Tag Archives: Elvis Style

’68 Comeback Special – A Wardrobe Review

Celebrating the 68 SPECIAL 50TH ANNIVERSARY

When I realized that December 3, 2018 would be the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ incredible TV special, I knew I had to post an article to commemorate the occasion.

I also knew every other Elvis website and blog would be doing the same thing. I wanted to come up with something different, and I have. We are going to learn what a leading British fashion design journalist has to say about what Elvis wore on the show.

Zoey Goto regularly writes about fashion in Elle, Numero, GQ, and GQ Style. She gets to report from the front row of London Fashion Week. And she has written the delightful book Elvis Style, where we get all of the text to follow.

 

Burgundy Suit from the Gospel Sequence:

 

Elvis - 68 Comeback Gospel suit

You might expect this photo-essay to start with the Black Leather Outfit, but be patient. It’s coming up.

Elvis sang a three-song Gospel medley wearing this burgundy suit:

“Where Could I Go but to the Lord”
“Up Above My Head”
“Saved”

lvis - 68 Comeback Gospel Suit

Here is what my friend, Zoey Goto had to say about the Gospel suit. (I asked her to write it on just six days’ notice, and she really came through).

The burgundy suit is so very of its time – the earthy colour, the sheen of the fabric, the slim cut of the suit, and the exaggerated double breasted lapels all scream late 60s/early 70s menswear! Perhaps this is why the outfit is often overlooked when we think about the legendary ’68 Comeback Special. Because this style was so fashionable at that time, it now looks more dated than for example the leather suit, which was not such a part of the zeitgeist.

The most effective part of this outfit was the styling of the white shirt, with its elongated collars worn over the top of the suit jacket, teamed with the apache tie scarf, which really framed Elvis’ face. From the chest upwards he looks fantastic! However, in comparison to the white suit – which is roomier and has a nipped in waist – the tight, straight up-and-down cut of the burgundy suit is unforgiving. Yet Elvis is in such good shape physically, that he still manages to pull this outfit off with panache!

Elvis 68 Comeback Dancing in Gospel Outfit

 

Well done, Zoey. That was great. And the passages from your book coming next are even better.

 

The white suit she mentioned is this one.

White Double-Breasted Suit from the “If I Can Dream” Finale.

 

Elvis 68 Comeback White Suit in front of Big Red Letters

Again, here is Zoey Goto’s review:

Out of the darkness, Elvis steps forward, his white suit instantly illuminated under the stage lights. He clutches the microphone between his hands almost as if praying, while behind him the word ELVIS is emblazoned in red lights.

It is the grand finale of his ’68 Comeback Special television program, and Elvis is giving an emotional rendition of the song “If I Can Dream” wearing a white double-breasted frock coat with a deep, single vent flap running down the back of his jacket – a signature of traditional American tailoring – which also allows Elvis to move with ease and to throw his arms wide at the end of the performance.

Six buttons run down the centre of the jacket, white slanted front pockets and a nipped-in waist emphasize his broad shoulders. Although the double-breasted jacket can add inches to the torso, the slim-line Elvis with his 32” waist, carries it off with grace.

Elvis - 68 Comeback White Suit

His coordinated front pleated pants graze his ankles without a break, creating a pleasing line from the hip to his white leather ankle boots. To complete the look, Elvis wears a deep red scarf in the style of an Apache tie – an accessory that had become synonymous with Country & Western fashion, where a colourful scarf or hanky is secured at the neck with a scarf ring.

Elvis - 68 Comeback White Suit Closeup-

As a fashion statement, Elvis’ white suit is all about the Deep South. Stepping on stage, Elvis looks every inch the Southern plantation owner, a choice that initially seems incongruous, given that Elvis has borrowed so heavily from black music and is currently on stage singing a song about brothers walking hand in hand.

However, look at his costume again and it becomes a sartorial symbol of his success – Elvis has been elevated from his humble sharecropper origins to finally becoming the Big Boss Man, as he had been previously singing that evening. In essence, his outfit can be seen as a take on upward social mobility – one of the key factors of the American Dream, which Elvis had long been associated with.

Elvis 68 Comeback White Suit Standing

 

And now, the one you’ve been waiting for.

Legendary Black Leather Outfit:

 

Elvis - 68 Comeback Black Leather - Back

Earlier in the ’68 Comeback Special performance, Elvis had performed a medley of his earlier hits while wearing fitted black leather trousers and jacket, with a black low neck t-shirt underneath. The outfit was a nod to Elvis’ rebellious 1950s image, but this time a more aggressive, sexual presence was evident. Black leather had long been strongly associated with motorcycle gangs, as illustrated by Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953).

Marlon Brando - The Wild One

In his youth, Elvis had admired James Dean, but back in the 1950s, Elvis’ own rockabilly image and flashy Lansky Brothers clothing belonged to a very different tribe of rebellion.

Aside from owning a couple of leather jackets, Elvis had never been a devoted leather wearer, but given the luxury of revisiting his youthful image, Elvis embellished and reinterpreted history. Up on stage, as Elvis gyrates his way through a string of nostalgic hits, he instantly acquires the toughness and potency that his leather outfit lends.

Elvis - 68 Comeback Black Leather - Lip Curl

Look carefully at Elvis’ leather outfit, though, and it differs considerably from Brando’ Perfecto motorcycle jacket. Rather than the traditional studded biker jacket, with zippers running across the torso and a belted waist, Elvis’ version is essentially a denim jacket shape, but made in leather. This was not accidental – the designer Bill Belew was at the time finding inspiration in the blue jean outfits that the kids on the street were wearing.

Knowing that Elvis avoided denim as he associated it with the poverty of his childhood, Belew decided to have a denim jacket and trousers traced and remade in black leather, adding a few touches such as a front seam running down the trousers and hand stitching the yoke.

Elvis - 68 Comeback Black Leather Seated

Here are some other tidbits Zoey Goto shares with the readers:

This outfit marks the first time Elvis wore the high, Napoleon-inspired collar, which later became a signature of his jumpsuits and was employed to frame his face.

Close Up of Elvis' Black Leather Suit

On each wrist is a leather cuff. Although leather cuffs had been worn by cowboys to protect their wrists for over a century, Elvis’ buckled cuffs looked more like precursor to the leather wristbands worn by the punks in the mid-seventies.

Elvis - 68 Comeback Reproduction Elvis Black Leather Cuffs

Reproduction

Elvis’ ’68 comeback Special jacket and trousers were made from cordovan leather, the thick hide of the rump of the horse which is usually only used to make shoes. Elvis became so sweat-drenched in this rugged material that he had to literally be peeled out of the costume at the end of the performance.

 

Zoey meshed her thoughts with those of Japanese-born designer Atsuko Kudo to sum it all up nicely:

We all dress for sex appeal and attention, and this look does that in a very big way – he was like a peacock. This was Elvis’ comeback performance, the pressure was on to make a big statement and to dress in a way that empowered him. This outfit did that.

Elvis - 68 Comeback Black Leather - Arms Raised

 

I am so thankful Zoey Goto went along with me repeating part of her wonderful book Elvis Style. I’ve covered parts of it twice before in ElvisBlog:

A Look at Elvis’ Taste in Hats

Elvis’ Fashion Legacy

 

But Elvis Style covers so much more than just Elvis’ wardrobe. As the back cover says,

“Zoey Goto investigates why Elvis was, and continues to be, an icon of style, focusing on his wonderfully expressive hairstyles, clothes, cars, and interiors.”

This is such a uniquely different Elvis book. I highly recommend you get a copy.

Elvis Style - Cover

 

 

 

©  2018    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland  are registered trademarks of  Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Elvis’ Fashion Legacy

Elvis Presley Wearing Long Black Leather Coat

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.

Elvis Style Book Cover

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 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.

Elvis 1960 Tied Shirt

 

From his clothing to his hair and home, he wrote the rulebook on how to use cultural appropriation with panache.

Elvis in Pink and Black

 

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.

Elvis Backstage in Black Leather Suit

 

The pure drama of the subsequent Las Vegas era opened the floodgates for a wave of androgynous glam rockers…

androgynous glam rockers

leather-clad punk rockers, and attention-grabbing male peacocks.

leather-clad punk rockers

 

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.

Cool Elvis Out the Sun Roof

*

 

“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 and Indiana Jones Outfit

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,

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.”

Michael Jackson Thriller jacket

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.”

Elvis Presley Chain Jumpsuit

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 Costumes

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.

Elvid on Ed Sullivsn Show Singing Dont Be Cruel

 

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

Alex Bilmes of Esqure Magazine

Alex Bilmes

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.”

Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys)

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's Elvis Fashion King ExhibitElvis Presley Fashion King Exhibit

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.

Gold Suit

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.

 

Shift Dress Printed with Elvis' Portrait

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.

 

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

A Look at One of Young Elvis’ Favorite Haunts

Good Home Style Eating at the Arcade Restaurant

There are many ways in which ElvisBlog topics are generated. As you know, some are deeper looks at subjects that appear on Graceland.com/news. Also, regular readers sometimes send me a link to stuff on the internet that lends itself to a blog article.

 

Elvis Style Book Cover

And 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.

From the subtitle of the book Elvis Style, you would think it is all about Elvis fashion. Indeed, the 90+ pages on his clothing are incredibly complete – well written and full of great photos. But it was in Chapter 3 – Elvis Food – that I found something unknown to me a possibly to you as well.

 

Arcade Restaurant

No discussion of Elvis’ food preferences is complete without a page or two on his favorite, the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Author Zoey Goto wrote in Elvis Style:

“The Arcade Restaurant in Memphis continues to be the Elvis sandwich temple, as fans from across the globe flock to sample their fried peanut butter and banana sandwich in the original booth where Elvis once sat.”

Elvis' Booth at Arcade Restaurant

Elvis’ Booth at Arcade Restaurant

The Arrow Marks Elvis' Favorite Booth at Arcade Restaurant

The Arrow Marks Elvis’ Favorite Booth

“Elvis was a regular visitor in the 50s, often accompanied by the Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips. The duo would sit at a booth at the back of the restaurant, conveniently located next to the back door in case Elvis had to make a dash from his enthusiastic fans.”

Elvis’ favorite booth next to back door at Arcade Restaurant

Elvis’ favorite booth next to back door

Henry Zepatos, the third generation owner of the Arcade, says that although the peanut butter and banana sandwich is one of the most popular items on the menu, when Elvis visited he would actually come in for traditional Southern cooking – meat and vegetables. He also liked black-eyed peas and mashed potatoes.

Arcade Restaurant Current Sandwich Menue

Portion of Current Arcade Restaurant Menu Showing Sandwiches

View from Elvis’ favorite booth at Arcade Restaurant

View from Elvis’ favorite booth.

The Arcade has the honor of being Memphis’ oldest restaurant, having opened in 1919. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Arcade Restaurant on National Register of Historic Places

 

Since 1925, the Arcade has undergone very little change. In fact, the counter was replaced only after repeated elbow rubbing wore through the plastic laminate.

Worn Counter top at Arcade Restaurant

Speros Zepatos founded the diner in 1919 after emigrating from Cephalonia, Greece. Situated at the corner of South Main Street and G.E. Patterson, the original building was a small, one story, wood framed building. Food was actually cooked on potbelly stoves. In 1925, Speros tore down the wood structure and built the Arcade Building in a Greek revival style, complete with retail stores to signify the “Arcade” name.

His son, Harry Zepatos, took the Arcade to a new level in the 1950’s. He made the cafe into the hip, fifties diner you see today. The interior design and furnishings, the spectacular neon signage, and original storefront have all stood the test of time.

Arcade Restaurant Neon Sign

As you look around this old part of Memphis, it still has the same look and feel that it did many years ago. The neighborhood buildings have been refurbished, yet the old-time charm still exists.

 

Walk the Line and Great Balls of Fire

It is interesting that movies about two of Elvis’ contemporaries at Sun Records, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, have included scenes shot at the Arcade Restaurant. The diner’s nostalgic feeling has attracted many other movie makers. Some of the films with scenes shot at the Arcade include Mystery Train, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, and others.

 

Arcade Restaurant Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich

This is a photo of the peanut butter and banana sandwich served by the Arcade Restaurant. There is a video on their website that shows how they make it. Next time you visit Graceland, you might want to take a side trip to order this specialty at the Arcade.

 

Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special Black Leather Outfit

And if you want to take a detailed look at Elvis’ wardrobe, check out Elvis Style by Zoey Goto. As said above, it also contains a section on Elvis food, plus his jewelry, his hair, his cars, and even the architecture of three Elvis homes.

The book ends with a chapter on Elvis’ legacy in modern-day fashion. Zoey has said she’s really up for me reproducing the chapter (with lots of photos) on a future ElvisBlog post. She is a famous fashion and design journalist, so she has unique insight into Elvis’ tangible and direct influence on fashion almost 40 years after his passing. You can be sure I’ll be taking her up on this opportunity.

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.