Elvis Blog, Day 3: Elvis’ Style

BY JON WATERHOUSE

In tandem with Elvis’ musical prowess and undeniable presence, his personal style and flair for fashion commands equal attention and influence. As bold and vibrant as the man himself, his style leaned toward chromatic colors, glistening bling and dressing to the nines, even when just hanging on the couch.

Yesterday’s Designing for the King event found my pal, ace Elvis Week emcee Tom Brown, interviewing a trio of guys who helped Elvis with his kingly style. Hal Lansky, owner of Lansky Bros.; Lowell Hays, Elvis’ jeweler; and Bill Eubanks, Presley’s interior designer.

Each of their tales had my eyes twinkling like the king’s rings, inspiring me to track down some of the best purveyors of a similar fashion sense popularized by Presley.

Frannie Houston

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Houston, a Memphis native and sales associate at Lansky Bros. inside the Hard Rock Cafe Music Complex on Beale Street, says Elvis’ look, and his knack for style and trends, still resonates today. Channeling a bit of “Charro!” in this pic, Houston goes basic with jeans and cowboy boots.

“Even just a little red bandana on an all-black day can make a difference,” she says.

Robert Washington and Dwight Icenhower

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This pair of Elvis Tribute Artists began clowning around backstage at the Ultimate ETA Semifinals last night. In impromptu fashion, the pair found themselves replicating the famous Muhammad Ali-meets-Elvis photo. Obviously influenced by the King’s jumpsuit years, the duo gleamed in the backstage hallway.

“Got to love the bling,” says Icenhower.

Shirley Hodges and Melody Manning

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Talking about bling, you can’t lose Shirley Hodges (left) and Melody Manning (right) in a crowd. These two Elvis fans from Milledgeville, Ga. fashioned their own Elvis vests with a bevy of pins, and dolled up their nails to match.

“It took me three months to work on one vest,” Manning says.

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They glue some of their pins on for extra reinforcement, and gather glittery enhancements wherever they can. According to Manning, one pin alone, a limited-edition acquired from Bradford Exchange, set her back $70.

Gabby Gibson

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Gibson, from St. Clair Shores, Mich., channels the ’50s era with her classic poodle skirt. For Halloween 2015, Gibson dressed as the king. Throughout Elvis Week she poses as a first-generation Elvis fan, complete with bobby socks and saddle shoes.

Although she may be rocking the 1950s, her favorite Elvis song jumps a couple of decades to 1973.

“I love ‘Burning Love,’” she says.

Catherine Blaufuss and Christina Holgate

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Blaufuss, from Los Angeles, Ca., and Holgate, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, resemble Elvis’ cinematic leading ladies from the 1960s.

“Sandy Martindale once said how Elvis loved to see a woman in a pretty party dress,” says Blaufuss, “ even on casual occasions. So here’s my pretty party dress in honor of him.”

Holgate, a school teacher by day, uses Elvis style during Elvis Week to shake away her 9-to-5 shackles.

“I don’t normally go for the glamorous look,” Holgate says. “So Elvis Week is my chance to dress the part and be a lady.”

Q & A WITH HAL LANSKY

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As the son of Bernard Lansky, founder of Lansky Bros., and the current owner of his pop’s former shop, Hal knows rock wear like no other. In fact, his dad served as one of its original wardrobe architects. Everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Led Zeppelin has darkened Lansky’s doors, in the Peabody Hotel and now in its original location on Beale Street. Yet, the most iconic customer remains Elvis himselvis. Hal Lansky shared some of his personal memories with the Elvis Week blog.

On visiting Graceland:
“Elvis shopped with us a lot during the early days. And one day my parents took me and my sister out to Graceland. My sister’s a couple of years younger than I am. …We were in the room where the piano is. Elvis was playing the piano and asked my sister to sit next to him. In the ’50s, everybody had a stuffed crocodile (toy). People would go to Florida and bring one home. This stuffed crocodile was on top of the piano. Of course, Elvis was a practical joker. Well, he picked up that crocodile and said, “Boo!” at my sister. It scared the hell out of my sister, and she started crying. Elvis made a lot of young girls cry, but he really made my sister cry. My sister was ready to leave. She didn’t want any part of this guy at the piano.”

On horseback riding at Graceland:
“On Sundays, my dad would take us out to Graceland to go horseback riding. Most of the time Elvis was not out there, but a couple of times he was. One time I was riding one of Elvis’ horses and a bee stung the back of the horse. That horse just took off running, and I hung on for dear life. I was never so scared.”

On Elvis’ shopping sprees:
“If you were looking around in the store and liked something, Elvis would buy it for you. My dad used to say, Elvis would rather shop than eat. He loved clothes. In the later years when he’d come in, he drew such crowds we had to lock the doors, or he’d come in the store at night. My dad’s known as the clothier to the king, and I’m known as the delivery boy to the king. I used to drive clothes out to Graceland. One day, I drove up to Graceland, and it was like the gates just magically opened. I rang the doorbell and the housekeeper opened the door. The next thing I knew, Elvis was walking down the steps. And Elvis was so cool. He had a velvet smoking jacket on and came down to the bottom of the steps. He was so excited to see all of the packages I had. He opened them up and threw on this coat. Remember, this was in the ’70s and during that time frame everyone looked like ‘Superfly’ and this coat fit the bill. So he put on the coat and put on a hat, and he walked through the dining room and threw open the swinging door to the kitchen. He saw his housekeeper and said, “Hey, look at me!” He was so happy to see those clothes. He was a great customer and a dear friend. If he liked you, he’d do anything in the world for you.”

On fans from around the world:
“We have people who come into the store from all over the world, from countries I haven’t even heard of. And I don’t care if you speak Japanese or Swahili or French or Spanish, everybody knows four words: Elvis Presley and rock ’n’ roll. Other than that, we don’t know what they’re saying. When someone from another country comes in who doesn’t speak English, I just say ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ and it puts a smile on their face.”

On Elvis’ style:
“Elvis loved clothing and could pull it off. You could put anything on Elvis, and it would look good. In the earlier years, he didn’t wear jeans or casual clothes. He was more into dressier clothing; the higher-collar shirts and the bright colors. I tell everyone Elvis had great talents, and the combination of his talent and our clothing was a winning combination. So, we’re glad to be a part of his history. We’ve been here 70 years, and we’re going to try and keep my dad’s legacy, as well as Elvis’ history, alive. We’re here for the fans, we love the fans and Elvis Week is always awesome. Over the years, I’ve had people who’ve come to Elvis Week and been in the store 30 to 35 times.”


2 Comments

  1. Nick Stantzos

    Nice piece. I am enjoying your daily blogs looks like you are have a lot of fun doing it!

  2. Susan Sand

    I love this piece, and I’m so happy you featured my friends Christina, Melody and Shirley!!

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