Nudie suits!

I’ve long heard about ‘Nudie suits’ but never really knew the story behind the term.  Today I was reading a book on the Flying Burrito Brothers 1969 album ‘The Gilded Palace of Sin’ by Bob Proehl, and in one chapter he tells the story.  I can’t resist posting it here:

Born into a middle-class Jewish family in the highly anti-Semitic Russia of 1902, little Nutya Kotlyrenko was shipped off to America at the age of eleven, as soon as the family’s finances allowed.  At Ellis Island, he took the Americanized surname his brother and cousins had already adopted, Cohn, and unable to write or spell his first name, he left Ellis Island with a botched version of it: Nudie.

“I guess that man never knew what a favor he did by giving me that name,” Nudie wrote later in his life, “but it’s been a trademark for years.  People are always impressed by an unusual name, and Nudie has suited me just fine.”

Nudie Cohn grew up poor in New York City’s garment district, apprenticing under tailors and dressmakers while dreaming of a career in music or the movies. After years of traveling the United States working odd jobs, he wound up back in New York City making g-strings and burlesque costumes for the strippers in Times Square at a shop called Nudie’s for the Ladies.

After a number of business ventures and financial hardships, the Russian immigrant who dreamed of being a singin’ cowboy moved out to the San Fernando Valley along with his wife, Bobbie, operating a small tailoring business out of their garage. Unable to afford a decent sewing machine or fabric to work on his own designs, Nudie decided in 1947 that country vocalist Tex Williams would be his springboard into the burgeoning field of cowboy costuming.

The story goes on through the fifties, when Nudie makes the shining gold suit for Elvis, and many country stars wear his suits.  Then things take a dive in the sixties until Gram Parsons, shown above second from the right, engages Nudie to make him and the band a very special set of  suits in 1969.  A new era dawned.  Nudie passed away in 1984.

Here are the backs of the suits for the band:

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Comments

  • oakhill193  On December 19, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Love those kind of stories. What’s a Russian Jewish first generation immigrant with an accent doing with American country music. Love it.

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