Recently, something in the mail surprised me — the Graceland Summer 2008 Catelog: Vol. 2. I didn’t know if two summer catelogs meant EPE's merchandising business was good or bad. It didn’t matter. I immediately leafed through Vol. 2, checking out the Tee-shirts to see if there was anything new. I don't care about much of the other items in the catelogs, but I like looking at the Tee-shirts. Sadly, there were no new ones. The same Tee-shirts were all in Vol. 1, just in a different sequence of pages.
So, to console myself after reaching an Elvis Tee-shirt dead-end, I went to www.shopelvis.com, the mailorder partner EPE uses to sell all the officially authorized stuff. They had 70 Elvis Tee-shirts for men. I cruised through them for a while, and then I started making picks of my favorites. I came up with 15. So, here is the ElvisBlog honor roll selection of Elvis tee-shirts, complete with commentary and price. They are in no particular order.
Elvis Vegas: I’m surprised I like this one so much, because I am such a big fan of the 50’s Elvis. It takes a special image of Elvis in a jumpsuit for me to rank a T-shirt high, and Elvis Vegas has it. You get him on stage but with the unusual angle from the back. Elvis is wearing a cape, and he has a guitar slung over his shoulder. Note how the guitar is pulled around to the side, just like Elvis did when he was doing his stage moves. I have never seen a better T-shirt image of Elvis during the Vegas years. $24.95
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Striped Jailhouse Rock: Here’s one with a classic 50s Elvis image, but that’s not what attracted me to it. In this case, it was the stripes. I like distinctive T-shirts, and you just don’t see any other striped ones around, so Striped Jailhouse Rock is a winner. I do have two minor complaints. They should have kept Jailhouse as one word, and, man, this is an expensive T-shirt. I guess you have to pay the price to be distinctive. $34.95
Elvis Blue <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Hawaii: If you like your Elvis T-shirts colorful, this one is hard to beat. But in addition to its use of color, Elvis Blue Hawaii has several things going for it. First, it is tie-dyed, or at least simulated tie-dyed. Hopefully, that looks as good for real as it does in the picture. But, the main reason this shirt appeals to me is that it is two-sided. It is a rare Elvis T-shirt that gives you anything on the back, and this one does it up big time. I would expect this to be more expensive, but it’s not. $24.95
Elvis Shades Royale: For some reason, I have always been drawn to photos of Elvis wearing his signature sun-glasses. I have a collection of dozens of sunglass-Elvis pictures in my files. So, it is no surprise I was attracted to Elvis Shades Royale. The best part of the design for me is the inclusion of two images of Elvis inside the gold frames. Very clever. Elvis Shades Royale is also available in white, but I always shun away from white T-shirts. Black is the way to go with this wonderful design. $24.95
Elvis American Pride: This article was written during the 4th of July weekend, during which my wife and I dug out our patriotic T-shirts to wear for a few days. So, it is no surprise that I picked two patriotic Elvis T-shirts as favorites. Elvis American Pride has a familiar silhouette of Elvis superimposed over a waving American flag. Nicely done. Look closely below Elvis’ signature. There is a saying: “Always An Original.” I hadn’t seen that before, but it’s a good line for Elvis. I expect it will show up in other places as well. $24.99
Elvis Americana: This shirt does an equally good job of blending Elvis and the American flag, but the big thing to me is that the background is blue. How many blue T-shirts do you have? Not many. I’ll bet. So, with Elvis Americana you get Elvis’ face, a guitar and a flowing American flag, all surrounded by lovely blue. There is also the phrase “Elvis Lives,” which is fine, but this could have been extra patriotic if it had said, Elvis Lives, and So Does American Freedom.” How cool would that be to wear on the 4th of July? $24.99
Elvis Sun Records: Here’s one I would recommend, not just because it has a great image, but also because it is a bargain (at least compared to other shirts in the ShopElvis collection). Look at that nifty young Elvis picture super-imposed over the famous gold Sun Records label. There is more gold in the guitar and the fancy script of Elvis’ name. Gold on a black background – an excellent combination. I can’t imagine why Elvis Sun Records is priced well below all the other choices, but if you are a bargain shopper, this is for you. $18.00
Elvis Memphis Gas Raglan: I love this shirt but hate the name. It should be called “Three-Quarter Sleeve Softball Shirt.” As the insert shows, the back of the shirt says PRESLEY and the number 57 — name and number, just like typical sports team jerseys do. The front has a logo for KINGS Service Station, as though it were the sponsor of the team. So, this Elvis softball shirt appeals to me because of the theme, because it is two-sided, and because of the three-quarter raglan sleeve design. You do pay a little extra for all that. $32.99
Elvis Gold: Well, Elvis’ gold lame suit shows up everywhere, so why not on a T-shirt. They did a good job with the image. I like the gold silhouettes and the shiny gold E P in fancy script. I also like the pale yellow background because you don’t see that often. However, I guess the shirt works better on a woman than a man. If you girls want to stand out in the crowd at Elvis Week, the Elvis Gold T-shirt is perfect. $22.99
Elvis Has Left The Building: I mentioned this one as a favorite many months ago in an ElvisBlog column, and I still like it. Study that picture for a minute. Didn’t the graphic designers do a great job? I love the stage curtain pulled to the side, and the empty mic. But, it is the guitar leaning against the stool and the silhouette off to the side that makes this haunting image so powerful. They offer another T-shirt with just the words “Elvis Has Left The Building” on it. I can’t imagine why anyone would buy it, when this outstanding design is available. $22.99
Sketched Elvis: I’m not totally sure about this shirt. I like the idea of a sketch of Elvis on a T-shirt, and this is a pretty good sketch. The other reason for the pick is that the website says it is available in green. I like a selection of colors in my Elvis T-shirts, and there isn’t much available in green. However, the picture above shows white and gray choices. If Sketched Elvis really is available in green, it gets my recommendation. $29.99
Acid-Washed Elvis: The name of this shirt says it all. If you want something distinctive, something different, in an Elvis T-shirt, it’s hard to beat Acid-Washed Elvis. The image is small, but the choice of Elvis in his ’68 black leather suit works well with the unusual background. The only negative about Acid-Washed Elvis is the price. This is the most expensive shirt in my Top 15 selections. $36.99
Jailhouse Rock: This is my second pick that features Elvis’ great movie, but the design is completely different. Note that neither the movie’s title nor Elvis’ name appear on it. No words at all – just four familiar images from the movie. Another reason I liked this one is the red background. If you want to have a collection of Elvis T-shirts in various colors, there have been selections here in blue, yellow, green, and red. $24.95
The King Elvis: This is another T-shirt that they totally mis-named. Any true Elvis fan can tell you that these images are from the American Eagle jumpsuit that Elvis wore during the Aloha From Hawaii TV special. So, in spite of my general dislike of white T-shirts, this American Eagle shirt is OK because the original jumpsuit was white. Also, I like having images on front and back. It would possibly be best to see this one in a store at Graceland before buying it, because sometimes T-shirts intended to mimic other clothing items can look a little schlocky. $22.99
Elvis ’68 Comeback Special: This one is named perfectly. If you have a collection of Elvis T-shirts, one of them should have a ’68 black leather Elvis image on it. This shirt has four. I like the swirly lines and the stars and the funky font used for the word Elvis. It is dark with its blue and black graphics, making it a great T-shirt for evening wear. $24.99
There they are — my picks of the best 15 Elvis Tee-shirts. If you are going to Elvis Week, there's still time to add to your wardrobe for the trip. Maybe this column will help you make your choices. To look at all 70 Elvis Tee-shirts, click here to go to ShopElvis.com. It's fun, even if you are just window shopping.
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