The House of Mouse must have a pretty big closet.
Mickey Mouse turns 90 on Saturday, and while Disney’s iconic mascot is as recognizable as ever as a nonagenarian, he’s adopted quite a few different looks or outfits over the decades. Some are better than others (the less said about Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, a 1933 short where Mickey dresses in blackface to stage a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the better). But, for the most part, Mickey has a pretty good fashion sense, always being careful to make sure that his latest lewk goes well with his big round ears.
Here are Mickey Mouse’s nine best looks over the past 90 years.
Steamboat Willie is, famously, Mickey Mouse’s debut, but it technically wasn’t the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, just the first one to get a widespread release in theaters. Plane Crazy (1928) was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever created, though only a small audience saw the short at a test screening prior to its eventual official release after Steamboat Willie made Mickey a hit. Even though the two cartoons came out in the same year, you can see differences in Mickey Mouse’s look.
In Plane Crazy, Mickey Mouse does not wear shoes, and he vaguely feels more rodent-like than his later steamboat captain iteration. It’s subtle, but you can see why maybe this Mickey wasn’t an instant hit. Still, this look deserves a hallowed place in Mickey Mouse’s closet, if only because it was the original.
Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers
Though this direct-to-video adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers came out in 2004, an effort to make a film starring Mickey as one of the titular musketeers had been in and out of development hell since the ‘80s. Sometimes, though, a look is worth the wait. Mickey looks good wearing the flourishy outfit of a 1620s French guard. It’s extra fun to look at the Fleur-de-lis on his tabard and realize that this centuries-old heraldic symbol is arguably less recognized nowadays than the three circles that make-up Mickey Mouse’s silhouette.
Mickey Mouse (2013)
The 2013 Mickey Mouse cartoon gave Mickey a pretty intense redesign, and you know what? It looks good! He’s lost a lot of weight and apparently hasn’t had time to buy new red pants that fit, but the 2013 Mickey isn’t a looker just because he’s skinny. It’s more that he’s a return to the classic, 1920s and ‘30s Mickey Mouse look, what with his white skin, “pie slice” eyes, and pointier nose. And yet, the 2013 look feels modern, very of a piece with the deceptively simple animation styles of modern classics like Adventure Time. With this look, Mickey Mouse is making retro new.
Kingdom Hearts, a video game franchise that mashes up Disney and the Final Fantasy series, has a plot that’s grown comically convoluted. This is a franchise where multiple releases have had decimal points in their titles, for crying out loud. Mickey Mouse is a central figure in all this confusion, and he’s a sort of interdimensional king who fights the forces of darkness wielding a weapon known as a keyblade.
He’s worn a couple different Final Fantasy-inspired outfits over the course of the games, all of which have had entirely too many zippers, but the best has to be his dark black cloak with a hood that perfectly contours his ears. Listen, everybody had a Hot Topic phase growing up, and we should thank Kingdom Hearts for giving us Mickey Mouse’s edgelord look.
Neon Mickey logo (1978-1986)
For a period in the late-'70s and mid-‘80s, Disney opened their home video releases with a rotating neon-lit silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s whole body, positioned with his arms akimbo like some sort of technological new god welcoming his worshipers, who sit before flickering cathode-ray tube screens and VHS machines to prepare for worship at his glowing feet. It’s pretty cool.
The Band Concert
As Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers established, Mickey Mouse looks good in a uniform. Dressed in red finery with green trim and gold decals, Mickey looks important but not regal. This is not a ruler, just a dedicated mouse who takes the arts seriously. The Band Concert was the first color Mickey Mouse short, and while Mickey didn’t get a chance to show off his normal red shorts in glorious technicolor, this is a better look.
The Mickey Mouse audiences met in Steamboat Willie isn’t quite the one that would become an enduring, instantly recognizable symbol around the world. He isn’t wearing those trademark white gloves yet, for instance. But, he looks damn fine, much more charming and fun than a mouse should have any right to look. Steamboat Willie’s place in history meant that it was always going to rank highly on this list of Mickey’s best looks, but the li'l captain’s hat he’s wearing makes the outfit extra good.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Not everybody can pull off a flashy hat — think about that time you tried to wear a fedora before realizing that you didn’t look like Frank Sinatra, you looked like a dweebus. But, as the sorcerer’s apprentice in Fantasia, Mickey Mouse rocks that tall blue wizard’s hat, even if he hasn’t quite mastered the magical abilities that come with it. It’s a great look, with Mickey’s cheery demeanor and uncomplicated robes helping to balance the awesome power of Yen Sid’s chapeau.
The Muppets at Walt Disney World
Hell yes, baby. This is the stuff. Inject this directly into my veins so that I can have a fatal overdose of remembering the ‘90s. In 1990, Disney World and Jim Henson's Muppets combined forces for a TV special following Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the Muppets gang as they explored “The Happiest Place on Earth.” In one segment of the special, a live-action Kermit drops by an animated Mickey Mouse’s office, and Mickey is wearing the most ‘90s outfit imaginable.
Look at him. Look at that puffy tan jacket. Look at his magenta and turquoise shirt. Mickey Mouse is dressed the way that 100 percent of the actual human dads visiting Disney World in 1990 with their kids looked. You can’t see Mickey’s pants in the short, but you know he’s wearing an extremely light-colored pair of blue jeans. This is a mouse who has opinions on George H. W. Bush. This is nirvana.