Fashion & Beauty / Vintage Style

Elvis Presley

We consider the inimitable – though oft parodied – style of the king of Rock 'n' Roll

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley Elvis Life in Pictures by Marie Clayton, 2011, published by Parragon

Elvis Presley considered a gun to be an accessory. In the late 60s, after a brief stint in the US Army, he would develop an intense obsession with collecting police badges and firearms, and in his former years he refused to travel anywhere without one. He owned several and used to shoot at television screens when he was bored.

From his oiled quiff to his gold lamé suit, Elvis' style has been infamously parodied the world over. He was the first man of his time to grow his hair long, wear jewellery and dress in pink (his favourite colour). He wore pegged trousers and high collars with a flair and panache that rippled across the world. His style was a marriage between Southern Christian boy and rebellious rock ‘n’ roll that captured the hearts and minds of the nation and redefined masculinity. His 1956 cover of Blue Suede Shoes became a rock ‘n’ roll anthem for the decade, performed with the legendary Elvis leg shake and swiveling body twists.

"From his oiled quiff to his gold lamé suit, Elvis' style has been infamously parodied the world over"

Elvis grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood before moving to Beale Street in Memphis, legendary home of the blues. This had a direct effect on his sound and style. He bought a bolero from Lanskys on Beale Street and a pair of trousers with a stripe down one leg, teaming them with an assortment of clashing prints, fabrics and bright suits – a style which he would adopt throughout the 50s and 60s. Worn with his well-coiffed hair and thick sideburns, his look was strikingly individual amidst the identikit preppy fashions of his peers. As his fame escalated, Elvis refused to wear denim, as it reminded him of his less fortunate childhood. In 1973 he had a hair transplant and his teeth capped. During a rehearsal for Jailhouse Rock a porcelain cap became loose and he managed to inhale it, leaving him in hospital for several days.

During the 1970s, Elvis can be recognised by his iconic Vegas jumpsuits, the majority designed by Bill Belew. They were highly intricate, with gemstones and semi-precious jewels emblazed to form American eagles, tigers and other animals.

Elvis was also accessorised by an entourage known as the Memphis mafia: a string of girlfriends and countless infidelities. Unfortunately in his former years, he also became dependent on a cocktail of amphetamines and a weight battle that would eventually be his demise. Unless you are of the controversial opinion that the King of Rock and Roll still lives.

Elvis Life in Pictures by Marie Clayton, 2011, published by Parragon.

Text by Mhairi Graham