The anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death is today, and his legacy remains a strange one. From his impact as a musician, to his cosmetic surgeries, to the allegations of sexual abuse, he firmly occupied a slice of the American public consciousness for decades.
But this is not a pop culture blog. This is a patent blog. And so let me introduce you to Michael Jackson the inventor: https://patents.google.com/patent/US5255452A
Michael Jackson defied gravity in his music video for Smooth Criminal. I found the exact moment in the video, below, so you can see it in action.
Now, MJ was a great dancer, but he was not 45-degrees-from-vertical great. You keep leaning forward, and at some point, physics knocks on the door and would like to have a word with you. But when physics says no, human ingenuity says yes. So, what do you do when you want an angle that could only be achieved by nailing your shoes to the floor, but you don’t want to nail your shoes to the floor?
Michael Jackson’s anti-gravity shoes have a slot in the heel, which accepts the head of a bolt sticking out through the floor. This lets the wearer lock onto the floor at that point and do whatever crazy leans their leg muscles and tendons will support.
Look back at the video above–you see how they all start leaning at the beginning of the shot? That’s because they all had to get set up first. With this design, it’s easy to disengage the shoe and go straight to dancing, but it would be tough to slot the shoe onto the bolt without stopping everything to line it up correctly.
The patent expired in 2005 for failure to pay a maintenance fee. As a result, when MJ died in 2009, the anti-grav shoe was already in the public domain. I’m not sure anyone but me noticed this, but you can see it in action in Shakira’s music video for She Wolf (Loba), which was released a couple of months after MJ’s death:
If you know of any other examples of the shoe’s use, tell me about them in the comments!