Nudie Cohn: The Rodeo Tailor

I greatly admire people that have designed creative lives for themselves. Customizing how you live, what you make, whom you make it for and with and especially— when it’s well crafted and beautifully designed. Nudie Cohn lived a very creative life and his beautiful designs bursted with color and sparkle, each piece telling a personal story. Nudie was born in Kiev in 1902 and at age 11, his parents sent him and his brother to America to escape Czarist Russia. After criss crossing the country a bit, he met his future wife, Bobbie at a boarding house in Minnesota. He and Bobbie moved to New York City and started a business making undergarments for showgirls. In the 1940’s, they moved to California and started making elaborately designed western wear. They became an important part of Western music culture, designing custom suits for Porter Wagoner, Dale Evans, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons and many more. The rhinestone studded suits often told visual stories through the detailed embroidery. Nudie’s customized car designs were as over the top as many of his suits.Nudie inspired the Wedding Rug we made years ago. The icons and rhinestones were a nod to Nudie, Gram Parsons and the pure creativity the two friends shared.nudie-mobilenudie“Though it might seem like country-western stars sprang from the womb wearing golden boots and rhinestone suits, it wasn’t always so. In fact, we owe such flashy styles to a Ukrainian-born Jew named Nudie Cohn, who was the first to mix Nashville and Hollywood, making it hip to be ostentatious. While Cohn’s name might not be familiar, you’ve certainly seen his famous Nudie suits, ranging from Gram Parsons’ marijuana-leaf masterpiece to Elvis Presley’s outfit of glitzy gold lamé. Taking his cues from burlesque stage shows, Cohn’s business boomed in the flush years after World War II, when people weren’t afraid to flaunt their wealth. Superstars like Bob Dylan, Cher, David Byrne, John Wayne, and John Lennon all loved his wild outfits—the gaudier, the better.” >> Collector’s Weekly.johnny-cash-notes“Cohn’s oldest grandchild, Jamie Lee, was so profoundly influenced by her flamboyant grandfather that she changed her last name to Nudie and wrote his 2004 biogaphy Nudie the Rodeo Tailor. First working in Nudie’s store during her teens, Jamie Lee grew up in the business, and helped her grandmother manage his shop until its closure in 1994. Jamie Lee now holds the trademark for her grandfather’s defunct labels, and has plans for Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors to make a grand comeback. As told by Jamie Lee, Nudie’s life story is as fabulous as his wildest outfits: Born Nutya Kotlyrenko in 1902, Nudie adopted his new moniker at age 11 when American immigration officials misunderstood his given name. The son of a boot maker, Nudie had apprenticed with tailors from a young age, and after moving to the U.S., he opened a boutique for burlesque dancers called Nudie’s for the Ladies. In 1940, Nudie and his wife Bobbie moved to Los Angeles, where they launched a line of western-wear, dubbed Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors, out of their garage. By 1950, the couple had a permanent shop in North Hollywood, including a retail storefront along with their custom tailor business. Nudie’s employees eventually included renowned designers like Manuel Cuevas and Jaime Castaneda, both favorites of contemporary music stars. Jamie Lee explains that his repertoire also expanded to include customized boots, belts, saddles, and even cars.”i-want-a-nudie-suit-real-bad-from-the-1940s2“Collectors Weekly: How did Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors first get started? Jamie Lee: After my grandparents settled in Hollywood in 1940, they started working in their garage using a ping-pong table as their cutting board. They originally wanted to approach Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, but thought they needed a storefront first. Instead, my grandfather approached Tex Williams, who actually lived in Newhall, California, near my grandparents. He told Tex that he’d like to make him some clothes, but he needed $150 for a sewing machine. Tex said “Well, I’ve got a horse we could sell at auction,” and so they did, they sold the horse and bought a sewing machine. My grandfather took an assistant with him to do all the measurements for Tex and his band, and somehow they got to drinking. Afterwards, my grandfather made the suits and took them back to Tex, but the pants were all arm’s length and the arms were leg’s length, so they didn’t quite work. Nudie had gotten the cloth on credit, so when he returned to the fabric store to get more fabric, the owner wouldn’t give him any. So he sat up on the counter and said “I’m not leaving here until I get my fabric.” The guy finally gave in and my grandfather went back and fixed the suits. That night Tex and his band played at the Riverside Rancho, which sold out, and Tex made enough money to actually pay my grandfather, who then paid for the fabric.”

>> Read more of the interview.

97_148_120512_News_Nudie_WD__1>> Article by Collectors Weekly.