I have two fantasies: to have a personal chauffer and a weekly massage. After visiting Nashville, I’ve added another wish to my “when I’m wealthy” list. I’m craving a pair of jeans created by Manuel. Jeans that fit me perfectly. Jeans embellished with crystals and intricate embroidery. Jeans that express my personality in a way no other item of clothing can.
That’s exactly what this famous tailor does for stars including Kenny Chesney, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris, and Kid Rock. Ever wonder how Johnny Cash became the Man in Black? Or why Elvis began wearing gold jumpsuits? Or who came up with Dwight Yoakum’s skinny leg look? The answers lie in Manuel’s expertise at creating image. His custom-made outfits are the result not only of superb craftsmanship at the sewing machine but also of getting to know his clients sufficiently to express their personalities in a visible way.
Born in Mexico in 1938, the fifth of 11 children, Manuel learned to sew at age seven and has been making his own clothes ever since. Working with his older brother, a tailor, he mastered several skills of the clothier’s art before leaving Mexico after college.
After coming to Los Angeles in the 1950’s he learned embroidery and design skills that make his repertoire so unique—art worthy of display in museums like Country Music Hall of Fame, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Smithsonian, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.
By the late 1980s Manuel moved his business to Nashville to be closer to clients wanting his cowboy couture garments. Visitors are welcome at his shop in downtown Nashville. If you stop by, you might even catch him at the sewing machine.
While there, I got a glimpse of my dream: I tried on a wool gabardine jacket waiting for pick-up from a client (60 percent of his business is commissioned by private individuals). Despite ornate decorations, the jacket was amazingly soft and pliable. Perfect stitching, a beautiful flower-patterned lining, and exquisite fit made it the most wearable article of clothing I had ever slipped on. Of course, the jacket went back on the hanger (specialty items can cost $5,000 to $20,000), but I consoled myself by buying a black tee shirt with Manuel’s name decked out in shiny rhinestones across the front.
Manuel also has a Limited Collection of fine western wear for men and women; a new ladies’ shirt is available for only $250. Even if that’s out of your budget, take the opportunity to admire Manuel’s fabulous artistic creations—right on the racks–when you visit Nashville.
Manuel is located at 1922 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee. 615-321-5444
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier