Hair metal. One of the most distinct music subgenres of all time, and one of the biggest fads of the 1980s. Bright colors, skin-tight leather, sticky sweet guitar riffs and enough hairspray to hold up a skyscraper.

We all know who the big guys of the era were — Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Ratt, Poison and so on. But where the hell did the style derive from? What took popular rock 'n' roll from being blues-based and gritty to party-pop anthems?

Glam rock.

This unique subsidiary of rock started in the U.K. in the late 1960s, and became popular thanks to Marc Bolan and his band T.Rex when he started making televised appearances wearing glitter and other seemingly flamboyant clothing. David Bowie came next, especially when he started performing as his alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

Other bands began following suit, focusing heavily on their fashion and appearance and writing pop-rock tunes, like Slade and the Sweet. Eventually, the cultural phenomena carried over the Atlantic and the New York Dolls formed in the U.S.

These artists' combination of their androgynous appearances and their flashy rock music paved the way for artists such as Van Halen and Quiet Riot, who would rise in the late-'70s and start creating hair metal as we know it today. Scroll through the gallery below to see hair metal's pioneers.

14 Rock Bands + Artists Who Pioneered Hair Metal

Top 70 Hard Rock + Metal Albums of the 1970s

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