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Finding Aid to the Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors Archives MSA.30
MSA.30  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Use
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Arrangement
  • Processing History
  • Scope and contents
  • Biographical Note
  • Acquisition
  • Preferred citation

  • Title: Nudie's Rodeo Tailors Archives
    Identifier/Call Number: MSA.30
    Contributing Institution: Autry National Center, Autry Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 28.0 Linear feet 64 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1950-1994
    Abstract: Nudie Cohn, born Nuta Kotlyrenko in Kiev (1902 December 15 - 1984 May 9), was a Russian immigrant who moved to America in 1913. Born into a family of boot makers and tailors, he made a name for himself in Western style tailoring. Nudie’s custom clothing was distinguished by its sharp fit and eye-catching embellishments. His work became famous in the Western music scene in the 1950s, and his client base grew over four decades to include movie studios, movie stars, rock and roll musicians, and equestrian parade participants. Nudie is famous for outfitting Roy Rogers in rhinestone-studded fringe, creating the gold lamé suit Elvis wore in 1957, and the light-up suit donned by Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman. The Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors Archives collection spans 1950-1994 and includes customer clothing files, correspondence, boot patterns, financial records, photographs, and publications.
    creator: Cohn, Nudie, 1902-1984
    creator: Kotlyarenko, Nuta, 1902-1984
    creator: Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors.

    Access

    Collection is open for research. Appointments to view materials are required. To make an appointment please visit http://theautry.org/research/research-rules-and-application or contact library staff at rroom@theautry.org. Customer name index is available from Library Staff.

    Use

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Autry National Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Autry Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Autry as the custodian of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Related Archival Materials

    97.148 archival records and artifacts collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles.
    Clothing and accessories collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles.
    Grand Ole Opry Archives, Nashville, TN.

    Arrangement

    • Series 1: Billing
    • Series 2: Boot Patterns and Boot Records
    • Series 3: Clippings and Correspondence
    • Series 4: Customer Accounts
    • Series 5: Customer Address and Measurement Cards
    • Series 6: Customer Clothing Files - Individuals
    • Series 7: Customer Clothing Files - Groups
    • Series 8: Photographs
    • Series 9: Publications
    All series are organized alphabetically by last name of individual customer or correspondent, name of group or organization, or event or subject, as in the case of the Publications or Clippings files.

    Processing History

    Initial inventory, physical processing, and cataloging by Autry National Center staff. Additional processing and finding aid completed by Holly Rose Larson, NHPRC Project Archivist, 2012 February 13, made possible through grant funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

    Scope and contents

    The Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors Archives document the business’s activities from 1950 through the early 1990s. This archive is comprised of nine series: Billing, Boot Patterns and Boot Records, Clippings and Correspondence, Customer Accounts, Customer Address and Measurement Cards, Customer Clothing Files for Individuals, Customer Clothing Files for Groups, Photographs, and Publications.
    The Customer Clothing Files for Individuals represent the bulk of the collection, and often contain fabric swatches and drawings of individual items of clothing that Nudie was asked to design.
    Customer records include Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams and Tammy Wynette as well as Western movie and television stars such as Gene Autry, Smiley Burnett, Monte Hall, Montie Montana, Clayton Moore, Tex Ritter and Roy Rogers. Files for famous movie, television and music personalities include Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Gram Parsons, Elton John, Dennis Hopper, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger.

    Biographical Note

    Nudie Cohn (1902 December 15 - 1984 May 9) was a poor Russian immigrant who became one of the most famous and successful American Western wear designers of the twentieth century. Born Nuta Kotlyrenko to a Jewish boot maker and his wife in Kiev, Nuta was a tailor’s apprentice by age eight. At age eleven he was sent to America with his older brother to take up residence with relatives in Brooklyn, New York. At Ellis Island, his first name was misunderstood by immigration officers as “Nudie,” and the two brothers gave Cohn as their surname, to match their relatives in Brooklyn; thus Nudie Cohn was born.
    Nudie tried his hand at many vocations, but the majority of his successful ventures were in tailoring. As a young man, he bounced between Los Angeles and New York City, and on one of these trips met his wife, Helen Barbara Kruger, in Minnesota. He nicknamed her “Bobbie,” and they married on 1933 September 4.
    In New York City they opened Nudie’s for the Ladies, a boutique near Times Square that catered to burlesque dancers. It was here that Nudie started exploring the use of rhinestones and fanciful costumes. The couple returned to Minnesota in 1936, then moved with their two-year-old daughter Barbara to Los Angeles in 1940.
    Nudie started to gain footing in Los Angeles with a dry cleaning and tailoring shop. His own designs began to bring in a lot of work, but a dishonest partner ended that venture. He then started designing and manufacturing Western style shirts for a wholesaler in North Hollywood. Again, he was met with quick success, but had to sell his part of the business after a medical emergency depleted his finances in 1947.
    Although he was a talented designer and tailor, a big part of Nudie’s business success was his charisma. Tex Williams was convinced that Nudie could be successful again, and Williams sold a horse and saddle to bankroll Nudie’s next business venture, which was to outfit Tex Williams and his new band. A huge crowd came to the Riverside Rancho to see the show, and the owner of the club let Nudie display his designs there. That exposure, paired with Tex Williams raving about Nudie on the radio, brought the success that Nudie and Tex were counting on.
    Both Nudie and his wife Bobbie were charismatic and enjoyed a good time. Their home and tailoring studio became a regular hang-out for Western musicians like Cliffie Stone, Spade Cooley, Hank Thompson, and Merle Travis who had suits made and often stayed on, playing their instruments with Nudie on mandolin.
    In 1950, Nudie was able to move his shop out of his home and open “Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors and Western Equipment” on Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood. Nudie’s custom clothing was distinguished by its sharp fit and eye-catching embellishments. Word of mouth brought many more entertainment industry customers like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, and Monte Hale. Movie and television studios hired Nudie for costume design. Customers also included equestrians requiring parade outfits and rock ‘n roll musicians. By 1954, Nudie employed 14 staffers. Nudie moved the business to a bigger shop on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood in 1963.
    This location, complete with a horse statue out front, became a landmark in the San Fernando Valley. Nudie’s workshop employed Manuel Cuevas, a top name in today’s Western couture world, shirts and pants maker Jaime Castaneda, who is still in the tailoring business in North Hollywood, and master embroiderers Viola Grae and Rose Clements.
    Nudie is famous for outfitting Roy Rogers in rhinestone-studded fringe, creating the gold lamé suit Elvis wore in 1957, and the light-up suit donned by Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman. “Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors’” clientele list is impressive, boasting such stars as Rex Allen, Pee Wee King, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, John Wayne, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Nudie was also known for his cars, including a 1950 Hudson, which were embellished with steer horns and silver dollars, and for wearing mismatched boots—a nod, he says, to his impoverished childhood, when the only pair of shoes he had was mismatched hand-me-downs. Although Nudie never met with success as a musician, he also recorded and released his own album, Nudie and His Mandolin, in 1975.
    Nudie retired from “Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors” in the early 1980s, but his wife Bobbie and their granddaughter Jamie kept the business running until 1995. Nudie’s creations are celebrated today by museums, collectors and fans of his clothing. Permanent exhibitions at institutions such as the Autry National Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Opryland Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution include pieces by Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors. Nudie’s designs are sought after as collector’s items and are still worn on stage by such performers as Beck and Emmylou Harris.

    Acquisition

    Donated by Helen B. Cohn, widow of Nudie, 1994 July 28.

    Preferred citation

    Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors Archives, 1950-1994, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; MSA.30; [folder number] [folder title][date].

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Advertisements
    Clippings
    Clothing and dress measurements
    Clothing trade
    Commercial catalogs
    Correspondence
    Costume design
    Costume designers -- Biography
    Costume designers -- United States -- Biography
    Cowboys -- Clothing
    Fashion -- United States -- History -- 20th century
    Fashion -- West (U.S.)
    Financial records
    Manufacturers catalogs
    Motion picture actors and actresses -- Clothing -- United States
    Photographs
    Programs
    Sales catalogs