By Alexander Bitar
There are a few – if any – things in pop culture history that are more recognizable and iconic than Michael Jackson’s glove. Just by showing people an image of the glove, they immediately understand what it is. That’s how universal and iconic the glove is.
Known as the “King of Pop”, it’s been fourteen years since Michael Jackson tragically passed away. During his last years in life, he was considered and celebrated as one of the world’s greatest-living signers. His legacy has been weakened by unconfirmed rumors and hostile public relations. However, it’s undeniable that he’s one of the most influential singer-songwriters of all time and one of the best-selling artists ever. According to reports, only The Beatles and Elvis Presley have sold more records than Michael Jackson.
Besides his beautiful voice and the fact that he wrote his own music, one of the features that made Michael Jackson successful was his stage presence. The way he moved, danced, and – of course – the way he dressed. In addition to all musical attributes, MJ is widely regarded as one of the finest style icons of all time. Many contemporary artists are heavily inspired by the style of MJ. From his black loafers to his military-inspired jackets to his fedora hats – much has been copied by other artists. But there’s one thing that can’t be copied due to the fact that it’s so heavily attached to Michael Jackson, namely his iconic glove. No other object is more associated with MJ than his glove.
Why Did Michael Jackson Wear The Glove?
The exact reason Michael Jackson began wearing a glove while performing live on stage has yet to be fully confirmed. MJ suffered from vitiligo, and it’s suggested that it might be the reason for the glove. A more reasonable suggestion would simply be that MJ thought it would be a great feature of his appearance.
When asked why he only wore one glove instead of two, Jackson replied, “I felt that one glove was cool… wearing two gloves seemed so ordinary”. That also implies that he wore the glove strictly because of its aesthetics.
When Did Michael Jackson Wear The Glove For The First Time?
According to 99% of all sources online, Michael Jackson first debuted his crystal-studded glove in 1983 during the iconic Motown 25th Anniversary TV Special.
Many sources also imply that Michael Jackson got the inspiration for the glove in 1980 when Jackson visited the production company Robert Abel & Associates, and it said that it was during that meeting that the idea of the glove appeared. John Kehe, who conducted the tour with MJ, said they met with an editor who wore a white cotton glove on one hand, and Jackson thought it looked cool. “Michael, who hadn’t shown any particular enthusiasm for the tour so far, seemed suddenly transfixed by the glove,” John said, and continued, “The rest, they say, is history.”
The only problem with the statement that Michael Jackson debuted the glove in 1983 and that he first got the inspiration for the glove in 1980 is the following… There is photographic and video evidence that Michael Jackson wore a white glove in 1981 during the “Triumph Tour with The Jacksons, which took place between July 8 and September 26, 1981.
In addition to that, Michael Jackson also wore a white glove during the “Destiny World Tour” with The Jacksons in 1979! The tour began on January 22, 1979, and ended on January 13.
In other words, Michael Jackson debuted the glove in 1979, not 1983. Hence the story that John Kehe published, regarding that Jackson got the inspiration for the glove in 1980, is therefore incorrect.
Sadly, the quality of the videos and photos from the 1979 live performances is very bad. However, it’s clear that MJ wore the glove during some songs. It’s possible to witness this by searching for “Michael Jackson Robot Dance 1979” on YouTube.
In regard to the Motown 25 appearance, which was recorded on March 25, 1983, it’s, however, fair to state that it indeed made the glove more famous and recognizable to fans. And after that, the glove became a centerpiece of Jackson’s appearance throughout his career.
The Designer of The Glove?
Since the debut of the glove, Michael Jackson wore many different variations of the glove. Below are a couple of the gloves that Michael Jackson wore either in public or while performing live on stage. Besides celebrity designer Bill Whitten, the original designer of the glove, the designer duo Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush also made gloves for MJ.
Throughout his career, Jackson wore both left-handed and right-handed gloves, but he never wore them simultaneously. One unified detail of all gloves was that they were always studded with Swarovski crystals. It was important that the glove, while worn by MJ, would sparkle and get people’s attention. Notably, both Bill Whitten and Tomkins/Bush made other types of clothes and accessories for Michael Jackson, but their true claim to fame will forever be the gloves.
The Value of Authentic Stage-Worn Gloves
To find an authentic glove that was not only made for Michael Jackson, but also worn by him, is extremely rare. There are many fake gloves on the market, as with all types of memorabilia related to Michael Jackson. However, authentic gloves typically sell in the six-figure range.
The current record for a stage-worn glove, set by Julien’s Auctions in 2009, is $430,000. The auction took place five months after MJ passed away. And even more notable, the glove was the glove that he wore during the Motown 25 appearance, which is arguably the finest glove of them all. Michael Jackson wore the glove while entering the stage with his brothers to standing ovations, and a couple of minutes into the performance, when he was singing solo, he did the famous moonwalk for the first time.
It’s not confirmed how many gloves Michael Jackson owned in total, nor how many variations there were. One thing that’s certain is that the glove, over time, established itself as the most iconic and recognizable pop culture artifact of all time.
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The article is written by Alexander Bitar, an internationally acclaimed dealer of high-end collectibles, owner of Alexander Bitar History. Based in Stockholm and Beverly Hills, some of Alexander Bitar’s specialties are entertainment and historical memorabilia, vintage luxury watches, autographs, and important manuscripts.