In some ways, ‘Elvis Style’ has never really left us.
That said, Elvis Presley just wasn’t on my radar when I was growing up. Despite sharing my birthday with Elvis, I knew virtually nothing about him. However, on one fateful day in my early 20s I flicked through a magazine and stopped dead in my tracks seeing a photo of Presley who was, and still is, the most visually stunning person I had ever seen.
From that point onwards I was hooked and speedily booked a ticket to Memphis to visit Elvis’ hometown and shortly after wrote an academic paper on Graceland’s interiors.
Shortly after, I then started to look around for a good book on Elvis and his image, but was surprised to find how little had been written about Elvis from a fashion & design perspective.
Elvis Style Book’s Beginnings
I felt this was surely an oversight! Elvis is credited with changing the way that America dressed in the 1950s and has had a lasting cultural influence globally. Part of the reason for writing Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits was to set the record straight and give Elvis the style credit he deserves – particularly for a new generation who, like myself, hadn’t grown up with Elvis on the scene.
I spent a number of years researching Elvis Style and truly it became a labour of love. My background is in fashion and design journalism, with a focus on menswear.
I’d been working for a number of years for titles such as GQ, GQ Style and Numero and had good contacts within the fashion industry. I thought it would make a new and interesting angle to interview some of these experts – asking people such as the tailor Edward Sexton, designer Joe Casely-Hayford and Patricia Fields from Sex & the City, what they felt Elvis’ style legacy was.
I also did plenty of hands-on research trips, not only to America but also to Denmark to visit a wonderfully surreal imitation of Elvis’ Graceland home, which houses a huge collection of Elvis-owned items.
On the most recent trip to Memphis I interviewed the owner of Elvis’ favourite tailoring house (Lansky Bros on Beale Street) slept overnight in the apartment that Elvis lived in as a teenager and had lunch with Elvis’ neighbour, the legendary singer Al Green.
Elvis’ style is significant as there are very few icons that have had, and continue to have, such a direct influence on our aesthetic world.
Elvis’ 1950s look in particular still has clout and you can see it referenced both by the guys on the street and by the high-end fashion houses who frequently tap into Presley’s sharp-suited image of youthful rebellion.
The Vegas Years
Let us also not forget the jump-suited showman of Las Vegas that Elvis morphed into. This image is now enjoyed with an element of irony, but in the early 1970s Elvis’ theatrical stage-wear opened the gates for a wave of androgynous glam rockers, leather-clad punk rockers and attention grabbing male peacocks.
Ziggy Stardust may have been a very different incarnation had Elvis not led the way with his gender-fluid, glittering jumpsuits.
Although a large portion of Elvis Style focuses of Elvis’ ground-breaking fashion, it felt important to also look at his hairstyles, cars and the homes he lived in. Elvis’ style was across the board.
It wasn’t as if Elvis wore these expressive, wild outfits and then went home to his minimalist, white cube of a house!
The jumpsuits, quiffs, sideburns, pimped-up cars, and thematic interiors all mirror each other and tell us much about the wonderfully creative, playful and at times extreme person that Elvis Presley was.
Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits by Zoey Goto is available now from Amazon and all major bookshops: