Why did Michael Jackson wear a white jacket for “Thriller” in the History and Dangerous world tours?



A lot of people ask me questions like “Why did Michael Jackson wear a white/green jacket for “Thriller” in the History and Dangerous world tours, instead of the red one?” and I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of these questions in a series!

Alright, let’s see if we can take a closer look at this piece of Michael Jackson trivia!

In the Dangerous Tour Michael wore an illuminous white/green jacket for the song Thriller. The Jacket was a recreation of the original video version, by Michael Bush. Obviously, the jacket wasn’t red!

In the History world tour Michael also wore the same design and coloured jacket, again, recreated by his costume designer Michael Bush… again, this wasn’t his classic world famous red Thriller jacket!

Why though, is the question?

Well, let’s take a look. The original question is actually incorrect! Michael DID wear a red jacket on tour (excluding the Bad tour), on occasion.

Burcharest, Romania: Michael Jackson History Tour

Michael wore a uniquely red Thriller Jacket for this concert. It was made of a more reflective material and it was slightly too big. It was also interesting to note the addition of material under the arms for ease of movement (and I suspect ventilation too, as the material doesn’t look like it breathes too well). It was also fun to see the body double appear instead of MJ with the appearance of Michael’s arm growing by about 3 feet…. but more about that in a minute!

Amsterdam, Holland: Michael Jackson’s History Tour (first leg)

Michael again, wore a different jacket for his concert, in the first leg of History tour, in his Amsterdam concert. It wasn’t red but a Purple (ly) darker red colour with different angled stripes, again presumably designed by Michael Bush. You can take a closer look at this Jacket in the German Blitz special documentary when you get some good close ups of his tour wardrobe. (I believe MJ also wore this in one of his Moscow concerts as well – growing old, so can’t remember 100% :-)

Some possible reasons…. and the probable reason!

Firstly, Michael liked to have fun with his fans. I have no doubt that he like to change things up for his fans and himself, literally just for the fun of it! Michael Bush designed many many jackets that were not used on the tour or used very rarely – in the Dangerous tour Michael even grabbed Michael Bush’s Jacket OFF HIS BACK and wore that for a song! Michael Jackson was a fun guy! :-)

The white/green jacket isn’t the REAL Thriller Jacket though!

Well, actually, yes it is! You might not have noticed that in the 80′s, people actually walked the streets in the Thriller jacket! Not only that, they walked the streets in lot’s of different coloured versions including white! So, the newer variant is still “original” so to speak.

It’s my understanding (after speaking to some friends and fans a little older than myself, who have a very good pop knowledge of the era) that the jacket was a real jacket. I am unsure if it was designed SPECIFICALLY for the Michael Jackson’s Thriller from scratch… it was always my feeling that it wasn’t but I may be wrong. Deborah Landis, the wife of the director of the video (as well as “Black or White”) is credited for the costumes and you can read an interview of her talking about the jacket here. The point is though, that we have the famous jacket (which was a jacket before or after the video) and people on the street wore a variety of colours of it (people also wore the glove, the white socks, short trousers….everything!). Michael was a fashion icon. (By the way – the jacket, the socks, the white T-shirt and even the dance moves…. take a look at SUMMER LOVING from the movie GREASE.

The MOST probable reason!

Continuity of the show. This in my opinion is the reason and a simple one. You want, VISUALLY, a variety of colours and sounds and EVENTS…. iconic visions and representation of the original videos on the stage – just the vision of Michael standing in the Thriller jacket is enough.

On the same note, we have to look at the songs and specifically the ORDER of the songs and how that impacts on the costumes.

Dangerous Tour we have 3 songs in row – THRILLER into BILLIE JEAN into BEAT IT after WDAN)

History Tour we have it even clearer – BILLIE JEAN into THRILLER straight into BEAT IT

The Beat it Jacket is Red and very similar to the Thriller jacket. I’d say that the look is TOO similar to warrant a costume change and not clear enough when you have… it reduces the effect of the costume change and of either Beat it or Thriller – so the way around this is just to change the colour of one of them! It EMPHASIZES the effect of the illusions too (ie How did he change THAT fast!)

Another reason is that the stage version of a song is very very different from an original video version. Obviously the lighting is very very dark for the stage version and it would be harder to see if it were red, as anyone who was at wembley for the Dangerous tour will tell you, socks and jacket was what you saw…. it was very dark!

I would say that that is it really! Simple when you think about it…. continuity, variety as well as practicality!

Finally let’s add one more thing. We said earlier that MJ was a practical joker and a fun guy. History tour, Thriller: Michael’s T-shirt in Billie Jean/First part of Thriller is a T-SHIRT – it isn’t in the second half, it grows arms in 4 seconds! :-) Possible reason’s – protection, fire retardant material for the arms for the dancer?

BUT look closely…. look at the before jacket and the after jacket….there is a difference! There is a clear difference actually! It is in EVERY concert. You can see it very clearly in the HD version of the Munich History Tour concert. I think Michael had some fun and added a slight something on the first jacket on purpose so that the eagle eyed fans (although they’ already knew anyway, if they were that eagle eyed! :-) could tell that the second part of Thriller wasn’t actually the King himself!

But to keep the magic….. maybe it was him…. maybe it was all an illusion,a Thriller!

Til Next Time!

By Anthony King (c)

AK Team

DVDs! How To Dance Like Michael Jackson! anthony-king.com

Related articles

MICHAEL JACKSON HISTORY TOUR LIVE IN SEOUL, KOREA (Part 1)
MICHAEL JACKSON DANGEROUS TOUR MUNICH, JUNE 27, 1992
MICHAEL JACKSON DANGEROUS TOUR BUCHAREST LIVE CONCERT/DVD
MICHAEL JACKSON AND FRIENDS 1999 CHARITY CONCERTS
MICHAEL JACKSON’S HISTORY WORLD TOUR 1996
MICHAEL JACKSON’S DANGEROUS WORLD TOUR 1992
MICHAEL JACKSON’S BAD TOUR 1988

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