Elvis Presley as Danny Fisher, swaggering nightclub singer and high school dropout
New Orleans, Summer 1958
Film: King Creole
Release Date: July 2, 1958
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Happy birthday to Elvis Presley, born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The King of Rock & Roll considered Danny Fisher in 1958’s King Creole to be his favorite role in the dozens of movies he made over the course of his 13-year film career.
Danny is a 19-year-old who has failed to graduate from high school for the second year in a row. Living in New Orleans’ French Quarter with his wise older sister and idealistic widowed father, Danny makes ends meet working odd jobs, including as a busboy for gangster Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau) before his singing talents—and habit for flirting with Maxie’s moll Ronnie (Carolyn Jones)—led to his drifting down the street to take a position as the on-stage talent at the King Creole nightclub… as long as he can convince his father that it’s the right move.
Between songs, Danny finds himself spending the hot Creole summer juggling girlfriends, job prospects, and his future. One of the final films directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), King Creole was co-written by Herbert Baker, who contributed to the screenplay of Presley’s 1957 film Loving You, and Michael V. Gazzo, best known to modern audiences as Frankie Pentangeli from The Godfather Part II (1974). The noir-ish story gave Presley an opportunity to stretch his acting chops before he joined the military, resulting in not only one of the singer’s finest films but also a sense of surprising mutual respect that emerged among Presley, Matthau, and Curtiz.
“You just didn’t have a lot of fooling around with Curtiz—I mean, he would embarrass the hell out of you,” said Jan Shephard, who played Elvis’ sister in the movie. “But no matter what Curtiz would ask of Elvis, he would say, ‘Okay, you’re the boss.’ Curtiz said he thought Elvis was going to be a very conceited boy, but when he started working with him, he said, ‘No, this is a lovely boy, and he’s going to be a wonderful actor.'”
— Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley
After he was famously drafted into the U.S. Army, Presley was originally scheduled to be inducted on January 20, 1958. However, Paramount didn’t want to eat the almost $350,000 that had already been invested into pre-production of King Creole and Elvis himself sent the Memphis Draft Board a letter on Christmas Eve 1957 requesting a sixty-day deferment to work on the movie. Two weeks after finishing King Creole in March 1961, Elvis reported for his induction and was sworn into the Army as Private Presley, serial number 53 310 761.
What’d He Wear?
The famous Baracuta G9 jacket was introduced in England in 1937, but it wasn’t until Elvis Presley wore his Baracuta in King Creole that the jacket became a must-have menswear item.
The Miller brothers, John and Isaac, developed the Baracuta G9 as a functional, waterproof jacket to give golfers greater mobility; the “G” in G9 is for golf, as explained on a Mason & Sons blog post from March 2016. After they started exporting Baracutas to the United States in 1950, the jacket gained popularity among Hollywood’s golfer elite like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Ronald Reagan.
The King took the company’s exposure to the next level in 1958 when he wore a sand-colored Baracuta G9 in several scenes of King Creole. Soon, it became the outerwear of choice for style icons from Steve McQueen to Frank Sinatra. When Ryan O’Neal wore a Baracuta as the preppy Rodney Harrington on the ’60s ABC soap Peyton Place, the brand capitalized on the connection and the venerable shorthand “Harrington jacket” term was born.
In addition to its lasting impact on the world of casual menswear, the King’s Baracuta G9 is significant as one of the few clothing items that Elvis wears more than once throughout King Creole. Though the movie was black-and-white, contemporary artwork, promotional photos, and the available Baracuta color lineup in the 1950s indicate that he was wearing a sand-colored jacket.
The classic Baracuta is made from a water-resistant cotton and is detailed with a two-button collar, zip front, and slanted side pockets that each close with a single-button flap. The waist hem, cuffs, and inner collar are all finely ribbed, and the “umbrella-inspired” storm flap on the back was designed to let the rain run off the jacket.
Elvis typically wears the jacket unzipped and open, showing off the red Fraser tartan plaid lining characteristic of the quintessential Baracuta jacket.
While the zip-up windbreaker may be a sartorial nod to James Dean’s iconic red nylon McGregor jacket in Rebel Without a Cause, Elvis’ Danny Fisher always wears a shirt between his jacket and his white undershirt.
The first shirt that he wears with this jacket is a dark plaid long-sleeved sport shirt with a one-piece camp collar, plain front, and two chest pockets.
That evening, Danny and his reluctant father host nightclub owner Charlie LeGrand (Paul Stewart) for dinner. Danny wears the same light-colored cotton polo shirt that he had worn with his gray gabardine blouson and dark jeans during the previous day’s five-and-dime theft. The polo shirt has a slim collar and a two-button placket, though Danny wears both buttons undone to reveal the undershirt beneath it.
The third shirt that Danny wears with his Baracuta jacket is a slate blue cotton long-sleeved sport shirt with a slim one-piece camp collar and button cuffs. Classic mid-century detailing includes a plain front with horizontal buttonholes and a set-in flapped breast pocket on the left chest.
Danny Fisher’s windbreaker and shirts would be relatively common to find in any man’s closet, be it sixty years ago or today. His pants, however, are far more unique.
The fabric appears to be a thin-waled corduroy, also known as “pinwale” or “needlecord”, in a medium shade of tan. The trousers have a flat front and are tightly fitted around Elvis’ famous hips. The trousers have slim belt loops around the waist, through which Danny wears a leather belt—likely brown—with a long, horizontal single-prong buckle.
The pinwale pants are uniquely detailed with dark leather trim along the openings of all four pockets, including the shallowly slanted front pockets and the straight back pockets.
Interestingly, the trousers have a cinched back—a short self-fabric strap with an adjustable center buckle. The back cinch was a necessity in the early days of menswear before the widespread popularity of belts and, according to Austin Bryant for Heddels, the back cinch was a fixture on all Levi’s jeans from their inception in 1872 until the early 1940s.
The pants have plain-hemmed bottoms, though Elvis wears the bottoms self-cuffed to be sure to clear his shoes, a pair of dark calf leather apron-toe loafers.
The jacket makes its final appearance when Danny is preparing to go on stage at King Creole when Nellie (Dolores Hart) arrives with the bad news of his father’s street assault. Although he’s dressed to go on stage in one of his shiny-striped performance shirts and dark pleated trousers, Danny hurriedly grabs his Baracuta jacket and puts it on to accompany Nellie to the hospital.
How to Get the Look
Elvis Presley is often credited with transforming the Baracuta G9 from a golf jacket to a men’s style staple, continuing the aesthetic of angsty, devil-may-care teens in windbreakers that James Dean started with his red nylon McGregor jacket in Rebel Without a Cause.
While Jimmy’s red windbreaker remains iconic in its own right, it was Elvis that started a long-lasting trend followed by stylish gents from Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra to Jason Statham and Daniel Craig.
- Sand-colored cotton Baracuta G9 zip-up blouson-style “Harrington jacket” with two-button standing collar, slanted hand pockets with single-button flaps, ribbed knit cuffs and hem, and red Fraser tartan plaid lining
- ’50s-style long-sleeve sport shirt in dark plaid or medium blue cotton
- Tan pinwale corduroy cotton flat-front, high-rise trousers with narrow belt loops, slanted front pockets and jetted back pockets (all with dark brown leather jetting detail), and self-cuffed bottoms
- Slim brown leather belt with long single-prong buckle
- Dark calf leather loafers
- Dark ribbed crew socks
One of the most famous jackets in modern menswear, the Baracuta G9 is still produced by the company more than 80 years after it was introduced. The current version, the G9 Modern Classic, is made from a breathable, water-resistant cotton/polyester blend; the “natural” color option is probably closest to the King’s cloth.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I’m through failing.