Elvis Presley: How His Iconic Jumpsuits Made Performing Particular Dance Moves Easier

by John Jamison

You could fill a page with everything iconic about Elvis Presley. Everything from the man’s hair to his signature dance moves was unique. And virtually every single Elvis impersonator you’ll come across will be sporting one of The King’s legendary jumpsuits. Some may be surprised to learn that not only were the outfits inspired by his love for karate, but he was also an 8th-degree black belt.

From the beginning, Elvis stirred up society with his hip-swinging dance moves. It wasn’t until 1958, though, when he was drafted into the Army, that Presley started his karate training. And he was quickly taken with the martial arts. He saw karate as a type of performance, and he wasted no time incorporating the movements into his on-stage dance routine.

Traditional pants didn’t allow for the motion demanded by Elvis Presley’s karate-like dance moves, however. And the jumpsuits he wore were reminiscent of a traditional karate gi. Of course, they wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of Elvis flair.

You can watch a compilation of some of Elvis Presley’s most iconic dance moves below. You’ll notice that most of his high kicks and deep stances only come when he’s wearing jumpsuits.

Elvis Presley’s Karate Master Designed a Special Uniform for the Rock Star

In the early 1970s, Elvis Presley trained with karate master Kang Rhee in Memphis, Tennessee. And when Presley first called Rhee about potentially training with him, the karate master naturally thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

But sure enough, Elvis Presley was there in the flesh not long after. And according to a post that Rhee wrote on his official website, the rock star took his training incredibly seriously.

He insisted on being part of a regular class of karate students, and when he realized that he was more of a distraction to them than a peer, he took it upon himself to demonstrate his skills so they would realize he was there to learn, not perform.

Elvis Presley earned the respect of his fellow students and his master. And he did it wearing a traditional uniform. But because he was Elvis and was a naturally performative person, Kang Rhee made him a special uniform.

“I designed for him a special uniform and belt, as a sort of costume. The uniform is trimmed in red satin, has the TCB patch which Elvis and I designed together, on the left chest and the Crown Fist patch on the left sleeve cuff. The belt is a black belt, embroidered with Elvis personal information, with all but the embroidered ends covered in the same red satin in which the uniform is trimmed,” Rhee wrote on his website.