Bernard Lansky, Memphis clothier to Elvis, dies at 85


Elvis Presley, left, being outfitted by clothier Bernard Lansky at Lansky's Men's Store in Memphis, Tenn. Lansky, who helped a young Elvis Presley establish his signature clothing style, died Thursday at his Memphis home. (AP)
November 16, 2012

Bernard Lansky, the Memphis retailer who helped a young Elvis Presley establish his signature clothing style of pegged pants, two-tone shoes and other flashy duds in the 1950s, died Nov. 15 at his home in Tennessee. He was 85.

Julie Lansky, the clothier’s granddaughter, confirmed the death.

Bernard Lansky and his brother Guy started a retail business in Memphis in 1946 with help from a $125 loan from their father.

After World War II, the store started selling Army surplus goods on Beale Street. When the supply dried up, they opened a high-fashion men’s store, where Bernard Lansky established his reputation as a natural salesman and storyteller.

Lansky Bros. ended up supplying Presley with pink and black shirts and other outfits.

Even though his style of dress changed over the years — eventually encompassing his famous sparkling jumpsuits — Presley shopped at Lansky Bros. the rest of his life.

After Presley died at his Memphis residence, Graceland, in 1977, Mr. Lansky picked out the white suit and blue tie in which the singer was buried.

“I put his first suit on him and his last suit on him,” the retailer was fond of saying.

Mr. Lansky became a favorite of the Elvis faithful who flocked to Memphis by the thousands for annual gatherings in Presley’s honor.

Lansky Bros. kept drawing the fans even after moving in 1981 from the Beale Street entertainment district to the Peabody Hotel, a downtown landmark a few blocks away.

Bernard and Guy Lansky parted ways in the 1980s, family members said.

In 1997, the Presley estate opened a nightclub called Elvis Presley’s Memphis at Lansky’s old store on Beale Street. It closed in 2003, and the building was left unused.

Mr. Lansky and son Hal came out with a line of 1950s-style clothes in 2001, and one of their four shops in the Peabody was called “Lansky 126,” the street number of the old Beale Street store. All four shops are open to this day.

— Associated Press

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