Mention rhinestones and folks of a certain age may well remember Elvis Presley and his outrageous outfits. But the singer had always been a little outrageous in his gyrations, and for much of his career, even early on, his outfits have tended to push the envelope of establishment tastes. Rhinestones, then, were only the latest in flamboyancy for him, though, to be sure, his tastes did progress to ever more extravagant designs.
Given such popular perceptions of him, tied as they are to his choice of dress, even when off the stage, it is amusing to consider that once upon a time he was more square-cut than not. Instead of rhinestones and the like, the worst that could be said of his appearance was the lock of hair that fell over his forehead, out of place from the slicked back coif he wore at this time.
Next he was drafted into the Army, in 1958. Wisely, he made the decision, at least partly on a former manager’s advice, to serve his tour as a regular soldier instead of receiving preferential treatment by performing musical shows that would certainly have kept him in touch with the public.
Wiser still, producers at RCA, his record label, made sure to keep him within the popular imagination through the ingenuous marketing of previously unreleased material, ten of which turned out to be Top Forty hits, as well as the recompilation of old favorites across four albums.
All while on active duty with the Army in Germany! Far from hurting his career as he’d feared, Elvis became quite the Everyman for serving like everyone else. Unlike some of his fellow musicians, Elvis was typically considered the most respectable, the most presentable, to mainstream/establishment sensibilities. Parents may still fret at his highly suggestive and deliberate pelvic gyrations, but at least that’s all they could object to about his public persona.