Considering Elvis Presley’s style may conjure that gold lamé suit or those rhinestone-laden jumpsuits from the ‘70s, but the King knew when to tone it down. He was certainly a clotheshorse, his vast closet running the gamut between gaudy stagewear and tasteful tailoring, often cut for him by Sy Devore, the “tailor to the stars” who also dressed the Rat Pack.
Few of us have any need or desire to incorporate lamé or rhinestones into our daily fits, but digging deeper into Elvis Presley’s style reveals a few sartorial lessons that can add star power to your wardrobe… without needing to spring for blue suede shoes.
The Harrington jacket offers timeless appeal
Even a groundbreaking artist like Elvis knew when to embrace the classics. The design of the Baracuta windbreaker was more than 20 years old when Elvis brought this golf jacket off the green and onto the screen in his fourth movie, King Creole.
Whether the costume choice was suggested by costume designer Edith Head or Elvis himself may be lost to history, but the hip-swinging star in his stone-colored G9 ignited a movement that would later include fellow stars Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, and Ryan O’Neal—whose Peyton Place character inspired the nickname “Harrington jacket”—and cemented the jacket’s legacy.
Harrington Jacket Picks:
Bold stripes aren’t just for inmates
Yes, Elvis made a prison uniform rock harder than it should in his 1957 movie Jailhouse Rock, but his more colorfully striped sport shirts in later movies like the banally titled Fun in Acapulco present a way to incorporate bold stripes without looking like you just broke free from a chain gang.
Striped Shirt Picks:
It’s time to embrace Aloha summer
Elvis’ 1961 musical Blue Hawaii did plenty to promote tourism to the Hawaiian islands as well as its bright aloha style. Tropical shirts had already been increasingly popular over the previous decade, but the King’s parade of colorful Hawaiian shirts continue to make the case in favor of floral prints more than 60 years later.
Floral Print Shirt Picks:
All of the above are from traditional retailers, but if we wanted to go true Hawaiian, there are great selections from authentic company Aloha FunWear, including the original worn by Tom Selleck in Magnum PI:
Don’t be afraid of big sunglasses
… and not just those famously oversized “TCB” aviators with holes punched in the arms. Before the Vegas residency days, Elvis’ eyewear still gravitated toward the larger and more eye-catching (so to speak.)
And don’t step on—or rule out—blue suede shoes
By way of the hit single originated by his Sun Records contemporary Carl Perkins, Elvis warned listeners not to step on his blue suede shoes, but the singer’s preferred stage kicks during the era were more frequently black-and-white lace-ups, which would have also looked flashier on those black-and-white TV sets of the ‘50s. These spectator shoes can be frequently spotted throughout early scenes in Elvis, for which costume designer Catherine Martin worked with high-end designer Manolo Blahnik to recreate the King’s favored footwear.
Neither Perkins nor Presley stipulated just what shade of blue, so more daring gents can add some rockabilly flair to their summer style via penny loafers or moc-toe drivers with tasteful navy suede uppers that stand apart from the usual black and brown.