Let’s take a look at some of the coolest, most ostentatious pieces of wardrobe the universe has ever seen – NUDIE SUITS.
Nudie suits were the creations of Nudie Cohn – the flamboyant clothier and proprietor of Nudies Rodeo Tailors in Hollywood. If you’ve never heard of a Nudie suit, rest assured you’ve seen plenty. His heavily embroidered and bedazzled creations have graced the stage with both country and rock stars and he was the go-to tailor for such iconic western types as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. The whole idea of the “rhinestone cowboy” starts with Nudie Cohn. He urbanized the classic western suit and turned it into a statement of country pimpitude. Check out this piece he did for Hank Williams, Jr:
Many folks were first exposed to Nudie’s work through the legendary gold lame suit Elvis wore on the cover of 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong . We don’t have that piece (we wish), but we do have this none-too-subtle suit he made for Conway Twitty:
The irony of Nudie’s close connection to that most American of art forms – country music – is that he was from Kiev, Ukraine. Nudie’s designs didn’t just appeal to the cowboy-hat types, though. Rockers started sporting them in the ‘60s and continue to do so to this day (REM’s Mike Mills and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy both own vintage Nudies). In rock, they were largely popularized by Gram Parsons. Nudie made the famous “Gilded Palace of Sin” suit for Gram. This suit featured embroidered pills, pot leaves, naked women and crosses. It was pretty scandalous for the sixties, but it was undeniably cool. Here’s a great video of Gram wearing the suit (which now resides in the Country Music Hall of Fame):
Inspired by Gram’s suit, Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi had Nudie create this “Shamrocks and Pot Leaves” suit in 1970:
Not to be outdone, Bob Dylan had Nudie make this absolutely amazing “Jesus Jacket” in 1979 during Bob’s “born again” phase. This one is a favorite. It’s definitely got a kitschy folk art vibe:
Even Keith Richards got in on the fun. Keith received this Nudie jacket as a present from none other than Gram Parsons:
We’ve saved the best for last (as usual). This badboy was owned and operated by none other than Buck Owens in the mid ‘60s as he toured the country kicking out the most hardcore honkytonk the world would ever see. This one actually isn’t a Nudie suit. It was made by Nathan Turk – a contemporary of Nudie’s whose impact on western fashion is equally as important. Check it out:
What could be cooler than that? How about an old snapshot of Buck wearing the suit onstage in ’66 while pickin’ on a Tele and smiling for the camera? Check out ’58 Fender Bassman amp as well:
So there you have it. If you want a piece of the Nudie legacy, you’d better save your pennies. Nudie Cohn died in 1984, effectively ending the era of the rhinestone cowboy rodeo suit. There are still some fine tailors making iterations and “inspired by” pieces, but nothing has the cache of a genuine Nudie.