Everyone has a personal Elvis. He is there for all of us, housed in the collective unconscious, one of the few people who can legitimately be called an icon, although it is not always certain what.
There is the musical Elvis and Elvis which deals with race and sex symbol Elvis and Las Vegas Elvis and Mississippi Elvis and rockabilly Elvis and Hollywood Elvis and Warhol Elvis and Imperial Elvis and the impersonator Elvis. There’s also Elvis who warns: bloated, addicted to burning pills dead at 42 years old.
There is first and foremost Elvis, a legend, a man whose humble origins and meteoric rise have been practiced so often that details barely describe a man who breathed the same air as the rest of us. Reviving that figure is not an easy task, so for many, Elvis will inevitably fail in the dreamy flooded historical biographical film Baz Luhrmann “Elvis”. How could you not? Shooting Elvis is like describing a quasar – a distant and intensely illuminating object from early space.
It has been four and a half decades since Mr. Presley’s death, almost 87 years since he was born in a modest house in Tupelo, Miss. Still, he somehow remained a powerful figure as always. He is currently recognizable and at the same time vague, a symbol of the working south from which he emerged; the pop world that transformed; a culture of erasure that even now leaves doubt as to how much Elvis was his creation, and how much borrowed from the black culture that is still barely recognized as the American parent lodge.
There is, more simply, Elvis, a creature of style and fashion – and that should be the easiest thing for Elvis to determine. Yet even here Elvis remains astonishingly elusive, a person in clothes who stubbornly clings to his mysteries. While we can’t know with much certainty how Elvis came to and developed his indelible image, at least we can follow what he wore.
At first, they were surprisingly conservative theatrical suits and haircut jackets fuller than was the custom in the 50’s, although less for style reasons than to adapt to the scandalous rotations of Elvis’ pelvis.
As his fame grew and club meetings became arenas, visibility demanded more brilliance from him. One result was a lame suit made of only radioactive gold, commissioned by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, from rodeo tailor Nudie Cohn, which was on the cover of the 1959 album “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong”.
Anyone who has ever visited Graceland knows that Elvis’ domestic tastes – on the side of the Jungle Room – tended more towards bourgeois nobility than his public image would suggest. True, he owned many bright cars (according to some reports more than 260 during his short life), a private plane and had a penchant for rings and pendants encrusted with diamonds (best known for his logo Taking Care of Business, TCB).
But the equipment we most often associate with it, which has influenced artists like Tupac Shakur, Bruno Mars and Brandon Flowers and continues to inspire, so to speak, label designers such as Versace, Cavalli, Costume National and Gucci, has been are far from the bathrobe Elvis was resting at home.
If this lamé suit, more than any other item of clothing, represented the case of Elvis as a rebel, pushing the boundaries of convention in the Brooks Brothers era, when the lines of demarcation between the sexes were clearly drawn, no doubt his pompadour had established him as a native radical. American men in the monochrome Brooks Brothers ’50s didn’t wear shiny gold suits. Of course, they didn’t dye their hair.
However, under the clear influence of black musicians like Little Richard, whose teasing ornate hair still looks radical, boldly strange, Elvis not only dyed his strands but trained them in volutes which he then waxed and painted to lacquered real estate.
Without pompadours, no Elvis costume can be considered complete. Imitators would never think of leaving without Elvis’ lacquered haircut. Austin Butler’s hair in Mr. Luhrmann’s film is as black as Elvis’s hair. What everyone has in common is hair that is in its natural state a shade of blue.
In civilian life, and as his income grew, Elvis became an early adopter of fashion. Like many hipsters and countless musicians of the late 1950s, he preferred Cuban-collar shirts, baggy socks, pleated pants, slip-on moccasins and jackets – a style that men’s brands like Prada revisit with regularity like a watch.
Unlike millions of other Americans then and now, Elvis rarely wore jeans outside of the movies he starred in when Hollywood discovered the handsome Southern working-class hero and put him to work making 31 films in 13 years. It was said that Elvis did not like Texas because it was too harsh a reminder of his humble origins.
Because Elvis was in some ways less of an innovator than a magnifier, it seems hard to attribute to him, like many, the original trends for aloha floral shirts (which were popular after the release of his 1961 film Blue Hawaii) . ”) Or tight cowhide suits, such as the black one he wore for a television return in 1968, or a rockabilly style already well-rooted among fans of the rural subculture at the time he became famous.
Still, for anyone who follows the line of menswear styles, whether it’s western button-down shirts, spiked shoes, argyle socks, penny moccasins or holsters, Elvis is inevitably there in the pedigree.
Is it perverse to find magnificence in the most parodied element of the evolution of Elvis style? That is, his famous overalls, standard costume imitators and trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Typically treated as a joke with a scarf, these overalls symbolize a star at its peak, the moment before his fame and life collapsed on him and he crumpled to the ground. These glittery garments with embroidery and nail patterns or gem paste were the forerunners of theatrical attire worn by all pop stars – Prince, David Bowie, Harry Styles – who ever invited their fans to enjoy it erotically.
Surprisingly, at its core, one-piece unisex garments were a practical solution devised by Bill Belew, Elvis ’costume designer, to allow him to move freely on stage while maintaining his silhouette. Standing collars, like the lace collars on the Spanish infanta in Velasquez’s portrait, not only framed Elvis ’classic profile, but also seemed to hold his noble head.
However, they did something else. Dressed in those coveralls, Elvis not only cemented an image destined to endure far above any other pop star, but made it almost a deity.
If proof is needed, just see the final concert, 1977 Although swollen and bloated, short of breath and with streams of sweat on his face covered with a pancake, his recognizable hairstyle firm as a wig, Elvis still wakes up from a pale introductory issue to achieve a state that looks like exaltation.
Dressed in his white Mexican sundial suit, adorned front and back with an image of Aztec sunshine depicting five consecutive worlds of the sun, Elvis moves slowly across the stage like a sacred idol, led by a stage hand with a bundle of snow-white scarves slung over one arm. One by one, the assistant hands them to Elvis, who briefly wraps them around his neck for consecration before throwing them to the eager prayers.
At this point, Elvis has crossed the boundaries of fashion and fame. And, although he will be dead very soon, at this point Elvis Presley has gained apotheosis.