Zoey Goto’s book celebrates Elvis Presley’s influential style
- Credit: NBC/Photofest
Despite not growing up with Elvis on her musical radar, Zoey Goto has devoted the past two and a half years to finding out about his style
Zoey Goto sits opposite me in the booth of an American diner. There’s a miniature jukebox on the table below a framed Elvis Presley record sleeve, and a clock behind her head in the shape of The King, which thrusts at me for the duration of our conversation.
We’re not in Memphis; this particular diner is her Islington kitchen.
“I knew nothing about Elvis until I was about 21,” journalist Zoey recalls.
“I was flicking through a magazine and saw a picture of him and I had a sort of ‘eureka’ moment. I thought he was the most visually stunning person I’d ever seen.”
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Despite not growing up with him on her musical radar, Zoey has devoted the past two and a half years to finding out all she can about his lifestyle, from clothes to hair and cars to homes, bringing it all into her book, Elvis Style: from zoot suits to jumpsuits.
Last week, thousands of fans made their way to Graceland in Memphis to mark the 39th anniversary of his death.
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Memphis is the homeland, but it’s not the only place his presence is still felt.
Elvis remains ubiquitous, as demonstrated by the sheer number of places Zoey visited when researching her book.
She travelled the reaches of the USA and Europe to be close to him, from his most famous pad in Memphis to its replica in Denmark, created by super-fan Henrick Knudsen as a museum for his extensive collection.
But the highlight was Lauderdale Courts and the apartment Elvis lived in as a teenager.
Recently refurbished and opened to the public, Zoey jumped at the opportunity to stay.
“It was incredible to sleep in the same room that he had slept in and to wake up in the morning and have a bath in his bathtub.”
Not many women can say they spent the night at Elvis’s place. Well, that’s not strictly true…
With the apartment a stone’s throw from Beale Street, officially declared Home of the Blues, she walked the path that Elvis took regularly to Lansky Bros, his favourite sartorial haunt.
“When he was a penniless school kid he used to go and stand outside Lansky Bros and look in through the window.
“When he started to make some money and shopped there in a serious way, they’d close up the shop in the evening and he’d do a supermarket sweep of it.”
Hal Lansky, son of original owner Bernard J. Lansky, has written the foreword for Zoey’s book and provided valuable insight into Elvis’s early relationship with clothing.
“Elvis defied the traditional dress standards of the time and pushed boundaries,” he writes.
“The way he used bricolage was really interesting,” says Zoey. “He brought together two styles and two cultures.”
He is credited in his music as being the first person to bring together blues and country and create rockabilly, but Zoey says people overlook the fact he did the same thing with his dress.
“That made him quite unique at the time,” she adds.
I comment on the comeback of zoot suit-style trousers among young men and Zoey agrees his style pervades modern fashion without people realising.
“I think that’s something I’m trying to do with the book: give Elvis the credit I don’t think he’s really had from the style industry.
“I’m constantly clocking the references and I don’t think they’re always credited to him.
“Bookshelves are groaning under the weight of Elvis but they’re mostly biographies or about his music and there’s relatively little written about his style. I thought that was an oversight.”
Zoey’s book is available now priced £19. The author will be signing copies at Waterstones in Islington Green, 6.30pm to 8pm, September 29