Look What the Cat Dragged In: Analysing gender and sexuality in the Hot Metal Centerfolds of 1980s glam metal | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 2-3
  • ISSN: 2050-070X
  • E-ISSN: 2050-0718



Throughout rock music’s history musicians have explored the boundaries of gendered dress and performed sexuality, but none have done it quite as fascinatingly as those of glam metal, a particular subgenre of heavy metal that became commercially popular in the United States in the mid-1980s. The stars of glam metal often appropriate exaggeratedly feminine modes of dressing, such as extensive and highly styled hair and make-up, yet still strive to communicate an traditionally masculine, even hyper-masculine, heterosexual persona designed to snare women through clothing, lifestyle and the presentation of both in popular media. As musicologist Robert Walser writes, metal is a cultural entity that offers lots of opportunities for doing identity work, and accomplishing gender is one form of identity work that merits particular focus. Using the visual and sartorial material contained within the metal pin-up or centrefold, this article takes upon itself the task of understanding how glam metal musicians accomplish gender, with particular emphasis on the way ideas about heterosexual masculinity are packaged and presented to the consumer of such imagery. The metal centrefold is compared to its more famous female counterpart, the Playboy centrefold, to illustrate the way clothing and body posturing influence our reading of gender and sexuality, and the rebellious cowboy imagery that defines musicians such as Bret Michaels of Poison is compared to the image of the cowboy as viewed in Marlboro advertisements, demonstrating glam metal’s emphasis on projecting a carefully calibrated sense of heterosexual masculinity to its audience.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): authenticity; glamour; masculinity; performance; sexuality
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