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The latest entertainment news was often accompanied by talk of clothing styles by Dolphin coffee sippers. For a time fashion talk was about the short lived ivy league style, just arrived in a men's wear window a few doors down from the Dolphin, worn by only one person we knew, R&B fanatic, Reese Pitcher, who became a "Franker" officianado and got rid of all his R&B records at the coming of the Sinatra revival. Those bulbous Ivy league shoes whose like we'd seen only in cartoons got most of our attention. I can't recall the shoe style the rest of us were wearing to go with our drape-shaped "strides" back then, maybe those black leather longish straight lasts. White bucks were still considered normal compared to those big toed ivy league kickers, stove pipe pants and awning striped jackets. White bucks offer a glimpse of the kind of styles that pervaded the early days of rock and roll. They were a front-laced casual shoe with rounded toe, but not bulbous like those ivy league ones,with a thick rubber sole and covered in a flat chalky polish applied as a milky liquid They seemed to be associated with the early rock and rollers of the 1950's: both musicians and male fans sported them. White bucks were also called Pat Boone boots probably because the 1950's singer Pat Boone wore them conspicuously. And I almost overlooked the fact that Elvis wore them in the 1957 movie "Jail House Rock" as you might see in online photos of that movie and of his 1954 "Louisiana Hayride" show. In the old photos of Willie, Gibbie and me taken in June of 1957 our white buck shoes are our trios only sign of uniformity, and indicated that we were true rock and rollers. I recall being on stage at a club "Danceland" east of “The Met” when I was playing with "The Consuls" : this guy’s white bucks seemed to fly cartoon-like across the dance floor as other dancers stopped to watch and make room for his leggy rock and roll jitterbug jive. I don't recall exactly when white bucks went out of fashion as rock and roll wear - probably shortly after the three 1957 photos of me Willie and Gibbie were taken; I don't remember "The Consuls" wearing them. But I think they"re still around, not worn by musicians, but by people like successful salesmen or business men who don them in holiday places. By the mid 1960's after the British pop influences (post Beatles) had taken hold, they had been replaced by the more menacing pointed, shiny leather boots, long hair, open-neck shirts and beads more in keeping with the aggressiveness of "Grease"'s portrayal of early rock and rollers than with the cutesiness displayed in the movie "Hairspray" or the musical "Bye Bye Birdie".
Related to "white bucks" and the early rock and roll identity were "blue suede shoes" which I had overlooked until July 30, 2012, an unforgivable oversight because "Blue Suede Shoes" was the title of one of Elvis' and Carl Perkins' early recordings, and I think one of Pat Boone's hits as well. The phrase "blue suede shoes" was also part of a teenagers' mythic persona, and perhaps this is why we named the group that followed the Consuls in 1958, The Suedes. Even the lyrics " You can do anything that you wanna do" "but uh uh honey lay off o'them shoes"/"but don't you step on my blue suede shoes"(*) highlights a kind of staunch individuality associated with these suede shoes, and yet unlike "white bucks" worn by Elvis and Boone when the tune "Blue Suede Shoes" was popular, no one seemed to be wearing them.
What now seems significant about white bucks, and blue suede shoes, is that other than the way they seemed to highlight the teenage identity and rock and roll, was how conservative they now make teenagers back then seem. As our photos indicate none of us could have imagined wearing long hair then. We all got our hair clipped very short, ears out, cowlicks up front held fast by a gooey blend of barbershop bottled rainbow coloured perfumey brilliantine, BrylCreem ("A little dabb'l do yuh") or Wildroot Cream Oil ("Get Wildroot Cream Oil Charlie, it keeps your hair in trim."). When the newspaper writer identified Willie standing on a chair at the Gardens Elvis show as a "long haired youth" with a photo to prove it, I really don't know why the length of his hair was mentioned back then in 1957: I recall only that he might have been due for the usual straight-razor shave around the neck and ears and had let his hair straggle over these parts a bit, maybe in what we used to call a "duck tail" at the back. Even Elvis' haircut seemed longish only because of his sideburns, not obvious in the photo below, but rather conspicuous in the 1957 Spokane photo .Along with the disappearance of white bucks of "rock and roll"'s early days, after Pat Boone; came a style interlude of fat-toed leather ones and glaring "coat of many colours", striped "ivy league" jackets, a style reminiscent of ancient barbershop days; barbers became hair stylists and men's hair grew really long with the menacing sharply pointed boots that I associated with "Rock and Roll"'s new "Rock" image, just after the mild-mannered continental suit image of "The Beatles". I was reminded recently in a telephone call from an old friend from my Green Dolphin days of the quaint interest we all had in men's colognes; he reminded me of that funky fragrance Patchouly in a narrow, square-cornered vertical bottle which I think I was introduced to by Lou Miles, clothier of the Yonge Street strip about the time we'd all been wearing that soft and mellow Canoe.
And despite the fact that the 50's Consuls photo shows us uniformed without suit jackets, most of us continued aspiring to wearing fancy suits on stage, even tuxedoes. Lou Miles across from the Brown Derby on Yonge Street was the place to get a
band's Mohair suits like those made for Ronnie Hawkins' band, The Hawks, who dressed that way(**) almost to the time they became The Band and left Ronnie for Bob Dylan.
(*) I wrote these key lyrics from memory, too lazy, or fearful I might lose the feeling/"Zeitgeist" in recalling them.
(**) Note Levon's suit and the tips of the hawk's wings on his bass drum representing Ron's Hawks.
This photo was likely taken about the time in 1957 when Elvis appeared at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. Except for the elaborate carpet it might even have been taken backstage at the Gardens. A lot of people seem to have got to meet him then. I 've had the photo on an external drive with 2 others for so long that I almost forgot I had them. But since search impressions for "Toronto's Secret " repeatedly bring up "Elvis Gold Suit" as a search item I assume someone would like to see Elvis as he was then, rather conservatively dressed in his early "Blue Suede Shoes", "Milk Cow Boogie Blues" period.
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