Sometimes I am sent a comp copy of a new Elvis book about to be released. ElvisBlog does not make a practice of giving free publicity for things. However,if a book contains something unique that I can build a blog article around, I’ll go with it.
I’ve already used one chapter of Elvis Style by Zoey Goto for a blog post back in September. This fascinating book covers Elvis’ history and influence on design and fashion. The last chapter is titled Elvis’ Legacy, and with the author’s permission, I reproduce it here, illustrated with a lot of photos. Here’s what famous fashion and design journalist Zoey Goto had to say about Elvis.
Elvis and Zoey Goto
Elvis’ career and personal style were bookended by sheer brilliance. In the mid-1950s, Elvis Presley managed to singlehandedly change the way that America, and much of the world beyond, dressed.
From his clothing to his hair and home, he wrote the rulebook on how to use cultural appropriation with panache.
As a master of reinvention, he shape-shifted into a dapper Hollywood leading man in the 1960s and, just as others were writing him off as irrelevant, Elvis set the record straight with the legendary ’68 Comeback Special.
The pure drama of the subsequent Las Vegas era opened the floodgates for a wave of androgynous glam rockers…
leather-clad punk rockers, and attention-grabbing male peacocks.
Certain aspects of Elvis’ lifestyle were ahead of the curve. He had a fondness for eclectic and kitsch interiors before the Postmodernism movement had truly taken hold. Elvis was also devoted to Southern-style cooking, decades before bearded hipsters would flock to cosmopolitan restaurants to sample it. It is, however, in the worlds of fashion and entertainment that Elvis continues to have the most tangible and direct influence.
“There isn’t a costume designer alive who hasn’t been inspired by Elvis,” acknowledges Deborah Nadoolman Landis, the regarded designer who created Michael Jackson’s iconic Thriller costume and the wardrobes for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Deborah Nadoolman Landis
She is, however, quick to note that although Elvis’ style was very distinctive, he is also part of a larger continuum of showmen and women. Having been influenced by the theatricality of performers such as the great Liberace,
Elvis in turn inspired a subsequent generation of style icons that bring us up to the present day.
“What do we ultimately have to work with as costume designers? Silhouette, colour and reflection. Elvis was able to harness all of these, but he certainly wasn’t the first person to do this. He is part of a long tradition of performers who use clothing as a tool – Michael Jackson, Madonna and Lady Gaga have all done this since.”
For Nadoolman Landis, Elvis’ style bequest was showing men how to power dress. “Elvis’ 1970s stage-wear was almost a military look and the high collar was incredibly powerful.”
This is what he’s remembered for,” she states.
For Patricia Fields, fashion stylist for the hit television show Sex and the City,…
Patricia Fields and Sex and the City Actresses
Elvis’ lasting legacy was the freedom of expression that he initiated. Nicknamed ‘The Great Seducer’, Elvis’ gyrating stage act was considered so sexual that his 1957 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was censored from the waist down.
By challenging the social and moral values of his era, Elvis paved the way for erotically charged pop videos and stage acts that have since become customary. “Elvis made the girls scream and he made sexy cool. That is why he is The King,” Fields observes.
Barely a fashion season passes without at least a handful of designers tapping into the early Elvis rockabilly style. Alex Bilmes, editor of Esquire magazine…
recognizes that Presley’s style heritage has influenced contemporary musicians as much as everyday street wear. “Elvis’ influence on men’s style is incalculable. He is one of a handful of icons of mid-century Americana and you can still see his legacy everywhere.”
For example, Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys is channelling the ‘68 Comeback Special even when he’s just popping to the shops for cigarettes,” Bilmes comments. “Elvis’ legacy can also be seen in the enduring appeal of jeans and jackets: that indefinable but instantly recognizable point where preppy meets rocker meets work wear meets tailoring,” Bilmes concludes.
Elvis may have dipped in and out of fashion throughout his career, but he always retained his natural style. All that Elvis was – from his fondness for camp interiors to his commitment to Southern home cooking, from his pastiche outfits to his theatrical shopping trips, was an uncompromising expression of his unique identity – now that’s true style!
Graceland has also been aware of Elvis’ fashion legacy. They launched this exhibit on March I, 2010.
The Elvis’ Legacy chapter in Elvis Style ended with several photographs. Here are a few along with the accompanying text.
Liberace may have worn it first, and Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber since, but Elvis still remains the most famous star to step out in a dazzling gold suit. This recent reincarnation was sent down the runway by the Italian fashion house Costume National.
Elvis understood the power of attention-grabbing stage wear, memorably using it for the tailored suit worn for the ’68 Comeback Special. The high-street retailer H&M created a similar, Southern-plantation-style suit for their eco-conscious collection in 2013.
Ashley William’s’ debut collection at London Fashion Week took early Elvis as its inspiration. Williams experimented with double-denim, cigarette pants, teddy bear bags, and shift dresses printed with Elvis’ portrait. The nostalgic Americana collection also featured the embroidered catchphrase “My heart belongs to Elvis Presley.”
The source for this post, Elvis Style, by Zoey Goto has been a very successful book. If you’d like to own a copy, click here.
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