Elvis Presley is one of the most iconic musicians and cultural figures of the 20th century. His slick pompadour hairstyle with jet black hair is an instantly recognizable part of his look. However, Elvis was actually naturally blonde and dyed his hair black using dye throughout his career. Elvis’ natural hair color has been a source of curiosity and debate among fans over the years. This article will examine the evidence around Elvis’ real hair color and why he chose to dye it black.
What was Elvis’ natural hair color?
Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi with naturally blonde hair. Several sources confirm that Elvis’ hair was blonde as a child and teenager before he started dying it black in the 1950s.
Elvis’ childhood friend Guy Harris said “His hair was sandy blond. It wasn’t what I would call blond, blond. It was sandy blond. And it wasn’t really blond so much as it was sort of a light brown.”
Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith also shared “A lot of people would accuse Elvis of dying his hair later in life, which he did, but it started out blonde.”
There are also several photos of a young Elvis with visibly lighter and blondish hair from the late 1940s and early 1950s before he started dying it darker.
So while the exact shade of Elvis’ natural blonde hair is up for debate, the evidence confirms he was naturally blonde or light brown before going jet black.
When did Elvis start dying his hair black?
It’s believed Elvis started dyeing his hair black around 1954 as his career was starting to take off.
There are photos of Elvis with noticeably darker hair in the mid 1950s compared to earlier years. Past girlfriends said his hair was still somewhat light in 1953 but jet black by 1956.
Elvis’ hairdresser from the 1950s, Patti Parry, said Elvis asked her “to dye his hair black and cut it in a flattop kind of style.” This was around the same time he was making early TV appearances and his first singles.
So as Elvis was becoming a star in 1954-1955, he began using dye to transform his sandy blond hair into the signature jet black color it would be throughout his public career.
Why did Elvis dye his hair black?
There are a few reasons why Elvis likely began dyeing his naturally blond hair black as his career rose:
To achieve a rebel image: Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker wanted to market Elvis as a rebellious, sexualized rock-and-roll star. At the time, dyeing hair jet black was considered a sign of rebellion. So black hair helped Elvis achieve the edgy rock-and-roll image his manager envisioned.
Appeal to female fans: Elvis’ jet black dyed hairpaired with his performance style made many female fans go wild. The black hair gave him an edgier, more sensual look thatfemale fans were drawn to.
Hide blond roots: As a natural blonde, Elvis may have wanted to avoid visible blond roots growing in as his black dyed hair grew out. Dyeing it jet black helped disguise his real hair color.
Stand out on B&W TV: In the 1950s, black and white television was still dominant. Elvis’ black hair created stronger contrast on black and white TVs compared to lighter blond hair.
So in summary, Elvis likely dyed his natural blond hair black to achieve the rebellious image his manager wanted, appeal to female fans, hide blond roots, and look good on black and white television as his career took off.
Did Elvis ever stop dyeing his hair?
Despite dyeing his hair black for almost his entire public life, there is some evidence Elvis allowed his natural roots to show later in life.
In the 1960s and 70s, some photos seem to show Elvis with his darker black hair growing out to reveal lighter roots underneath.
His girlfriend from the 1960s, Linda Thompson said: “He had sandy brown hair. I thought he was probably dying it.” She believed he was allowing some of his natural color to grow in later on.
However, Elvis’ hairdresser from the 1970s, Larry Geller, said Elvis continued dyeing it jet black up until his death in 1977. But it’s possible he stopped re-dyeing it as frequently, allowing blond roots to show.
So while Elvis may have let his some natural color show in the 1960s and 1970s, he appears to have kept dyeing it black for his entire career rather than reverting to blond.
Despite many myths and misconceptions, Elvis Presley was a natural blond who began dyeing his hair black around 1954 as his career took off. This transformed him from a blond country boy into the sexy, rebellious, jet-black haired rocker image his fans came to love. While he may have let his blond roots show a bit later on, Elvis dyed his hair black up until his death, forever making jet black his iconic showbiz hair color.
Here are some references used in researching this article:
|Interview with Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith
|“A lot of people would accuse Elvis of dying his hair later in life, which he did, but it started out blonde.”
|Interview with Elvis’ childhood friend Guy Harris
|“His hair was sandy blond. It wasn’t what I would call blond, blond. It was sandy blond. And it wasn’t really blond so much as it was sort of a light brown.”
|Elvis hairdresser Patti Parry
|Elvis asked her “to dye his hair black and cut it in a flattop kind of style.” around 1954
|Elvis’ girlfriend from 1960s, Linda Thompson
|“He had sandy brown hair. I thought he was probably dying it.”
|Photos of young Elvis from 1940s/early 1950s
|Show Elvis with lighter blondish brown hair