It seems like every generation looks back at the music that was made twenty years before they came of age and embraces it as some sort of ironic hipster badge of honor. Think about it – Happy Days came out twenty years after the ‘50s, the eighties saw an entire “paisley underground” subculture mine the mid-‘60s sound and look, kids in the nineties worshiped at the altar of the ‘70s – you get the idea.
So where does that leave the generation of music fans who came of age in the ‘00s? Do they look back at the ‘80s and immediately seek out Replacements records or obscure, wildly influential stuff by bands like Big Black? Nope. There has been an explosion of interest in that glittery, androgynous, chart-topping ‘80s anomaly known as hair metal.
For us old fogies who actually lived through this stuff the first time, this is a real head-scratcher. We figured that grunge drove a stake through the heart of hair metal once and for all in ’91. Apparently, we underestimated the power of the undead, because this stuff is back in a big way. Let’s take a look at some of the relics from this era. Most of this stuff still smells of Aqua Net. As always, click on the photos to check this stuff out up-close and awesome at our interactive memorabilia website.
Here’s a great example of just how narcissistic hair metal singers could be. This custom leather jacket was created by clothing designer Tony Alamo for Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer and features a photo-realistic likeness of Tom on the back. Remember Cinderella? They were actually a damn good band, but got caught up in the whole pretty-boy ‘80s thing. They also had that “hula hoop” guitar move down better than anyone. Check this thing out. The hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes are actual human hair.
Most of the ‘80s guitarists favored custom Charvel, Kramer, or Jackson instruments that weighed a ton and had locking tremelos to facilitate squealy bits that only dogs could hear. This is a Charvel that belonged to Warren DeMartini of Ratt. Warren was (and is) an incredible guitarist, so we give him some slack.
When Warren played the guitar pictured above onstage, like any self (dis)respecting hair metal star, he’d wear something bordering on the ridiculous. Like this snazzy little number:
Hair metal hit its apotheosis in 1988 when Kip Winger and the band that bore his name released “Seventeen”. The video that accompanied the tune was a perfect storm of creepy-guy sexuality, ridiculous lyrics, and non-stop posing. Witness, if you dare:
And these are the pants Kip wore in the video:
Bon Jovi is a unique case. They’ve consistently maintained a fan base and their music has evolved nicely over the years, but they were a full-blown hair metal band in the ‘80s, so let’s make fun of them. This utterly hideous Kramer guitar was made for Jon Bon Jovi in ’88 for the band’s New Jersey tour. The “faux denim” look of this thing is so ‘80s, it’s actually stonewashed.
Speaking of stonewashed (please say stonewashed jeans aren’t going to make a comeback. Seriously, man, we couldn’t handle that), here’s a pair of perfectly distressed stonewashed jeans featuring flag patches that Jon Bon Jovi owned and operated in ’89:
Which brings us to Poison. This group personifies the hair metal ideal more than any other band possibly could. As wack as many of us think they are, you’ve got to hand it to them. They survived the “Great Hair Metal Massacre” of the ‘90s and reemerged in the ‘00s as the kings of the old guard. They’ve enjoyed the fruits of the hair metal revival more than most, and we salute them for it. We’ll even go as far as to say that these pants are pretty badass. Drummer Rikki Rockett wore them onstage during Poison’s triumphant arena tour in 2006. Read that last sentence again – POISON’S TRIUMPHANT ARENA TOUR IN 2006.
So it appears that ‘80s hair metal has hit a nerve with modern music fans and is back in a big way. Too bad we didn’t by stock in Aqua Net. If you’re a hair metal fan and want to tell us how much we suck for making fun of it, head over to our Memorabilia Page on Facebook page and give us a piece of your mind. But before you get too excited about the return of pouty pretty boys, remember just how fleeting this stuff is. It can be wiped away as easy as…