According Empire, in David Bowie’s mind, the Goblin King was at best a romantic, but at worst, “a spoiled, conceited, temperamental brat – a bit like a rock star!” – also a bit like Sarah herself. Brian Froud explained to the outlet that Sarah is on the verge of sexual awakening, and because she has crushes on rock stars, of course, she created this character in the likeness of one. Froud discussed the motivations behind Jareth’s costume, saying:
“We’re not looking at reality, we’re inside this girl’s head. There are references to all sorts of things in her costume. There’s the danger of a leather boy in his leather jacket, which makes also reference to the armor of some type of German knight in it; there are references to Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights”; and the tight pants are a reference to ballet dancers. It is an amalgamation of this girl’s inner fantasies Everyone always talks about Bowie’s evil pants, but there was a reason for it all! Its surface is quite light, but every now and then you’re like, “Oh, my God!” How did we get away with that? !”
But they didn’t completely get away with it. Apparently the studio struggled with the size of Jareth’s package, which is why he’s at his peak in the first scene that was shot (when Sarah and Hoggle are confronted by the Goblin King in the tunnel). Brian, son of Jim Henson (who also worked on the film) said after the studio saw the footage, “The calls came back really quickly, ‘you’re fucking nuts if you think David Bowie is going to keep wearing this thing.'” His dad wasn’t a fan of covers, so after that, Henson recalls, the cod got smaller and smaller.