Jerry Lee Atwood

Due to COVID 19, we encourage you to check the status of any Indianapolis establishment prior to visiting.

Indy Like a Local

Who is Jerry Lee?

Acclaimed Nudie Suit designer and owner of Union Western Clothing, dressing the likes of Post Malone and Lil Nas


Q: What is it about Nudie Suits that piqued your interest?

I grew up watching Hee Haw at my grandma's house every Sunday with my family. My dad was a big country music fan and had thousands of albums, many featuring country stars like Porter Wagoner and Webb Pierce in their Nudie suits. For a while my parents were really into square dancing and would drag my sister and me along to their square dance events.

I was never really a country music fan and in my teens and early twenties I discovered punk rock and skateboarding. After dropping out of art school, I worked in coffee shops and made art on the side, dabbling in printmaking and trying to find my voice as an artist. One day while perusing a craft store I picked up a book on hand embroidery and a basic embroidery kit. For some reason embroidery piqued my interest and I would take my projects to work at the coffee shop and embroider in between customers.

A customer who had seen me embroidering brought in a book for me to borrow that was about the history of western wear. Flipping through the book brought back a lot of memories from my youth, and I thought it would be fun to try to make my own western outfit.

Q: Let's say Indianapolis commissioned you to create a suit for the city. What sorts of imagery, colors, and themes might you use?

Without a doubt the Soldiers & Sailors Monument! But also Kurt Vonnegut would definitely be featured somehow, and I don't think it would be an Indianapolis suit without an Indy 500 car somewhere in the mix. Beyond the obvious there are probably a lot of symbols that are personal to my Indianapolis experience. The Monon Trail in the Fall, Holcomb Garden on the Butler campus, the Eiteljorg Museum...

Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Downtown Indy

Q: Congrats on your recent feature in Vogue! In the writeup, you said the infrastructure in Indy to support fashion is changing. In what ways is that infrastructure improving? 

There is a burgeoning community of fashion designers and events. There's something about Hoosiers; whether it's stubbornness or a diligent work ethic that inspires us to build things from the ground up, rather than taking the easy way out and moving someplace where a community already exists. I guess it's pride in taking a step back and admiring what you helped create. There are people like Polina Osherov who is the founder and editor of Pattern, a nationally distributed fashion magazine, and designers like Katy Newton, a local designer who frequently holds large DIY fashions shows that are centered around inclusivity. They are working hard to create a movement here in Indianapolis.

Q: What questions do you ask clients to get a sense of what they want in a piece?

People often call western suits "story suits." If you look at many of the old country albums, the suits that the performer wears on the covers tells a story about a song or an event in their life. My suits are no different. I ask my clients about their story.  What inspires them, what do they love? Maybe they have a favorite pet or a flower that holds some significance in their life. For example, I recently made a suit for an ALS doctor in North Carolina that had motor neurons running down the legs, sparrows to honor a deceased patient that had sparrow tattoos, and other imagery that was significant to his work with ALS patients.

Q: Where might you take out-of-town visitors so that they can experience the city?

The Central Canal Towpath, Eiteljorg Museum, The Red Key, and Mass Ave.

Mass Ave

Q: By now you're probably used to seeing celebrities wear your creations. But what was it like that first time you saw one of your pieces on such a big stage? 

I can honestly say that I haven't quite grown used to it! It blows my mind every time. The first time was October 2018 when Post Malone won an AMA for Best Pop/Rock Male Artist and accepted the award in a suit that I made. I was literally screaming and crying at the same time. It was pretty surreal.  

Q: Where in Indy do you like to enjoy a great meal or drink? Any new takeout discoveries due to COVID?

Livery is one of my favorites. I like to try as many of our local independent restaurants as I can, and I'm a sucker for a fancy cocktail. I'm vegan so it's great that so many restaurants are accommodating. During Covid I discovered the vegan Buffalo "chicken" pizza from Toppers Pizza. It's amazing!

Four Plates with Food at a Table at Livery in Indy

Q: Who else in Indy's creative class do you admire?

We have so many incredibly talented artists here in Indianapolis. Beatriz Vasquez is an amazing papercut. In Mexico it is an indigenous craft known as "papelpicado" and much of her work explores her Mexican heritage, feminism, and social justice. Another artist I admire who is also a paper cut artist is Erin Huber. Her work explores themes of single parenting, loss, and rebirth. She has this incredible sense of balance and symmetry that appeals to my sensibilities and has even collaborated with me to create suit linings based on her work. There are so many more artists I could name.

Q: What would you do on your ideal day in Indy?

Ride my bicycle down the Monon Trail to downtown on a sunny Summer day, get drinks on Mass Ave and sit on a patio people watching, walk around Midland Antique Market, or go to a First Friday event (if it's a first Friday of the month).

Bikers biking along the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple

Get an insider view and experience Indy Like a Local

Keisha Gray

Keisha Gray

Executive Director of Indianapolis City Market

Kelli Jones

Kelli Jones

Co-Founder of Be Nimble Foundation

Aissatou Balde

Aissatou Balde

Blogger, Tales & Turbans

Ashley Ford

Ashley Ford

Writer and Journalist

Ira Mallory

Ira Mallory

Local Filmmaker

Mike Gillis

Mike Gillis

Influencer and Entrepreneur

Jerry Lee Atwood

Jerry Lee Atwood

Designer and Owner of Union Western Clothing

Judy Thomas

Judy Thomas

Deputy Mayor, City of Indianapolis

Chef Oya Woodruff

Chef Oya Woodruff

Owner of THE TRAP

Mina Hawk

Mina Starsiak Hawk

HGVT's "Good Bones" and Two Chicks District Co.

Tevin Studdard

Tevin Studdard

Recording Artist

Stephanie Big Eagle

Stephanie Big Eagle

Handpoke Tattoo Artist

Ben Diallo

Ben Diallo

J.Benzal Menswear

Maisum Ali Fari

Maisum Ali Farid

Chapati and Shani's Secret Chicken

Komal Sheth

Komal Sheth

Circle Kombucha

Beth Clary Schwier

Beth Clary Schwier

Local artist and gallery owner

Darryl Lockett

Darryl Lockett

Kennedy King Memorial Initiative

Shaunt'e Lewis

Shaunt'e Lewis

Artist and Designer

Lesley Gordon

Lesley Gordon

IndyGo

Carrie Abbott

Carrie Abbott

Newfangled Confections

Sara Hindi

Sara Hindi

Exodus Refugee

Debra Stolen Hasbrook

Debra Stolen Hasbrook

Hotel Broad Ripple

Steven Russell

Steven Russell

Lari Pati

Victoria Beaty

Victoria Beaty

Growing Places Indy

Ed and Tom Battista

Ed and Tom Battista

Kan-Kan Cinema

Kylie Conway

Kylie Conway

WISH-TV Anchor

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Pediatrician and Entrepreneur

Tommy Dant

Tommy Dant

Owner of James Dant

Fabian Rodriguez

Fabian Rodriguez

Drink Culture Podcast

Tiffany Benedict Browne

Tiffany Benedict Browne

Local Historian and Author

Justin Sears-Watson

Justin Sears-Watson

Phoenix Theatre Dance Company

Jared Thompson

Jared Thompson 

Saxophonist and Restaurant Manager

George Turkette

Salumist and Owner of Turchetti's Salumeria

Brandon Burdine

Brandon Burdine

Barber Shop Owner and Barista 

Deborah Dorman

Deborah Dorman 

Realtor and Fashion Expert

Martin Rennie

Martin Rennie

Indy Eleven Head Coach

Chris Handberg (Left)

Chris Handberg

Indy Pride Executive Director

Josh Baker

Josh Baker

Music Club Owner and Promoter

Oreo Jones

Oreo Jones

Hip-Hop Artist

staff_

Walter Lobyn Hamilton

Vinyl Record Collage Artist

staff_

Yoshiko Kamikusa

Ballet Dancer

Ed Rudisell and Carlos Sanchez

Ed Rudisell and Carlos Salazar

Food and Drink Purveyors

staff_

Meredith Kong and Kelly Ryan

Ice Cream Innovators

staff_

Jingo M. de la Rosa

Illustrator and Educator

staff_

Josh Rush

Painter and Biking Enthusiast

staff_

Consuelo Poland

Manager, RUCKUS Makerspace, and Executive Director, Latinas Welding Guild

staff_

Sonja and Alex Overhiser

Food Bloggers and Authors

staff_

Mab Graves

Artist and Illustrator

staff_

David Ranalli

Magician and Illusionist

staff_

Michael Pettry

Development Director for Center of Performing Arts

staff_

Andrea Hunley

Public School Principal

staff_

Ben "Action" Jackson

DJ and Founder, Rad Summer

staff_

Trip (Butler Blue III)

Mascot, Butler Bulldogs

staff_

Marisol Gouveia

Zoo Membership Director

staff_

Martha Hoover

Restaurateur

staff_

Pedro Fernandez

Symphony Percussionist

staff_

Brian Kelly and Alex Janeczek

T-Shirt Shop Owners

staff_

Chris Eley

Owner, The Smoking Goose and Goose the Market

staff_

Clay Robinson

Co-Founder, Sun King Brewing

staff_

Cole Farrell and Aric Furfaro

Writer and Exhibit Designer

staff_

Ed Carpenter

IndyCar Driver and Team Owner

staff_

Ersal Ozdemir

Owner, Indy Eleven soccer club

staff_

Gary Brackett

Former Colt Linebacker and Owner, Brackett Restaurant Group

staff_

Beth Chappo

Blogger, Seersucker + Saddles

staff_

Jamie and Martine Locke

Fine Artist and Musician

staff_

Julia Moffitt

News Anchor, WTHR

staff_

Julia Whitehead

Executive Director, Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

staff_

Mali Jeffers

Co-Founder of GangGang Culture

staff_

Peter Dunn

Personal-Finance Guru/Comedian

staff_

Polina Osherov

Executive Director, Pattern

staff_

Sam Cronk

Hair Stylist

staff_

Tamika Catchings

Former WNBA Star, Indiana Fever

staff_

James Hinchcliffe

IndyCar Racer, Contestant on Dancing with the Stars

staff_

Januarie York

Spoken-Word Artist

staff_

Neelay Bhatt

TedX Speaker

staff_

Shane Brown

Chalk Artist and T-Shirt Shop Owner

staff_

Charlie Kimball

IndyCar Racer

staff_

Ben Hardy

Owner, The Gallery Pastry Shop

Aster Bekele

Aster Bekele

Founder of Felege Hiywot Center

staff_

Kimberly Schrack

Owner, Manayunk Calligraphy

Maria Romaine Brace

Maria Romaine Brace

Owner, Like the Lettuce: Fitness + Health Coach