Elvis had his gilded belt, Elton his spectacular spectacles and now Michael Jackson has that glittering glove. Rhinestones a-twinkling, the glove lends its wearer a magical air—as if he could pluck a rabbit from a hat with the same ridiculous ease that he snatched an unprecedented eight Grammy awards a couple of weeks back.
Jackson has sported his singular piece of apparel—always on his right hand—off and on since 1979, but only recently has the costuming affectation become widely noticed. After he was burned filming a Pepsi-Cola commercial in January, he chose to keep his glove on when rushed to the hospital. When he was lifted out of the ambulance, what the world saw was a pair of shy brown eyes and a glove-encased hand resting on the stretcher sheets. His trademark was further established when the 1,500-plus invitations for a CBS Records party in his honor last month were printed on white cotton gloves. And, of course, with each successive visit to the podium on Grammy night, there was the goshdarn glove for all the world (well, 26 million TV-viewing households) to see.
Jackson’s glove compartment is stocked by Hollywood designer Bill Whitten, who has been fashioning costumes for Michael’s clan since 1976. Having designed flashy duds for Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie, glitz guru Whitten is to men what Bob Mackie is to women. The glove, which was Jackson’s idea, is made of some 1,200 round Austrian-crystal rhinestones, each individually sewn on cotton fabric. It takes a skilled seamstress nearly 40 hours of embroidery to complete. Whitten says that Jackson owns six of the gloves, including two that are black and one that is red, white and blue.
Though Michael is mum about explaining why he wears the glove, other than to say it makes him feel “never offstage,” Whitten maintains it is an integral part of the 25-year-old singer’s mystique. “Michael now has a trademark look,” says Whitten, “and that is very hard to get in this business. Now any performer who wears one glittery glove of any type will be copying.”
So far Jackson has granted no license for mass-marketing the glove, though it would surely make money hand over fist. License or not, break dancers, Jackson fans and disco devotees are already flashing the five-finger exercise in fashion.
With Jackson and his brothers embarking on a 40-engagement tour, playing huge arenas, Whitten may well be very busy in the near future. He is tight-lipped about the elaborate outfits he has in mind, except to say that he’d like to “take Michael’s glove concept even further.”
“Michael will not be stuck wearing a rhinestone glove the rest of his life,” Whitten predicts. “He is capable of many more looks because he is a natural stylist.” For now, though, Whitten seems to have his client’s mystique well in hand.