How Elvis Presley's Hairstylist Kept His Signature Mane Looking Great

Elvis Presley burst onto the scene in the 1950s with a look that instantly became a signature: a jet-black bouffant and perfect sideburns that framed his uniquely angular facial features. As generations of loyal fans have proven, once seen, Presley simply could not be forgotten.

Despite Presley being handsome to an almost superhuman degree, it can't be said that his looks were entirely natural. When his talent first brought him to the attention of the record industry, he was a sandy blond country boy, but his rough-around-the-edges look would soon change. Presley dyed his hair black which he thought accentuated his blue eyes, according to Salon, though he originally used shoe polish before he became wealthy enough to shell out on hair dye and stylists. 

But once he found fame the task of taming the King's trademark mane became an important business. Presley had several stylists over the years, but the one who arguably was of greatest service to the singer was Larry Geller, a former would-be musician who met Presley at the start of his career by chance as a teenager. The pair said only a few words to each other before Presley was called to start his show. Little did Geller know that he would eventually become Presley's right-hand man and confidante after taking over hair duty in the Presley camp in 1964.

An expert in celebrity hair

Elvis Presley wasn't the first customer of Larry Geller's to become world famous. In fact, the hair stylist had a track record of providing signature looks to celebrities in Hollywood and beyond before he became the key hair expert in the King's team. Geller (pictured) dreamed of being an actor, but was convinced by a friend to also pick up an industry-related trade to tide him over when acting work was hard to get. So he chose hair and make-up, and in 1960 made history by opening the first men's only hair salon in America alongside the equally legendary Jay Sebring.

In the next few years, Geller was cutting the hair of some of the biggest names of stage and screen, including Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, according to Yahoo!. In 1964, Geller was lined up to become to personal stylist of the British comedy actor Peter Sellers. But his life changed when he received a phone call to inform him that Presley — of whom he was still a big fan — had requested him to come to his home and personally style his hair. Taking all his expertise with him, Geller would remain Presley's stylist for the rest of his life.

A painstaking haircare regime

Elvis Presley and Larry Geller hit it off immediately, although Geller recalls in his memoir, "If I Can Dream," that the first shampooing he gave the King in his bathroom sink soaked the singer's shirt. Nevertheless, the King thought the first styling Geller gave him was "perfect."

From that moment on, he was in charge of everything hair-related — which in Presley's case was a big job. "I shampooed his hair regularly, usually every day. I would massage his scalp for a few minutes, then brush his hair at least 50 or 60 strokes," Geller told Yahoo! Beauty. As well as cuts and styling, his work for Presley involved maintaining the rocker's impressive mane as he approached middle age, with the stylist being told: "You can do whatever you want with my hair, but one thing — make sure I keep it!" Nowadays, stylists have a whole wealth of haircare products, serums, and tonics to choose from to ensure their celebrity clients remain youthful in their follicles, but back then Geller chose to make his own concoction, mixing basic shampoo with aloe vera, herbs, and vitamins to keep the King's hair clean and healthy.

Larry Geller: Spiritual Stylist

But Larry Geller claims that his relationship with Elvis Presley went far deeper than superficial concerns like haircuts and style. Over the years he worked for Presley, Geller says that he and the King developed a deep friendship and bond, which developed from lengthy discussions around religion and spirituality, many of which would take place with Presley in the stylist's chair.

In "If I Can Dream," Geller recalls that even on their first meeting he was interested in his new stylist's spiritual beliefs. Geller had long been interested in diverse forms of spirituality, including Scientology and yoga, but ultimately was driven by a need to understand God and the meaning of life. Presley immediately recognized Geller as a kindred spirit, and over the years that followed spoke at length with his stylist on religious and spiritual matters, with Geller also providing Presley with countless books on spiritual subjects.

Presley's religious convictions have come under the spotlight in recent years, with his stepbrother claiming that he remained highly religious throughout his life and Presley's personal Bible, in which he had made numerous notes and underlinings, coming up for sale at auction in 2012. It seems that Geller's impact on Presley may have also had an impact on the King's beliefs, which reportedly grew stronger shortly before his death on August 16, 1977 at the age of 42.