Tuesday 2 May 2017


So, dude....what's with the hair?

The hair metal era is one of the most controversial and maligned periods in Rawk History ™. It has divided families, nations, races, indeed whole generations into two broad camps: those who cringe behind dirty fingers at the parade of the primped, or those who go “Hit it, C.C!”. But love it or loathe it, something odd nevertheless happened in the late '80s; how did it become normal for bunches of blokes to wear their hair in a coiffured blonde bombshell and covered in warpaint? What was going on?

Of course, it this was one or two bands it wouldn't be enough to become a pattern, rather than a trend. But dozens of bands – hundreds – did this. Some may have just been being themselves – Hanoi Rocks certainly were, and so were Poison (probably) – but what made everyone from new acts like Motley Crue to old diehards like Kiss and Dokken do the same? What made a Stockton lad like David Coverdale – then in his mid '30s – decide to go for the platinum preen of a man half his age, and hire a band of similarly shiny young hands to complete the look?

Two things become immediately apparent in this phenomenon. First, that in sharp contrast to the habit of pop cultural movements to give men considerable latitude this period saw men have to try really hard to keep up and make the grade. It was a long way from the days of dandruff and stubble to the days of designer hair, eyeliner and chiselled cheekbones, especially when it was forged in the white heat of peer pressure and fan expectation. This was not a time for slouches.

Secondly, this was a period when huge numbers of women got into rock music and substantially redressed the gender imbalance in the hard rock audience. Was this due to the relative melodious nature of hair metal? Or were the blokes just finally making the grade?

In a goth context, of course, we're used to all this – although the popcorn powerpuff of much of hair metal lacks the dark currents found in gothic music there is a certain shared mentality at work: the need to perform, to raise standards, to project, to involve women and celebrate the feminine; and to get delightfully decadent at the same time. Especially as when the rockers began to let themselves go back into the dirty-jeans-and-dandruff spiral of grunge, we kept our manicured hands firmly gripped on our eyeliner.

So ultimately, whether contrived by the need to package rebellion more effectively in the MTV era or by the changing gender cultures of the late '80s, for a moment hard rock was sashaying in lockstep with Goth. And although the hangover remains, no one can deny that it was a great party whilst it lasted.

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