Fans of heavy metal music have created their own subculture which encompasses more than just appreciation of the style of music. Fans affirm their membership in the subculture or scene by attending metal concerts – an activity seen as central to the subculture, buying albums, in some cases growing their hair long, wearing jackets or vests most often denim adorned with band patches and often studs and most recently, by contributing to metal publications.
Some critics and musicians have suggested that the subculture is largely intolerant to other musical genres. The metal scene, like the rock scene in general, is associated with alcohol, tobacco and drug use as well as riding motorcycles and having a lot of tattoos. While there are songs that celebrate drinking, smoking/dipping, drug use, gambling, having tattoos and partying, there are also many songs that warn about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, tattoo and drug addictions. The metal fanbase was traditionally white and male in the 1970s, but since the 1980s, more female fans have developed an interest in the style, while popularity and interest continue to grow among African Americans and other groups.
Heavy metal fans go by a number of different names, including metalhead, headbanger, hesher, mosher and heavy, with the term thrasher being used only for fans of thrash metal music, which began to differentiate itself from other varieties of metal in the late 80's. These vary with time and regional divisions, but "headbanger" and "metalhead" are universally accepted to refer to fans or the subculture itself.