Fun in Acapulco: Elvis’ Lido-collar Shirts and Swimwear
Elvis Presley as Mike Windgren, expat singer, part-time lifeguard, and former circus performer
Acapulco, Summer 1963
Film: Fun in Acapulco
Release Date: November 27, 1963
Director: Richard Thorpe
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Tailor: Sy Devore
This weekend, I saw Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis chronicling the life of the King of Rock and Roll with Baz’s characteristic splendor. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, most likely due to Austin Butler’s revelatory performance. (I’d need some more dedicated Elvis experts to confirm for me whether or not Colonel Tom Parker actually sounded as much like Goldmember as Tom Hanks’ performance portrayed.)
Elvis addressed the King’s cinematic ambitions, hoping to follow in James Dean’s footsteps but arguably ill-treated by his frequently banal material, as illustrated by the 1963 vehicle Fun in Acapulco.The eponymous setting made sense in keeping with the emerging travelogues of Elvis’s movies, though it was a particularly curious choice, given that Elvis was persona non grata in Mexico following a racist rumor spread about the singer earlier in his career. Despite being filmed without Presley ever traveling to Mexico for the production, the movie rose to become the year’s top-grossing movie musical, proving that audiences hadn’t yet tired of the standard formula of Elvis singing his way through a forgettable plot while romancing beautiful actresses; in this case, that was Elsa Cárdenas and Ursula Andress, the latter now an international phenomenon following her iconic introduction as the bikini-clad Honey Ryder in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No.
Andress’ follow-up project capitalized on the public’s positive response to seeing her in skimpy swimwear, as much of Fun in Acapulco‘s action was set poolside at the Acapulco Hilton, where Elvis’ character Mike Windgren has been hired as a lifeguard—and, of course, a part-time singer—while entrenching himself in a light love triangle with his rival diver’s girlfriend Margarita (Andress) and a seductive bullfighter Dolores (Cárdenas).
What’d He Wear?
Mike spends his days working at the Acapulco Hilton dressed in the lifeguard uniform of the hotel’s issued short-inseam swim trunks and waist-length shirts styled with the sporty “Lido collar”.
The Lido collar had emerged during the interwar years of the 1920s and ’30s that gave rise to less formal resort fashion. Its associations with stardom and Hollywood royalty like Gary Cooper resulted in the synonymous names “Hollywood collar” and “Cooper collar”. Lido collars can appear in different shapes, but the general essence is a one-piece collar that continuously follows where the front of the shirt cuts away at the neck, forced by design to be worn open-neck and thus less formal.
Mike’s first poolside shirt is made from a beige cotton, styled with a straighter one-piece collar that lacks the elegant tapered roll of some Lido collars. Since we also see Mike’s colleague and sometime rival Moreno (Alejandro Rey) wearing an identical shirt, we can assume that these have been issued by the hotel. These waist-length shirts are elasticized on the bottom sides of the hem for a blouson-like effect, with four tonal plastic buttons up the plain front to mid-chest, where the front tapers away to follow the lines of the flat one-piece collar. The short sleeves are set-in at the shoulder with the ends reinforced with sewn cuffs. A patch pocket is positioned over the left breast.
The next time we see Mike poolside, he’s pulling on another waist-length, short-sleeved, Lido-collar shirt, though it’s made from a more fashionable light blue dupioni silk, as characterized by the sheen and slubbing. Though silk shines well under the sun, its warm-wearing properties would not make it particularly practical for the summer, particularly in the year-round heat of tropical Acapulco. Additionally, the fabric’s sensitivity to water makes it an especially curious choice as a post-swim “cover-up” shirt.
This would be enough evidence to question whether or not the shirt was truly silk, but the material is validated by the screen-worn shirt’s photos and paperwork featured at FiftiesStore.com, which also includes photos of the label confirming that this silk shirt was made for the King by “tailor to the stars” Sy Devore, who included Elvis and the Rat Pack among his celebrated clientele.
This blue silk shirt has five clear plastic buttons up the French-style plain front, with a straight hem that has short button-tabs on each side rather than the less elegant elasticized waist of the earlier beige shirt. The other stylistic differences include the addition of a second chest pocket on the other side, and a more traditional Lido collar with the curved roll and structure that indicates a high-quality shirt.
Mike’s Hilton-issued swim shorts are navy blue with a white band across the front of the waist, detailed with a repeating pattern of two colliding navy squares. Each end of this front waistband aligns with a white stripe down each side of the trunks. A white badge, likely indicative of the manufacturer, is embroidered over the left thigh.
The material is likely polyester and Lycra, a frequent blend for tighter-fitting performance trunks like these.
- Abercrombie & Fitch A&F Resort Short in navy blue polyester (Abercrombie & Fitch, $41.30)
- Abercrombie & Fitch Pull-On Shine Swim Trunk in navy blue nylon (Abercrombie & Fitch, $29.50)
- Abercrombie & Fitch Pull-On Swim Trunk in navy polyester (Abercrombie & Fitch, $35)
- Banana Republic Retromarine 6" Swim Short in navy & white stripe polyester (Banana Republic, $90)
- BOSS Star Fish Swim Shorts in navy polyester (ASOS, $43.50)
- Orlebar Brown Setter Striped Short-Length Swim Shorts in navy nylon (MR PORTER, $295)
Mike’s poolside shoes appear to be simple loafers with tan canvas uppers and dark brown hard leather soles. A cool alternative would have been to see Elvis wearing huaraches, the handmade Mexican sandals with woven leather uppers, which became increasingly prominent among Americans during this era as they were embraced by the beatnik and hippie countercultures.
Huaraches or not, these are the only scenes that feature this footwear, as he otherwise wears black “Beatle boots” and brown slip-on Venetian loafers.
Elvis was a noted watch enthusiast in real life, and the stainless chronograph that appears in Fun in Acapulco was likely from the King’s own horological collection. The watch has a round black ringed dial and an expanding steel bracelet.
Understandably, Mike doesn’t frequently wear his watch while on lifeguard detail, but it does briefly appear during the scene where Margarita and her father Maximilian (Paul Lukas) find him being perhaps over-attentive to her romantic rival, Dolores.
How to Get the Look
Though tailored dupioni silk may be a bit excessive—and impractical—Elvis makes the case for classing up the poolside shirts worn with swimwear in his waist-length Lido-collar sport shirts.
- Light blue dupioni silk short-sleeved sport shirt with Lido collar, plain front, two chest pockets, and straight hem with button-tab waist adjusters
- Navy polyester/Lycra short-inseam swim trunks with white-trimmed accents and side stripes
- Tan woven leather huaraches with dark brown leather soles
- Stainless steel chronograph watch with black dial on steel expanding bracelet
It’s increasingly difficult to find ready-made shirts with Lido collars, though I know Scott Fraser Simpson and Timothy Everest continue to provide fine products aligned with the King’s summer style.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.