I Wanna Get Me a Nudie Suit
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about Nudie Cohn, the late rhinestoner to the stars. Even though things like sewing and embroidering don’t seem all that flashy, even the most the mundane aspects of Nudie’s life are far more exciting than the highest points of mine. I mean come on, his sewing machine lives in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
As a burlesque costumer, fringemaker to Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans, lookmaker to the stars (Elvis’ gold lamé suit and Robert Redford’s “Electric Horseman” get-up were Nudie creations), and a designer of gaudy Pontiac Bonnevilles, Nudie cemented his place in fashion and music history with rhinestones and glitter. And rightly so — his creations were pretty spectacular. Just do a Google image search. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
I was talking with a friend the other day, and the subject of Nudie’s tuxedos came up, because his work was sitting all glittery in the forefront of my mind and I wanted to know — if my friend could get a Nudie suit, what would it look like? Which images would be eternally emblazoned? My friend was pretty secure in his design choice – first of all, there would be a scorpion, because he is Scorpio, and also a guitar, because that’s what he plays. Or perhaps a scorpion playing guitar. It was so cut and dry — easy-peasy. In fact, I was a bit jealous that he had such a quick answer, because the question that had sat, nascent in the back of my head for days was, what would I put on my tuxedo?
Following my friend’s logic, because I am a Virgo, should I get a virgin on my jacket? It would have to be a pretty identifiable virgin. The Jonas Brothers, maybe? Or Madonna, circa 1984? She was like a virgin. Or would I choose to immortalize something that I really enjoy, even though it may not have Deep Sentimental Value? I love toasters, and I really like vintage chicken illustrations, is that enough to warrant bedazzled immortality?
The real question for me seems to be: when it comes to wearing one’s heart on their sleeve, how far do you go? Do things have to be so infused with meaning that they can’t simply exist for their own sake? If I wanted to get a 42-scoop ice cream cone on my sleeves, would I be taken to task to list every flavor and all the reasons I opted to make the green one pistachio and not mint? Would I get catcalls about it from pretty much every jerk on the street? The answer to all of these questions is a resigned, “probably, yeah.”
In the blink of an eye I had talked myself into and out of a great suit — a charcoal gray number emblazoned on the back with a flaming toaster shooting toast into a heart-shaped frame wherein Madonna gyrated in front of the Jonas Brothers (even that married one). I’d further immortalize my Virgoness with a pair of stubborn mules balking on the lapels and a dusting of pink asterisks on the shoulders. Other life-long loves would be paid tribute to with a color wheel of cheese on each sleeve, some dogs eating grapes, and probably a few other random noodlings. If I could be assured of proper execution, and I would trust Nudie to be enough of a stickler to detail to pull this off, the whole thing would be in anaglyph 3D.
Nudie excelled with the personal touch — one of his first suits was for Porter Wagoner, which was covered wagons and cacti and all kinds of emblematic western images and Graham Parsons paid tribute to his beloved Three P’s with the Nudie suit he wore on the cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers “Gilded Palace of Sin” album (go look it up), so the whole symbolism thing isn’t unheard of, it’s just unusual for regular folks like me to go all out like that. We tend to keep our stuff hidden — game faces on, tattoos under shirts, ironic detachment…
But honestly, I’d rather go the Nudie route, and put it out there for everyone to see — vintage chickens and all.