Fashion History Expert Cameron Silver on Collecting George Michael's Iconic Outfits

Cameron Silver, fashion history expert and owner of L.A.’s vintage mecca Decades, tells Billboard how he acquired one of George Michael’s iconic leather jackets by British designer Katharine Hamnett. As told to Shannon Adducci. 

A woman brought this jacket into the store about five years ago. It was someone who was in George’s inner circle, and it belonged to him. I knew the jacket from the late '80s, when I worked at a shop called Theodore, in the Beverly Center. We sold Katharine Hamnett and I had a lot of her pieces: the light silk camp shirts, all the slogan tees, the “Clean Up or Die” pin. She’s the one designer I regret not keeping. I got rid of all of it and I’ve been trying to rebuild my collection. I have since repurchased the “Choose Life” and “Stay Alive in 85” t-shirts, and then this jacket.

If you were a British pop star in the eighties, Katharine Hamnett was your go-to. She was part of that second wave of fashion coming out of London (after the '60s), and it was a continuation of that symbiotic relationship between fashion design and the music world. It’s something that has always been very evident in British designers -- think Ossie Clark and Mick Jagger. Her clothes really distilled what was happening in fashion and what was happening in pop music. And her slogan tees were radical. People have used clothing to make political statements before, but this was done in such a bold but minimal way.

George played around with iconography, and a lot of what he wore transcended times: the leather jacket, the slogan t-shirt, the denim, the cowboy hat. Lady Gaga is wearing those hats now. The one thing that was really groundbreaking was the earring. And he was metrosexual before it was a term, with the coiffed stubble, the guyliner. It was playing around with androgyny but was it was also very masculine.

I had to do some restoration on the jacket, and it’s now part of my personal (and absurdly large) archive, which is not for sale. There are certain things that are just part of my forever collection.

Editor’s Note: A similar “Clean Up or Die” studded leather jacket by Katharine Hamnett is currently available on 1stdibs for $1,920.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 14 issue of Billboard.

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