“Sometimes the clothes do not make the man,” George Michael sang in his rousing top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Freedom ’90.” But beyond his soaring voice, knack for melody and messages of self-empowerment (in and out of the bedroom), his sartorial choices were also pretty damn fabulous — even if he did torch some of them in the video for “Freedom” as a squad of supermodels lip-synched his lyrics. Here’s a look at his top five style statements over the years.
A Hint of Androgyny
While fellow ’80s pop stars like Boy George and Dead Or Alive’s Pete Burns played with gender norms, the London-born Greek heartthrob (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou) brandished blond-streaked, feathered tresses, gold hoop earrings and a penchant for guyliner that kept the girls and boys enthralled.
Making a Statement
Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley rocked oversized Katharine Hamnett tees emblazoned with “CHOOSE LIFE” in block letters in the video for their Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” making slogan tees a big ’80s fashion moment. Note the issue here was about suicide prevention and drug abuse, not abortion.
His hot pink top and Day-Glo yellow fingerless gloves in the video for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” encapsulated another big ’80s trend: neon. The bright and bubbly outfit made sure there was no forgetting that the up-tempo, retro song was born in the Reagan/Thatcher era.
Michael’s iconic Faith look elevated the five o’clock shadow to an art form of designer stubble. Plus, the vintage black motorcycle jacket, artfully distressed Levi’s, crucifix earring and mirrored aviators added up to a pretty boy pop star flirting with gay subtext before he officially came out as loud and proud. Regardless, pop fans of all genders still wanted his sex.
Suspenders, Shirt Optional
Madonna wasn’t the only pop icon sporting suspenders in the ’80s. George Michael made the playful look elegant — when paired with a fedora in the video for “Monkey” — and sexy, as when worn onstage over just his taught, hairy torso.