Is there any genre more exciting, flashy, and storied than hair metal? From the blistering guitar solos to the excessive use of hairspray, it’s a genre as memorable as it is beloved.
If you want to get all technical, hair metal should probably be called glam metal, considering the influence that most of the famous acts took from rock icons of the ’70s.
However, since its peak in the ’80s, the name has stuck, thanks in part to the powerful music made by the musicians who helped shape the genre, their wild lifestyles, and – of course – the iconic hairstyles that helped make them so recognised.
First forming back in the late ’70s, David Coverdale’s Whitesnake were one of the defining acts of the hair metal genre. Boasting stadium-sized riffs, pounding drums, and some of the most iconic music videos of the era, there’s no doubting the band’s place in this list.
While Whitesnake didn’t achieve worldwide fame until the release of their self-titled record in 1987, the band’s music had already made them stalwarts of the genre, with their massive success going to prove just how talented this band truly was.
Check out ‘Here I Go Again 87’ by Whitesnake:
Bon Jovi’s first two albums flew under the radar somewhat, and it wasn’t until the New Jersey rockers released 1986’s Slippery When Wet that they truly made a mark on the scene. With their eponymous frontman’s rugged good looks and flowing locks, the group became household names almost overnight.
With classic tracks like ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ and ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’ helping to cement their international appeal, further records continued this success, though the hairstyles became a little less flashy as time went on.
Check out ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ by Bon Jovi:
Is it possible to think of hair metal without the word ‘Poison’ coming to mind? Of course not, thanks to rockers like Bret Michaels, albums like Open Up And Say… Ahh!, and classic songs like ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time’ or ‘Unskinny Bop’, the two are forever inextricably linked.
While there’s no denying that Poison’s heyday was the late ’80s (after all, they’ve only released five records since the ’90s hit), their power and influence within the genre will forever ensure that no one thinks of hair metal without humming the lyrics to ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ (or imagining that iconic cover art).
Check out ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ by Poison:
When it comes to a band that truly embodies the spirit of rock and roll, and that lifestyle of hedonistic ’80s excess, you simply cannot go past Mötley Crue. Formed after Mick Mars advertised himself by noting there was a “loud, rude and aggressive guitar player available”, the band were destined to help define the ’80s from the outset.
Featuring classic riffs, powerful choruses, wild offstage behaviour – and some of the most iconic hair to ever grace the stage – you can be sure that their legions of fans rock up to every gig.
Check out ‘Kickstart My Heart’ by Mötley Crüe:
A controversial choice on paper, despite Twisted Sister ticking all the boxes for the hair metal or glam metal genres, frontman Dee Snider has been quick to deny such a categorisation, claiming the band are little more than hard-rockers with a sense of the theatrical.
With albums like Stay Hungry helping to define their sound and image, Snider’s eye-catching outfits and hairstyle quickly saw the group become forever associated with the hair metal genre, leaving them as one of the most iconic artists ever labelled as such.
Check out ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ by Twisted Sister:
Guns N’ Roses
By the time these bad boys from Los Angeles released 1987’s Appetite For Destruction, they were already well-revered in their local scene. Having been around for a few years by this point, the group cut their teeth playing gigs around California, delivering classic riffs and solos thanks to Slash, while Axl Rose demanded attention thanks to his soaring vocals and memorable hairstyle.
Sure, they might have only adopted the true ‘hair metal’ look for their first record, but their look became so iconic that countless bands cited Guns N’ Roses as inspiration for their look and style when they first hit the scene. Let’s be thankful Axl didn’t have his dreads then, or today’s scene might be totally different.
Check out ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ by Guns N’ Roses:
When Skid Row formed in 1986, they were a little late to the party by hair metal standards. However, it didn’t take them long to catch up, with the addition of frontman Sebastian Bach the following year helping them to become household names in no time.
Boasting long flowing locks, enough hairspray to destroy the ozone layer, and some of the finest rock songs on offer, Skid Row only existed with their classic lineup until 1996. Since their 1999 reunion, they’ve had a number of vocalists, though none could fill that iconic image that Bach helped them achieve.
Check out ’18 And Life’ by Skid Row:
While Finland’s Hanoi Rocks might have had a sound that aligned more with the punk genre, there’s no denying that without their sound and image, we wouldn’t have had groups like Poison, Guns N’ Roses, or Skid Row, with all three citing the band as an influence.
Having formed in the late ’70s, Hanoi Rocks initially broke up in 1985 after drummer Razzle passed away. Drawing major success in countries like the UK and Japan, the group’s dissolution was devastating for fans. Thankfully, an eight-year reunion kicked off in 2001, though the band never made it down to Australia.
Check out ‘Tragedy’ by Hanoi Rocks:
Having first formed back in the ’70s, Ratt are one of the unsung heroes of the hair metal genre. Sure, they’re often mentioned in the same breath as rivals Mötley Crüe, but their influence and legacy is often overlooked in favour of countless other iconic groups.
Boasting a discography that features classics like ‘Round And Round’ and ‘Lay It Down’, Ratt’s career went into a bit of a decline by the early ’90s, with numerous lineup changes turning them into something of a musical Ship of Theseus at one point.
These days, founding vocalist Stephen Pearcy is back fronting the band, and the group are still rocking out wherever they go in their own unique style.
Check out ‘Round And Round’ by Ratt:
Any list of hair metal outfits certainly means that Hollywood’s Warrant warrant a mention (pun definitely intended). Forming back in 1984, the band’s debut record was quickly overshadowed by 1990’s Cherry Pie, with the title track proving that hair metal still had a place in the ’90s.
Showing off their stadium-sized rock anthems at every chance they got, Warrant’s popularity didn’t last, and with every album since 1992’s Dog Eat Dog failing to reach the US charts. Needless to say, with all this mention of cherry pie, we’re getting hungry for some more hair metal classics!