fashion is having a michael jackson moment, from balmain to supreme
How the late King of Pop continues to inspire brands.
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Since his untimely death, fashion designers have developed an affinity for honouring the inimitable style of Michael Jackson. The chameleonic singer provided the world with a plethora of iconic style moments: the single sequinned glove, ornate embellished military jackets, those James Dean-meets-the-80s red leather jackets from Beat It and Thriller, and that white fedora from the nine-minute-long Smooth Criminal visual.
This morning, Supreme delivered a short notice to its devoted fans: a collection of skateboards, T-shirts, hoodies, and button-downs printed with a photo of MJ during his Thriller years will be released tomorrow. Prior to the announcement, rumours of the brand's tribute to the late star had been brewing for weeks on the internet. One Supreme Reddit user reacted to the leaked news with, "This drop is like a blessing from God to me." Considering Supreme's last minute confirmation, barely giving its hypebeast fans time to smash their piggy banks, beg their parents for cash, and/or check their credit card limit, Supreme must be confident the collection will fly off shelves tomorrow. Why? Because Michael is fashion.
Jackson references are appearing in pop culture at a breakneck speed. Giving a speech at a rally for Hillary Clinton last year, Lady Gaga wore one of Jackson's old jackets. And for her performance of Formation at last year's Super Bowl Halftime Show, Beyoncé recreated the studded military look the king of pop wore during his own 1993 halftime show. With Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing heavily drawing from Jackson's aesthetic during his later years, it becomes impossible to deny there is a trend here. But Jackson's influence on fashion is nothing new.
Before you try to cop a Supreme x Michael Jackson piece tomorrow morning, take a look back at the most memorable fashion tributes to the late style icon.
For his spring 2013 fashion show, British designer Philip Treacy turned to Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins to create Michael Jackson-inspired outfits to accompany his signature avant-garde hats. The runway show featured recreations of the "M" varsity jacket from Thriller, the astronaut-inspired jumpsuit from the HIStory Tour, and those intimidating knee-high boots from the Bad video. "These clothes were designed to fill a stadium of 80,000 people, yet they are made like haute couture," Treacy told The New York Times at the show. "Michael Jackson did better than anyone the sense of the extraordinary."
Jackson frequently wore Balmain off-stage, rocking the brand's sequinned and embezzled pieces fit for a king (of pop). A few months after the star's death, Balmain created a series of excessively bedazzled military jackets for its spring/summer 09 collection. Balmain's sparkling jackets seemed to be designed less for the street and more for the planned This Is It concert series Jackson never got to perform. Since Rousteing became creative director of the French luxury brand in 2011, Balmain has cranked the Jackson vibes up to 100. For the Balmain X H&M capsule, Rousteing created white suits, shoulder pad hoodies, and military boots that were quintessential Michael.
During a 2013 interview with Howard Stern, Lady Gaga explained why she bought Michael's clothes — not denying or confirming Stern when he said she had spent millions on them. "The reason I bought Michael's clothes is because my tour clothes mean more to me than anything that I wear," she explained. "With Michael the fact that he's not here and his clothes were being sold made me feel really uncomfortable and it made me feel very upset."
Gaga has only taken to wearing a few pieces from her vast archive. Perhaps in keeping with Jackson's political messages in songs like Man in the Mirror and They Don't Care About Us, Gaga wore one of his suits during a rally speech for Hillary Clinton. It was a great fashion moment: a pop star of today becoming a pop star of the past.
"I take care of them," Gaga also said to Stern. "They're in the right room temperature so they can be preserved and I'll put together a museum for him and donate the money to a foundation he liked."
In 2008, Maison Margiela released a leather jacket inspired by Jackson's in his Thriller video. The colours are inverted, the signature "V" being red on Margiela's and the rest of the jacket black. Also included in the collection was a pair of skinny red pants that were very reminiscent of Jackson's street style during the 80s.
Beyoncé came under fire for her performance of Formation at last year's Super Bowl Halftime Show, with a number of conservative blogs and news programs calling the show "militant." One big reason behind that was Beyoncé's imposing military jacket — a replica of one worn by Michael Jackson. The singer wore the jacket over a leotard, meshing together her own signature aesthetic with Jackson's.
While some critics called the outfit too risqué for the halftime show, Jackson's military jacket fit in perfectly with Queen Bey's unapologetic celebration of black power. The jacket is from Michael's own 1993 Super Bowl Halftime Show. Jackson's performance marked a shift in the importance of the halftime show, his high-production show being the first time viewership increased between halves of the game.
Text André Wheeler
Photography Michael Putland/Getty Images