Thursday, 13 August 2009

A fashionable illusion

Fashionista doesn't normally write about science, but when the science relates to fashion (inventive, novel fashion at that), she's prepared to make an exception.

Fashionista remembers watching Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal video, amazed at the King of Pop's ability to defy gravity by leaning so far forwards whilst standing, without falling over. This particular Fashionista freeze-framed the Smooth Criminal video countless times, looking for the tell-tale cables, supporting such an impossible move - but simply couldn't see any. How did MJ do this she wondered?

Well, the mystery is solved thanks to US Patent (there's a word we don't see on Fashionista very often) No. 5,255,452, for "Method and Means for Creating Anti-Gravity Illusion", filed by the King of Pop himself and others. The patent is for "a system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity".

No cables were involved. Instead, MJ co-invented special boots (to be masked by spats or sock like covers to give the appearance of loafers), with a cut out in the heel, so that the boots can slide onto hitches in the floor, fixing the wearer to the ground so that he can lean forward without fear of falling over. Move the foot backwards, and you are free. Voila!

Savvy entertainers do more than just perform. They are business minded (or well advised) and known the value of what they do and how to protect it. This patent application would likely have attracted media attention for Michael Jackson at the time, encouraging anyone not familiar with the "lean" to watch his performances. More importantly, by obtaining patent protection, MJ was ensuring that it would be extremely difficult for anyone to copy him without getting into trouble - "cementing his position" (sorry!) as an innovator, and one of a kind.

Whatever views people may have of MJ (and they are many and varied), Fashionista applauds the inventiveness and dedication shown by Michael Jackson to his art, and his contribution to the world of intellectual property.