Nudie Cohn & Gram Parsons
Blue Nudie Suit
Sure, Coco Channel and Christian Dior have an important place in fashion history. But, neither of them makes the grade as my personal fashion hero. That place belongs to the one and only Nudie, the Rodeo Tailor.
Nudie Cohn is known as the first man to put a rhinestone on a western shirt. Without him, where would Elton John, Johnny Cash, Lonnie Anderson and John Wayne be, image-wise? In the toilet, that’s where! He outfitted them with a combo of F-you attitude, glam and flamboyance that no other designer dared to touch.
Nudie was born in Kiev, Russia in 1902. That’s right, the best western tailor who ever lived was not western, or even American. At age 11, he followed his older brother to the U.S., hoping to leave a difficult life of too little money and food to go around. He settled in Brooklyn and the tailoring skills he had learned in his father’s boot shop were put to good use. However the streets of American were not paved with gold, as he had been told as child. Nudie dreamed of becoming a cowboy like his hero, Tom Mix. A teacher presented him with his only pair of shoes, a mismatched pair of cowboy boots, and Nudie vowed to wear mismatched boots the rest of his life in memory of this gift and his difficult past.
Nudie and Dale Evans
In the 1930s, newly wed to his lifelong partner, Bobbie, Nudie opened “Nudies for the Ladies” on Broadway in Manhattan. His clients were burlesque queens and strippers, and Nudie unleashed rhinestone on the girl’s costumes and g-string. Eventually Bobbie and Nudie moved to California where he became the tailor for Hollywood’s prettiest girls.
Nudie and Bobbie had a lot of ups and downs in business. They discovered western wear and Nudie’s flair with yokes and two-toned jackets began to turn a profit. However, life was not easy. Nudie got his break from his continued involvement in the country music scene. He and Bobbie outfitted Tex Williams and his band, and never looked back.
Nudie went on to outfit cowgirl Dale Evans, Gail Davis (Annie Oakley), John Voight (in Rhinestone Cowboy), Cher, John Lennon, David Cassidy and Ann Margaret. Lefty Frizell became the first country-western star Nudie talked into wearing rhinestones. George Jones and Tammy Wynette also had their share of custom-made Nudie outfits. Even David Lee Roth posed for photos in a gorgeous Nudie jacket. Nudie’s sense of style was not limited to clothing. He outfitted all of his and Bobbie’s cars in western gear, decorating them with mounted pistols and steer horns.
Nudie in one of his famous cars
Nudie died in 1984 at age 81. His wife and granddaughter Jamie continued the business for many years, however Bobbie’s retirement at a ripe old age lead to its closure. If you’d like to learn more about Nudie, the Rodeo Tailor, visit nudiesrodeotailor.com
We will offer a prize to the first person who can find out if Ronald Reagan ever wore a Nudie suit.