Elvis Presley was a one-of-a-kind artist. Nobody else sounded or looked like him. If you’ve ever visited Graceland, you know how unique it is.
Elvis Presley wasn’t a follower of fashion; he was a pioneer. People saw him slick back his tresses into the perfect pompadour, marveled at his eye-catching stage outfits, and noted his bespoke Pink Cadillac – and then tried to imitate his style.
He transformed a Southern Colonial estate into a home fit for a king, complete with a stylish TV room bearing his slogan, a plethora of mirrors, and a mind-boggling billiards room. Who else in his right mind would dare to bring the wild into his own home?
Continue reading this article to learn about Elvis Presley’s many styles.
The Bling Godfather
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Elvis Presley catapulted out of his humble background when, at the age of 21, he earned his first Billboard number one, ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ in a wooden hut in the Deep South. Its popularity allowed him to indulge his taste for flashy dress completely, and he swiftly rose to prominence as the first white boy to go all out.
In 1957, he did it spectacularly on the cover of the record 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, wearing a gold suit. Elvis’ sparkling $10,000 costume was a bling precursor, signaling to the world that this impoverished Mississippi child was ready to ascend to the pinnacle of entertainment.
Elvis also spent his money on over 260 cars during his lifetime, including a limo painted with pulverized diamonds (which cost the modern-day equivalent of half a million dollars), private jets with gold-plated bathrooms, and hills of diamond jewelry, which he kept throwing out to fans at concerts like confetti.
Others followed Elvis Presley’s lead. Rap’s love of bling is undeniable, but the King’s gold costume has had a particular impact. Artists as diverse as Brandon Flowers and Tupac have since given their tailoring the Midas touch, while Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, and Jared Leto have played it safe in glittering gold blazers with Elvis-esque black lapels.
When Elvis Presley broke into – and perhaps birthed– pop culture in the mid-1950s, he defied the era’s stringent gender norms by encouraging young males to experiment with a dress, which had always been a purely female interest. Elvis’ love of bubble-gum pink attire, lashings of mascara, lace, and navel-baring cropped shirts amid a climate of Brooks Brother’s orthodoxy upended the established quo. He cleared the way for Harry Styles’ hot pink clothes by pioneering gender-fluidity before it was even a thing.
Elvis Presley defied gender stereotypes throughout his career, making flower designs fashionable in the 1960s when he wore a red hibiscus shirt in the film Blue Hawaii. Since then, Dior, Prada, and Saint Laurent have all adopted the Aloha look.
The King’s most iconic binary-busting outfit, though, is his colorful, body-skimming jumpsuits, which ushered in a new era of masculine peacocks. David Bowie used spandex catsuits designed to catch an ardent gaze, while Mick Jagger wore a white dress for a show in Hyde Park and nevertheless left the stage looking every inch the virile male.
The flamboyance of Elvis Presley’s stage attire allowed men to dress in ways they hadn’t worn since the nineteenth century. We’re still enjoying the sartorial liberties he pioneered fifty years later.
The Founder of Rockabilly Rebel
Even if you’ve never been a supporter of the full pompadour, rockabilly’s effect on fashion is evident, perhaps most notably in the camp collared shirts that have been popular in recent years. It’s an Elvis Presley original.
The mid-century Elvis look – pegged pants, slicked-up quiff, drape jacket, two-tone bowling shirt with a popped-collar, and penny loafers – is still Presley’s most iconic and approachable look, as seen in the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock, in which Elvis stars in all his lip-curling, double-denim-wearing glory. If you’re dressing up as Elvis Presley, that’s the one you choose. It’s not only for a costume, though.
Elvis was a pioneer in the development of a new anti-establishment visual language. He wasn’t the first rebel, but he made it possible for others to follow in his footsteps. He understood the appeal of being an outsider, aside from his good looks. Even now, you can find a condensed version of his outfit in the closets of any self-respecting adolescent outlaw.
Elvis Presley’s brand of subcultural cool influenced the Teddy Boys in the United Kingdom, who added a dash of Edwardian dandy to their sartorial cocktail in the 1950s. Every new generation has reclaimed the rockabilly style.
Musicians who wear pompadours, such as La Roux and Alex Turner, have recently interpreted the aesthetic, while Bottega Veneta has channeled the image on the runway with western ties and retro brothel creepers. For their beatnik SS19 show, Comme des Garçons even parodied Elvis Presley’s boyish quiff.
Elvis Made Cowhide Cool
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Elvis Presley, dressed head-to-toe in provocative leather and gyrating his way through the ’68 Comeback Special event, remains one of several defining moments in rock ‘n’ roll history. Presley was under pressure to prove that he was still relevant after years of shooting progressively uninteresting images in Hollywood.
Elvis Presley was no longer a has-been as soon as he walked onto the stage dressed as a Tom of Finland drawing. He’d returned, and he was a threat. Elvis Presley, like Marlon Brando before him, and Beyoncé, who paid homage to the Black Panthers in the 2016 Superbowl, recognized the power of putting on a layer of cordovan.
Since Elvis Presley, any on-the-ropes artist wanting to redefine themselves with an outlaw edge has worn black leather. Stars like Britney Spears, Suzi Quatro, Robbie Williams, Bono, and Lady Gaga have all worn versions of Elvis Presley’s sensual leather suit, cementing its position in fashion mythology and designers ranging from John Lawrence Sullivan to Saint Laurent have sent all-over cowhide down the catwalk.
Elvis was all about being outrageous, standing out, and making a statement. When it comes to fashion, Elvis will move quickly on and off stage at any given chance. Offstage, he’d wear handkerchiefs and little scarves.
On and off the stage, Elvis Presley embodied the elegance of a fashion icon. He had the financial means to purchase and produce garments that no other man could.
The encouraging lesson here is that Elvis picked his style and was certainly a trendsetter. He was so significant in the world of menswear because of the role-playing of fashion he put forth that no one can ever match him now.
He made an incredible number of image adjustments. He owned his style; it was in his blood.