In the early 1980s, a single sequined glove accompanied a fedora, and white socks beamed from underneath the ankle-freezing pants of the moonwalking superstar.
Michael’s ode to the rebellious teenager of yesteryear could be seen in his blatant exposure of white socks with black shoes. Once worn by the bobby soxers of the 50s, short white socks were the emblem of teenage rebellion and solidarity.
Michael appealed to the youngsters with his child-like innocence, infectious music, and through his ability to do anything and be anything he wanted.
Girls couldn’t help but to fall in love with the shy but sexy Michael in a leather suit, pink shirt and bow tie for Billy Jean. His sleeves, pushed or rolled to mid-forearm, became one of his trademarks and the only way to wear suit sleeves during the 80s.
Michael’s move from 70s afro to relaxed ‘Jheri-curl’ was widely copied as a style for black hair. Head to toe, Jheri-curl to black oxfords, fans emulated their hero and his incredible dance moves.
In his 1984 ode to gang rebellion, Beat It, Michael traded in the leather suit for a motorcycle jacket.
Thirty years earlier, in the movie The Wild One (1954), Marlon Brando had made the black motorcycle jacket a fashion necessity for all rebellious boys. Now it was Michael’s chance to turn rebellion on its head and update the look: bright red and collarless, this single-breasted, slim coat boasted metal studs and dozens of zippers.
This memorable look was captured in a commercial for Pepsi Cola, which featured a group of young kids cruising the street, confident in imitation of Michael’s style. A young Alfonso Ribera, dressed in a knock-off of Michael’s red jacket with a glove on one hand, got a great surprise when his hero turned the corner and joined in.
Michael showed off his softer side in Human Nature with a pastel yellow sweater vest, bow tie and rhinestone brooches. He appealed to the sensitive-seeking girls, as well as to confident and disciplined boys.
The last time military and bandleader uniforms were popular was with The Beatles from their Sgt. Pepper psychedelia days. Michael updated the look in sparkly sequinned jackets with gold braid epaulets and reflective aviator glasses – and his sequined glove, of course.
The King of Pop continued to make records and influence fans, but his eccentric style was copied much less during the 90s.
Michael returned to the scene with Dangerous in 1992, but his most shocking change was not his clothes, but his face. Newly sculpted and shockingly pale-skinned (he explained it was a skin condition), Michael’s appealing innocence was gone.