MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Bernard Lansky, the Memphis retailer who helped a young Elvis Presley establish his signature clothing style of pegged pants, two-toned shoes and other flashy duds in the 1950s, has died. He was 85.
Julie Lansky, the clothier's granddaughter, said he died Thursday at his Memphis home.
Bernard Lansky and his brother Guy started a retail business in Memphis in 1946, with help from a $125 loan from their father, Samuel.
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 the pink and black shirts and other outfits.
"It's a statement to say that he dressed one of the most influential entertainers of all time," Julie Lansky said in a telephone interview. "He knew that for any entertainer, they had to look different."
Even though his style of dress changed over the years -- including sparkling jumpsuits -- Presley shopped at Lansky Bros. the rest of his life. Presley died at his Memphis residence, Graceland, in 1977.
Lansky picked out the white suit and blue tie that Presley wore when he was buried.
"I put his first suit on him and his last suit on him," Lansky was fond of saying.
By the early 1950s, Lansky's shop was known as a place where a man with a taste for flash could find the styles Lansky referred to as "real sharp."
One of Lansky's favorite Elvis stories was how he first met the future King of Rock and Roll. Presley was a teenager working as an usher at a nearby theater and liked to window shop at Lansky's.
"He said, 'When I get rich, I'm going to buy you out,' " Lansky said in a standard version of the story. "I said, 'Don't buy me out. Just buy from me.' And he never forgot me."
Presley made his first record, "That's All Right," at the old Sun Studio in 1954. Before long, Presley's star was rising, and he began shopping at Lansky Bros. in earnest.
Bernard and Guy Lansky parted ways in the 1980s, family members said. Lansky continued working past the age that most people retire.
"What am I going to retire for? What am I going to do?" he said at age 77, in June 2004. "I get here every morning at 6 o'clock, seven days a week."