As the world mourns the death of Michael Jackson, we remember his design legacy—not his taste in clothing (dictator chic), accessories (a crystal-studded white glove, primates), or typefaces (up with script fonts, down with serifs), but his patented anti-gravity footwear. That’s right, intellectual property fans, Jackson is listed as the first of three inventors on United States Patent 5,255,452, granted in 1993 for a “method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion.” Translation: special loafers fitted with heels that can slot into the stage floor to allow the wearer to lean forward, Smooth Criminal style, at gravity-defying angles.
According to the patent’s abstract, the Jackson-devised system relies on “a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface. The shoes have a specially designed heel slot which can be detachably engaged with the hitch member by simply sliding the shoe wearer’s foot forward, thereby engaging with the hitch member.” Jackson co-developed the technique as an improvement upon a previous method in which he and his dancers were rigged up with harnesses and cables. This worked fine for videos, notes the patent in the required “description of the prior art,” but not in front of a live audience. The shoe-based system has the added advantage of “permitting an entertainer to freely move about a stage.” And the fun doesn’t stop there. Jackson’s patent is referenced as an antecedent to another footwear innovation, patent 7,380,349. Granted last year, it covers flip-flops that have a bottle-opened in the footbed. Perfect when you Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ but are ill prepared.