There have been many famous, legendary haircuts (for men) and hairdos (for women) in show business history. Well, we can start with the mop tops of the Beatles. Then we obviously drift over to the long hair, frizzly hair, shaved head of the respective three stooges- Moe, Larry, and Curly. (not to mention the split-in-the-middle part of Shemp). Alfalfa of the "Little Rascals" had his slicked-down cowlick, Harpo Marx had his curly blond locks, and Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas had their bald domes.
Veronica Lake had her "peek-a-boo" hairdo. The classic blonds include Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow. And let's not forget Lucille Ball's legendary carrot top.
But Elvis Presley's combed-back, ink-black, slickly-oiled, long-sideburned haircut is known all over the civilized (and uncivilized) world.
The earliest Elvis hairstyle was not the jet-black we are all so familiar with. One can watch and enjoy Elvis' earliest TV appearances from 1956 and even his first movie Love Me Tender from 1956 and notice his hair a slightly lighter, dark sandy-ish shade.
It wasn't until his second (and best) movie Loving You in 1957 (Elvis' first color film) that we see the extreme ebony hair that was to be become his trademark. Although the King's hair was actually snow-white by the end of his life, he routinely had it dyed black from '57 on out.
Even as a young teen, Elvis grew his hair "different" (very long instead of the routine crew-cuts of the early '50's) and was reputedly thrown off his high-school football team for refusing to get it cut. As for the sideburns, the most common story is that that was the way truck drivers grew it during the early fifties, and Elvis, being a truck driver himself, just went along with the crowd.
Elvis' slicked back, semi-ducktail haircut is sometimes credited to the great Tony Curtis for its original inspiration. Elvis was a movie usher as a teenager and he did love Tony as a matinee idol. Curtis makes the claim of being Presley's role model in his first autobiography.
But was there another inspiration? A more far-fetched, but feasible one?
In 1971, Elvis Presley accepted the single award he claimed to be proudest of in his entire career. That year, Elvis was voted one of the "ten outstanding young men" by the U.S. Jaycees. In his speech at the awards dinner (Elvis worked for weeks on his speech) he says the following interesting line: "When I was a child, I was a dreamer. I read comic books and I was the hero."
Elvis was, indeed, a big comic book reader and his supreme comic book hero was one "Captain Marvel, Jr."
Like most American boys in the 1940's, Elvis dreamed and fantasized about growing up to be like his favorite comic book hero. But unlike most boys, Elvis didn't associate himself with Superman, Batman, or The Green Hornet. Elvis was obsessed with Captain Marvel, Jr. also known as "America's most famous boy hero."
A younger version of the more famous Captain Marvel, the character sported a jet-black tuft of hair with a curly lock falling over his forehead. Sound familiar?
When Elvis set to conquer the world in the mid-fifties, it seems fairly apparent that he copied his comic hero's hairstyle. Elvis was to, as we all know, succeed in his quest, and soon make his "Elvis Presley haircut" one of the most famous haircuts of the 20th century.
But that wasn't all the King borrowed from his superhero idol. The famous jumpsuits with capes draping the back also came right from Captain Marvel, Jr. This is not to mention Elvis' beloved lightning bolt "T.C.B." (Taking Care of Business) insignia that he loved and had inscribed on jewelry, gifts, clothes, etc. in the later days of his career. The T.C.B. insignia bears a striking resemblance to Captain Marvel, Jr.'s own lightning bolt personal trademark.
Elvis never tried to hide his love for Captain Marvel, Jr. A copy of Captain Marvel, Jr. #57 still sits in Presley's childhood bedroom in Memphis (now a shrine). His full comic book collection remains intact in the attic of Graceland.
And Captain Marvel, Jr. paid tribute to the King in one issue, calling Elvis "The greatest modern day philosopher."