Currently, Kanye West is pretty good at channeling this vibe with his jackets.
King of Pop
One of the ways Michael was able to successfully proclaim himself as the "King of Pop" was by dressing like a king. True, the outfits can also be taken as military uniforms, but heads of state often decorate themselves in military regalia.
I also think Michael put a nice spin on this, by glittering-up this uniform-- He was a king of POP after all.
In my opinion, this was Michael at his creative peak in his career, and it's no surprise that he looked his best in this era of his career.
"We Are the World" Video, 1985
Visiting the White House in 1984. Doesn't he look like a real life prince?
Prince of Wales
Prince of Pop, mid-80's
"Rock with You" screen captures, 1979
Victory tour, mid-80's
Man in the Mirrors
Because they prevent eye contact, sunglasses are also a great way to cultivate a mystique, especially when worn indoors. Michael perfected this to a "T".
Black or White
In the "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" years, Michael rocked the tuxedo. I loved the way Michael gave a casual flair to the look by dancing while holding the tuxedo jacket over his shoulder and by rolling up his sleeves (see comments above).
Many fashion icons have a couple of unique style quirks that set them apart from everybody else. It's a great way to cultivate a mystique. However, it's equally important that the quirks aren't too overwhelming else the look simply becomes eccentric. Jackson fell victim to this in the latter part of his career.
But in his prime, Michael Jackson had no shortage of great quirks that only he could get away with. Some of the more famous ones:
- white glove
- white socks
- cropped pants
Unfortunately, after his fashion peak in 1984-5 or so, Michael's fashion sense steadily declined almost in lockstep with the demise of his music and public standing.
None of Michael Jackson's outfits during the "Bad" years (1987-1989) carried the same cultural impact as the Thriller years. He will never be remembered for anything he wore in this period, or anything after.
That being said, the outfits were decent in the "Bad" period. He primarily featured clothing with lots of buckles and straps, something he retained for the rest of his career.
"Bad tour", late 80's
"Bad" album cover, 1987
He also began sporting an arm band and fedora, both of which he would wear from time to time for the rest of life.
"Smooth Criminal" video, late 80's
For me, arm bands only look good on Nazis, and a fedora just never sat well with Michael's dainty face.
Dirty Diana video, late 1980's
He also liked loose, plain-coloured, long-sleeved shirts (usually wore either a plain white tee shirt underneath or while bare chested). While I applaud the simplicity of this look, it didn't flatter his skinny physique. This look persisted well into the 1990's.
"The way you make me feel" video, late 1980's
Dangerous and beyond (1992-2009)
As far as I'm concerned, by the time of the "Dangerous" album (1991) , Jackson's plastic surgery had caused him to look so freakish that it was distracting to anything he wore.
The Dangerous tour outfits were some weird combination of gold, sci-fi, and S&M.
Michael also wore an open, loose-fitting white shirt in the "Black or White" video
In the years that followed ("HIStory" (1995) and "Invincible" (2001)), MJ, adopted a mishmash of styles listed above.
- fedoras and arm bands
- straps, buckles, shinpads and rhinestones
In the final years from his trial and leading up to his death, Michael's fashions were just downright eccentric: lots of silk, embroidery, tacky arm bands, and formal-wear worthy of a bad prom.
When combined with his truly bizarre facial features, the look was often shocking (and I won't even both discussing the masks, veils and bandages). Sadly, the decline in his appearance seemed to dovetail with the decline in the quality of his music and creativity. My own preference is to remember Michael when he was at his creative peak in music, fashion and dance.