Elton John's best TV outfits, ranked by glorious excessiveness

The singer has announced his retirement.

Image: Disney–ABC Domestic Television / The Everett Collection

Elton John is not the kind of artist who just arrives on a scene. The guy knows how to make an entrance. He kicked off his career by winning a Grammy for Best New Artist and today, he's the fifth bestselling artist of all time, behind Madonna, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Now that's what we call a legacy.

Perhaps what helped him stand out so boldly from all the others had as much to do with his choice of clothes as his clear talent for composing songs (which he penned with his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin). In his concerts, he's known to go through waves of costumes, each more colorful than the next. Call it the most extreme form of peacocking ever, but Elton John calls it a career, and his fans quickly learned to swarm to see what the star would be wearing next.

Recently, Elton John told the world the show was ending, though, with plans to retire this year after 55 years making music. So you can bet the garments he picks for what he's announced will be his final tour ever (appropriately named Farewell Yellow Brick Road) will be show-stopping pieces.

As the singer gets set to retire, his TV appearances can offer a glimpse into his wild closet. From Soul Train to The Muppet Show, these are some of our favorite looks we saw on TV from the man behind the embellished sunglasses.

1. The Muppet Show, 1978


In 1978, Elton John arguably out-Muppeted The Muppets when he appeared to play his hit "Crocodile Rock."

Image: YouTube

2. Cher, 1975


Elton John performs a medleywith Cher, Flip Wilson and Bette Midler, and everybody's trying to outdazzle each other, not just with the vocals. We say Elton John wins, by virtue of that insane top hat.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Elton John in Central Park New York


In 1981, Elton John trotted into Central Park to make a TV movie out of a concert he performed there. Not only does he have three costume changes, but he finishes it all by waddling out in a Donald Duck costume in time to sing "Your Song."

Image: YouTube

4. Live Aid, 1985


We've seen Elton John wear a lot of hats, but this little feathered number he donned for Live Aid is one of our favorites. It's said that 95 percent of TVs on the planet tuned in to watch this benefit concert, including a duet with John and Kiki Dee.

Image: YouTube

5. The Muppet Show, 1978


On the same episode of The Muppet Show, John comes back to play "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Between the keyboard lining his hat, the green sequins on his yellow sportcoat and the coordinating casual polo below, it's somehow one of his most wearable looks without looking at all normal.

Image: YouTube

6. MTV Music Awards, 1992


In 1992 in what has since been called one of the most memorable performances on the awards show, Elton John joined Guns N' Roses onstage to perform "November Rain." To fit in with his temp band, the pop singer donned these fierce leopard shorts with a match sportcoat (of course).

Image: YouTube

7. Soul Train, 1975


"Where'd you get that suit?" is the first question Elton John got when he visited Soul Train to perform "Philadelphia Freedom" in 1975. "Sears and Roebuck," he joked, sticking out his tongue. Wearing his customary sunglasses, he's also got yet another feathered bowler hat with his colorful striped suit. In his introduction, there's the warning that you are about to be thoroughly entertained:


Image: YouTube

8. Aquarius, 1971


It took three screenshots to capture all the magic of this Elton John jumpsuit the songwriter wore on the documentary series Aquarius in 1971. From his white, strappy boots to the bowtie he put on over his form-fitting red jumper, this is probably the most conventionally '70s that John ever got. And the best part? The jumpsuit's just him getting started. Watch the video below to get to the polka dot costume change.

Image: YouTube

9. Soul Train, 1978


We've seen a lot of loud patterns so far on Elton John, but when he came back out on Soul Train to sing "Bennie and the Jets," he was decked out head to toe in this glorious green suit. 

Image: YouTube

10. The Andy Williams Show, 1971


Among Elton Johns' earliest TV appearances was this one on The Andy Williams Show. While he looks more like any other pop star in the 1970s, take a closer look at the pattern of his scoop-necked shirt, and you'll see what appears to be small illustrated elves. We say that means the style icon one-ups plain old flowers, swirls, paisleys and plaids any day of the week.

Image: YouTube

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