spot in the band for a short period of time.

Britny Fox

The band from Philly might have used the most hairspray in all of the glam metal scene. They weren’t on the scene for long, just a short time in the ‘80s, particularly in the late ‘80s when they released their self-titled album in 1988.

A group photo of Britny Fox.
Photo by Krasner/Trebitz /Redferns/Getty Images

Long Way to Love and Girlschool were their biggest hits. Frontman “Dizzy” Dean Davidson got the most attention from the ladies. Well, it was mostly teenage girls who put his pin-up in their high school lockers.

Van Halen

Van Halen managed to bridge the gap between hair and metal. They succumbed to the flashy look, but the emphasis was always on the music. Even with lead singers changing, Van Halen made number one hits on the charts. That is, until 1996, when Sammy Hagar left after a fight with Eddie Van Halen.

Van Halen poses backstage.
Source: Twitter

It might have been for the best. Eddie and his brother Alex ended up recording Respect the Wind, which got nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the Grammy Awards. In 2019, they released their last box set. On October 6, 2020, Eddie died of cancer.

Nova Rex

They had the leather jackets, the teased hair, and the loud music. Nova Rex lived the rock ‘n roll dream, but they never reached the heights of Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot. Still, the band’s loud look and sound summed up the outrageousness and hedonism of the hair metal era.

A group portrait of Nova Rex.
Source: eBay

Bassist Kenny Wilkerson said his fashion influences were Mötley Crüe, Poison, Van Halen, Bon Jovi and KISS. “We wore the most outrageous things that we could get our hands on,” he said. It was all about “Look at me, look at me!”

Slave Raider

One of the best things about hair metal and looking at these photos is just how homoerotic it all was, and how they all just embraced it. But whereas most of these guys went for spandex and eyeliner, Slave Raider’s lead singer Mike Findling wore an eyepatch and was all about Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic imagery.

A studio portrait of Slave Raider.
Source: Pinterest

According to Wikipedia, as of 2008, guitarist Nicci Wikkid (whose real name is David Hussman) is a software consultant and a well-known leader in software development processes. Now isn’t that a hoot!

Skid Row

Skid Row formed in 1986, and they were a bit late to the party. Still, they managed to catch up pretty quickly, with the addition of frontman Sebastian Bach. Thanks to Bach, the band became a household name.

Members of Skid Row as they pose at the Aragon Ballroom.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

With the typical long locks and hairspray to last for days, Skid Row produced some of the biggest rock songs of the era. The original lineup only lasted until 1996, though. They reunited in 1999, but no one could replace Bach. I mean, just look at that guy.

Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot came before hair metal ever became a genre. They were one of the main bands of the ‘80s. Their breakthrough album, Metal Health, had some covers of the British glam band Slade. The group was formed by future Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads and Kelly Garni.

Rudy Sarzo, Carlos Cavazo, Kevin Dubrow, and Frankie Banali pose backstage.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

They finally landed on the name Quiet Riot, which reportedly was inspired by the British way of saying “quite right.” The band has had its ups and downs, without a consistent run. But as of 2010, they started performing again.

Alice N’ Chains

Alice N’ Chains wasn’t known for glam metal, but that’s the genre they started out in. They used to open for bands like Poison, too. Back in 1986, you could see Layne Staley with massive hair and hilarious clothes as he would run around on stage.

Alice N' Chains members back in their long hair phase.
Source: YouTube

He was a long way from his hollow, doped-out frontman days that most people remember him for (may he rest in his peace). As it turns out, Staley was a huge Britny Fox fan, which could explain the hair, the look, the style.

Tuff

Tuff was all about big hair. If you never heard of them, they were seen as something of a Poison knock off group (an Eastern European version) who were kind of a one-hit wonder. They had one semi hit called I Hate Kissing You Goodbye.

A group photo of Tuff.
Source: YouTube

Tuff formed in Arizona in 1985. One of the band members who left the group went on to become a figure skater; another, Jim Gillette, formed the band Nitro. But in his Tuff days, he sang on their 1986 debut cassette EP called Knock Yourself Out.

Black Death

They were the “first all-African-American heavy metal band.” Now that’s something. They were also noted as “one of the only, if not the only, all-Black metal bands in the country” back in 1987. They formed in 1977 with guitarist Greg Hicks, drummer Phil Bullard, and bassist Clayborn Pinkins.

Black Death pose together.
Source: Reddit

It took them two years to come up with the band name Black Death. Not long after, Pinkins was shot and killed. The band took a hiatus until 2009, reforming as Mandrake. There was another death (Bullard died of cancer) and another reformation, until they disbanded in in 2010.

Blue Murder

Blue Murder was founded on the talents of former Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy guitar frontman John Sykes. In 1988, the group came to after Sykes was forced to leave Whitesnake. At the same time, he picked up a deal with Geffen records.

A group portrait of Blue Murder.
Source: Imgur

Carmin Appice, the guy who started the band King Kobra, was Blue Murder’s drummer. They looked the hair metal part, but they weren’t a stereotypical ‘80’s band. Their music was nothing like Whitesnake’s. Those looking for songs like Still of the Night or Slide It In did not get what they were looking for.

Shotgun Messiah

Leave it to the Swedes to glam it up. Swedish glam band Shotgun Messiah started off as a band called Kingpin in the mid-‘80s. They then moved to Hollywood and became Shotgun Messiah, which was also their 1989 debut release.

Shotgun Messiah pose in neon leotards.
Source: Reddit

Their 1991 release, Second Coming was argued by many as being more glam than their debut. By the early ‘90s, they started heading down the more industrial rock direction. Eventually, bassist Tim Skold stared playing with Marilyn Manson.

Crimson Glory

Crimson Glory formed in Florida in 1979 under their original name Pierced Arrow (which they then changed to Beowulf). Tony Wise was on vocals, Bernardo Hernandez and Ben Jackson on guitars, Glen Barnhardt on bass and Dana Burnell on drums.

Crimson Glory pose in their masks and leather jackets.
Source: Pinterest

After some lineup changes, they became Beowulf and then eventually Crimson Glory. In an era and genre of bands that all looked and sounded like each other, this band’s mission was to be immediately identifiable. That’s why they wore full-face metallic silver masks, which they used on-stage, for all photo shoots and public appearances. Vocalist Midnight was the exception to this.

Keel

Keel was the group that gave you The Right To Rock… and this photo. They popped onto the hair metal scene when The Right to Rock, produced by Gene Simmons, became the fastest-selling debut album in A&M Records’ history.

A photo of the metal band Keel.
Source: YouTube

The band hit it out of the park, selling over 2 million albums and earning a reputation for being one of the most entertaining live acts in the hair metal genre. They opened for Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Mötley Crüe, and others. They were even dubbed as 1985’s “Best New Band.”

Motorhead

Motorhead rose in 1979 as a precursor band to the late ‘70s/early ‘80s New Wave British Metal movement. The band name alludes to amphetamine addicts. The original band line up was a threesome: Lemmy (vocals/bass), Fast Eddie Clark (guitarist), and Phil Taylor (drums).

Motorhead poses in swim costumes.
Source: Reddit

Lemmy wanted to make music that was so loud it would “kill the neighbor’s lawn.” In the US, the band is most remembered for their 1980 release, Ace of Spades. They also toured in America with Ozzy Osbourne.

Judas Priest

Guitarist K.K. Downing gave some insight into Judas Priest’s heyday in the ‘80s. “It was a wonderful time. We would drive up to a show, and there would be at least a hundred girls forming a line outside the backstage area.”

A group photo of Judas Priest.
Source: Imgur

He recalled everybody being “in a happy place – the musicians, the fans, the media.” The band had a good “five years or so” of “great times.” For those who don’t know, Priest was sucked into a heavy court case, after two teens tried to commit suicide (one succeeded) while listening to their music.

X Japan

The hardcore band formed in 1982 in Japan (hence the name), and they have always been associated with speed and hair metal. In a cocktail of gender fluidity and glam rock, X played a style called “visual kei.”

X Japan members pose for a group shot.
Source: Tumblr

They were inspired by David Bowie and KISS (not surprisingly) and not just because of their look, but for their defiance and rebellion. In a society as conservative as Japan, this group most definitely stood out because of their style and their furious rock music.

Madam X

Here’s a hair metal band with some actual ladies (not just men dressing up as them). Madam X formed in Detroit, Michigan, in 1981 by sisters Roxy and Maxine Petrucci. They moved to New York and found their vocalist, Bret Kaiser. They only ever released one album.

Madam X album cover art.
Source: Amazon

Several line-up changes occurred, including Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach. The band broke up around 1988 and the sisters tried to resurrect the group in 1991 with only women, but they didn’t last long.

Stovokor

Although they’re not from the ‘80s, they’re still too good to pass up. And by good, I mean hilarious. Why and what is Stovokor? Trekkies know that it was the afterlife of the Klingon species. According to guitarist Ward Young, the band chose the perfect genre for their characters: “Klingons are very macho, very militaristic, and metal is definitely their music.”

Stovokor bandmembers pose in full costume.
Source: Reddit

Stovokor’s band members were known for strictly adhering to their personas. At one concert in Portland, Oregon, the lead vocalist, Bill Salfelder, attacked a crowd member after he made threw out some insults. Anyways, this bizarre band only released one demo album, Metal of Honor, in 2004.

An Ode to the Band Who (Arguably) Created Hair Metal

Back in the mid-‘70s a four-piece band hit the scene and decided to change rock music for ever. Two brothers added pop hooks and brains to their aggressive guitar riffs.

Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen pose for a studio portrait.
Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

Legend has it that the band was spotted by Gene Simmons when they were playing at the Starwood club in Los Angeles in 1976. Impressed, Simmons flew David Lee Roth and his brother to New York to produce a recording session for them at his own expense.

Spotted by Simmons

Everything that Van Halen came to be was present on the Simmons demos. When it came down to recording, it took them a mere number of days, with minimal overdubbing, to complete the record. Roth was already a braggart; Eddie’s guitar playing was ahead of his time; and Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony were monsters of rhythm.

Posed group portrait backstage of Van Halen.
Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

Their sound was clean but aggressive. Their debut album closed with a version of John Brim’s old blues tune Ice Cream Man. The critics weren’t their biggest fans at first, though.

Too Much, Too Soon

Critics felt Van Halen was too popular, too offensive, and simply too much. They were reminiscent of the Ramones, but Van Halen’s ridiculousness wasn’t like the punk genre. Their debut was in many ways a paradigm shift in heavy music sound (think of game changers Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana).

Van Halen is performing on stage.
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Van Halen was making music like nothing before it. Many will say that the bands Van Halen spawned were just copycats without any invention and talent. Of course, there are many who disagree. But most Van Halen fans will claim that the band transformed rock.

A Small Legion of Copycats

Roth said in 1984, at the peak of their fame, “I know for a fact that to a small degree, we’ve bred a small legion of imitators, copycats, mimics, people who are using Van Halen for their sole inspiration.”

A group portrait of Van Halen.
Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns

According to The Guardian, the difference between Van Halen and the hair metal groups who followed them was their listening habits. In his first big interview, Eddie said that “Dave, our singer, doesn’t even own a stereo. He listens to the radio, which is a good variety.”

A New Wave

Eddie continued, “Most of our songs you can sing along with, even though it does have the peculiar guitar and end-of-the-world drums.” But Roth didn’t care about being detoured through hair metal. Roth said that what’s most important is…

portrait of Eddie Van Halen in a recording studio with guitar.
Photo by Robert Knight Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

“All the people who are just disgusted and revolted by our music and our presence and our appearance and the way I do interviews… they’ve been forced to come up with some very substantial musical alternatives to Van Halen-type rock, and that’s why we have new wave.”

Witless and Tasteless

Roth referenced music artists John Cassavetes and George Bernard Shaw, and summed up what Van Halen really meant to him: “I would still prefer to think of us as witless and tasteless. Arch enemy of the common public. That’s all I wanted to be in life, really.”

Portrait Session with David Lee Roth.
Photo by Aaron/IMAGES/Getty Images

Roth explained that he always wanted to “be an outrage to public decency and a threat to women.” The band essentially revolved around Roth’s wild life. The tension between Roth’s silliness and Eddie’s guitar talent and desire to be taken seriously was what came out in their music, and eventually, was the reason they broke apart.