Hank Thompson’s “Golden Nugget” Western Suit
Custom suit designed by Nudie Cohn
This suit, featuring embroidered gold coins, was designed by celebrity tailor Nudie Chon and was worn by musician Hank Thompson during a performance at the Golden Nugget Casino.
Hank Thompson (1925–2007), from Waco, was a western swing and honky-tonk musician recognized for clever writing and hit vocals during his 70-year career. He also had a flair for fashion, performing in a white cowboy hat, sliver-toed boots, and sparkling sequined suits. He wore this suit, created by tailor Nudie Cohn, at a live recording of his album, Hank Thompson at the Golden Nugget. It was the first live album ever recorded for commercial release by a single country artist. Thompson and his band, the Brazos Valley Boys, recorded it over two nights in March 1961 during a six-week stint at Las Vegas’s Golden Nugget Casino.
Radio and the recording industry, along with western films and television shows, helped make the cowboy a pop culture icon. Starting in the 1930s, professional musicians like Gene Autry and Tex Ritter crossed over into motion pictures and played heroic singing cowboys. Hollywood’s romantic portrayals of the West helped transform a genre of music that came from southern rural traditions to one accepted by the public as “country” or “western.” Singers embraced the image, too, adopting cowboy stage names and clothing.
Nudie Cohn (1902–1984) was born Nuta Kotlyrenko in Kyiv, Ukraine, and immigrated to America in 1913. He became famous as a tailor in the Western music scene in the 1950s, and his client base grew from there. In business for over four decades, his clients came to include movie studios, movie stars, and rock and roll musicians. Celebrity customers like Roy Rogers wore flashy costumes with rhinestone-studded fringe, and Elvis performed in an iconic Nudie suit laced with gold.
George “The Fat Man” Sanger
Clothing and Accessories
Time Period: 1946 - 1970
This artifact is currently on view.