Elvis exhibited a unique sense of style throughout his career with outfits like his jeweled Las Vegas jumpsuits and his exclusive TCB (“Taking Care of Business”) jewelry. He was a regular customer at the Lansky Brothers clothing store in Memphis where he purchased stylish jackets, shirts and pants that helped him stand out among his peers. However, probably the most flashy suit associated with The King of Rock and Roll was one that Elvis did not want to wear.
The famous gold lamé suit made specifically for “The Memphis Flash” (a nickname from Presley’s early days) became iconic when Elvis wore it throughout his 1957 concert tour across the U.S. and Canada and later on the album cover for 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong. The gold-leaf tuxedo with silver rhinestones included a jacket, trousers, belt, shoes and necktie. Surprisingly, the suit was custom-made on the request of, not Elvis, but his manager, Colonel Parker.
Parker commissioned Nudie Cohn of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors to design the flashy gold suit, which cost $2,500 at the time. Just a few months earlier, Nudie had designed a red and white cowboy outfit that Elvis famously wore when he sang “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” in his second film, Loving You.
Nudie, a flamboyant country and western tailor, was famous for putting rhinestones on clothing for many country stars of the day. Colonel Parker, inspired by a gold costume that Liberace wore, told him: “I want you to make something for him [Elvis] that’s out-of-this-world spectacular.”
While the fans loved the outfit which seemed to fit with Elvis’ rock and roll image, the one person who did not like the suit was Elvis himself. For starters, lamé is not an easy fabric to wear since it is made of thin ribbons of metallic threads. The gold pants created problems for Elvis since the gold sequins would flake off when he slid on his knees while performing.
On March 28, 1957, Elvis wore the gold lamé suit for the first time in public at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago. However, during his concert tour, he only wore the full suit a few times. For most of his 1957 performances, Elvis substituted black pants for the gold. He still wore the gold belt and jacket, but rarely wore the gold shoes or necktie. As he explained to a Vancouver DJ in 1957, he stopped wearing the gold pants since the creases were not flattering.
When costume designer Bill Belew wanted to recreate the gold lamé suit for Presley’s 1968 television special, Elvis refused. He told Belew, “I always hated that suit and I won’t wear it.” Instead, Belew ended up creating a silver-sequined jacket with black trim that Elvis wore with black pants.
Luckily for the fans, Elvis’ gold lamé suit was preserved and is frequently on display at Graceland.
For more fascinating Elvis Presley facts, check out the author’s book, ELVIS: Behind The Legend: Startling Truths About The King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music