Michael Jackson in his iconic and much-imitated Thriller-era peak shoulder leather jacket. Michael Jackson in his iconic and much-imitated Thriller-era peak shoulder leather jacket.

“My attitude is if fashion says it’s forbidden,
I’m going to do it.”

So stated Michael Jackson, whose style choices remain as immortal as his songs. The King of Pop engineered a wardrobe worthy of the ultimate superstar — which he was.

The list of legendary Michael Jackson looks goes on and on: the solitary glove, the trophy jackets, the white suit. Moreover, glitz and glam went hand in hand with his music. Everything he wore was a strategic part of his act. Here, we take a look back at Michael Jackson’s greatest fashion hits as we observe what would have been his 60th birthday on August 29.

’70s Swinger

At the mention of his name, most people picture Michael Jackson from later on in his career. Many forget that he had multiple hits by the age of 13 as part of The Jackson Five. The ’70s were a fun time for the pint-sized pop star, who owned more than a few pairs of groovy bell bottoms. When he wasn’t mixing and matching prints with impunity, he was rocking an incredible Afro and looking sharp in a dapper tux.

Fashion Thriller

By the eighties, the performer had really come into his own. He put his stamp on peaked shoulders, moto jackets, and letterman jackets. It would become difficult for anyone else to wear trophy pieces like these without instantly conjuring images of the “Beat It” singer, whether they were trying to look like him or not.

Bold Battler

Military jackets were another hallmark, sometimes bedazzled, sometimes draped with strings of ammunition, and always stunning. He even wore one to receive an award from President Reagan. More subversive was the black leather number he wore in 2004, which was studded with police badges.

Bad Boy

Buckles and hardware added edge to Michael’s image, especially during his “Bad” phase. Sometimes these provocative embellishments ran all up and down his sleeves and pant legs, cinching entire outfits. More than anything, these clothes epitomized the ’80s excess that the King of Pop came to embody.

Can’t Look Away

One of the dancer’s most ingenious sartorial stunts (right up there with his patented “anti-gravity” shoes) was his signature combo of cropped pants and white socks. This styling was a fashion no-no until Michael made it cooler than cool. In fact, the idea was to draw attention to his flashing feet. If people didn’t appreciate his impossible dance moves before, they did now.

The Outer Limits

Things got pretty sci-fi for a while there. Case in point: Michael’s slick spacefaring armor. It looked like NASA travelled back in time to the Middle Ages to forge these creations, which were boundary pushing and politically charged.

To Cap It Off

Michael adored fedoras and wore them in part as an homage to his hero, Fred Astaire. Aviator shades were another staple. Statement accessories like these added quirky finishing touches to even his most androgynous outfits.

Pop Pioneer

Sparkly everything was a mainstay throughout Michael’s career, screaming “pop star” in a way that had never been done before. He also as good as trademarked the “one glove” look. It’s said that he originally started wearing the mysterious piece to cover up a skin condition. Eventually he jazzed up different versions with sequins and more snazzy effects.

Like the title of his final tour, everything about Michael Jackson said, “This Is It.” His aesthetic was unlike anything that had been seen before, and pretty much everything that has followed owes him a debt to a certain degree. Like his music, his fashion came across as being somehow more modern than everything else happening at the time, set apart in an untouchable realm of its own. That’s where it’s going to stay, right up at the top of every ranking imaginable, until another performer comes along who can actually compare to him. Yeah, we’re not holding our breath, either. — jas