The stars of yesteryear had a style that caught the eye. At the same time, that style holds a place in the memories of fans as well as the culture at large. Guys like Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Porter Wagoner, and John Wayne all had the same tailor. You know the style. Also, if you’ve listened to enough country music, you’ve heard the tailor mentioned by name, even if you didn’t know it.
That tailor’s name was Nudie Cohn. He passed away in 1984 but left behind a legacy of outrageous fashion that still lives on to this day. Think back to Hank Williams Sr., Elvis Presley, and the other stars of that era. They were all sporting those rhinestone-covered suits. Those all came from the fantastically fashion-forward mind of Mr. Cohn and were known as Nudie Suits.
Nudie suits were huge in the time of Elvis Presley. He famously rocked a gold lamé suit created by the legendary tailor. Porter Wagoner and Hank Williams were both known to wear Nudie Suits when performing. In fact, in Alan Jackson’s “Midnight in Montgomery,” a song about meeting Hank’s ghost, he mentions the attire. “…Wearing shiny boots, a Nudie Suit, and haunting, haunted eyes.”
The tradition is still going strong today. Post Malone, who is a big fan of classic country, has been spotted wearing Cohn-inspired suits. Also, the criminally underrated country singer Charley Crocket regularly rocks vintage Nudie-style suits. It just goes to show that knowing your roots never goes out of style.
Nudie Cohn: Tailor to Elvis Presley, Hank Sr., and Many More
Before Nudie Cohn was making suits for stars like Elvis Presley, he was known as Nuta Kotlyarenko. He was born in Kiev, Russia in 1902 according to the tailor’s official website. He knew that he wanted to be a tailor from a young age. So, in the early thirties, Kotlyarenko relocated to the United States, changed his name, and set to work.
In the early days, he lived in New York and made undergarments for burlesque performers. He was a long way from clothing Elvis Presley and other huge stars. However, he wouldn’t stop until he had made his mark.
In the early forties, Nudie Cohn moved to California with his wife Bobbie. They made clothes in their garage. In the early fifties, they became the tailors for Roy Rogers and Dale Owens. In 1957, Nudie made the famous gold suit for Elvis Presley.
By the mid-sixties, Nudie was clothing just about every star out there. Folks like John Wayne, Cher, Elton John, John Lennon, Glen Campbell, and even Michael Landon came to Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors to get something unique and eye-catching.
Nudie Cohn was the original rhinestone cowboy. He changed the way classic country music looked just as much as the men and women he clothed changed the way it sounded.