Nudie Cohn and his brother Julius in Russia, c. 1912. Courtesy of Jamie Cuevas Nudie

Part One

Coming to America

Nudie Cohn (center) with his celebrity clients Tex Williams, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Rex Allen, 1962.

The Pioneering Rodeo Tailors

The most influential of the pioneering rodeo tailors shared remarkably similar backgrounds. Born into Jewish families in Eastern Europe, Bernard Lichtenstein, Nathan Turk, and Nudie Cohn immigrated to America as boys in the early twentieth century, bringing with them old-world techniques learned as tailors’ apprentices in their home towns and villages.

Eventually settling in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, these enterprising and highly imaginative businessmen created a successful niche for themselves during an era when America’s fascination with cowboy culture and Western wear was at its height. Rodeo Ben, Turk, and Nudie, as they were better known, instigated a Western-wear revolution, fashioning extravagant apparel for rodeo entertainers, celluloid cowboy stars, and country & western musicians.

Nudie suit worn by singer Tex Williams, one of Nudie Cohn’s first clients.

Nudie suit worn by singer Tex Williams, one of Nudie Cohn’s first clients.

Manuel Cuevas, c. 2015. Photo by Tec Petaja

Following Suit

Following a similar career trajectory to the first-generation rodeo tailors, Manuel Cuevas and Jaime Castaneda each emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles to pursue their passion for making clothing. Born a generation apart, Cuevas and Castaneda learned how to sew and tailor in the Mexican villages where they grew up. The bold aesthetic each brings to Western-wear design incorporates elements influenced by Native American art, Mexican folk art, and religious iconography, upholding the classic tailoring techniques while expanding upon the visual artistry of Nudie Cohn, Nathan Turk, and Rodeo Ben.

Manuel jacket worn by Grand Ole Opry star Jack Greene.

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