The Big Lebowski – The Dude’s Medina Sod Bowling Shirt

Jeff Bridges as "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski (1998)

Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski (1998)

Vitals

Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, laidback stoner and bowler

Los Angeles, Fall 1991

Film: The Big Lebowski
Release Date: March 6, 1998
Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

If you know what day it is, you probably have a good idea about why BAMF Style is returning to the less-than-formal style of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski today.

While his Pendleton cowichan knit cardigan from a previous post is arguably his signature wardrobe staple, today’s post takes a look at a truly one-of-a-kind item from The Dude’s laidback closet.

What’d He Wear?

Interestingly, the one time that The Dude actually wears a legit bowling shirt in The Big Lebowski, it’s for making the final arrangements for his recently deceased pal Donny rather than for actually going bowling… though he does spend some time at the alley bar for one more White Russian.

The golden yellow short-sleeved shirt has a plain front with mother-of-pearl sew-through buttons and a brown shoulder yoke that extends onto the upper chest and back, though the slim collar is yellow. The shirt’s collar qualifies it as arguably the most formal piece of clothing that The Dude wears in the whole movie, and it’s not even technically his! The brown-stitched “Art” above the left breast pocket with its embroidered bowling pins and ball belies the true owner. So, who is Art?

According to an article by Kymberli Hagelberg that ran in the Akron Beacon Journal a few weeks after The Big Lebowski was released in March 1998, this was an actual 1960s bowling shirt belonging to Art Myers, a former truck driver and manager at Medina Sod Farms in Medina, Ohio, a city just over 20 miles west of Akron. Evidently, Art was quite an asset for his team, as the shirt has a “League Champion” patch on the left sleeve.

Costume designer Mary Zophres found the shirt in 1996 after it had made its way to a Los Angeles thrift shop and picked it up on the spot for The Dude. Of course, with “MEDINA SOD” emblazoned in brown on the back of the shirt, the production company Bitter Creek Productions needed to get express permission from the company to feature their name on screen. After a few weeks of trying, owner/operator Scott Gregoire granted permission free of charge, but he couldn’t confirm which Art associated with the company the shirt had belonged to. Fast forward two years to brothers Tim and Steve Myers, who identified the shirt as their father’s after spotting Bridges wearing it in a promotional photo for The Big Lebowski.

Then 56, Art confirmed to the Beacon Journal that the shirt was his and—though he hadn’t seen a movie in theaters for decades—he was pleased to see that an artifact from his free-wheeling days of beer and bowling made its way into a major production and planned to see it on the big screen with his four sons.

And Medina Sod? This leading provider of quality turfgrass sod since 1960 updated its name to Medina Turf Farms. (I am unable to confirm if the company still has a bowling team… let alone a championship one.)

The Dude and Walter step off the Sunken City trail in San Pedro to scatter Donny's ashes in the wind.

The Dude and Walter step off the Sunken City trail in San Pedro to scatter Donny’s ashes in the wind.

Ever the man of leisure, The Dude wears a pair of wrinkled plaid shorts with a brown shadowed grid-check on a cream ground. The knee-length cotton shorts have straight side pockets, but any other details are concealed under the shirt’s untucked hem. While The Dude isn’t one to care much for outfit coordination or matching, the shorts harmonize relatively well with the colors of the shirt… at least by The Dude’s standards.

The Dude reaches into his limited footwear collection and again dons his trademark transparent PVC jelly sandals, nicknamed for their resemblance to jellyfish. These jellies are among The Dude’s costume pieces that came from Jeff Bridges’ own closet. If you’re interested in a pair of jellies yourself, you can check out the dwindling stocks from LaMeduse.com. (As the site explains, “Meduse in French means jellyfish because of the similarity between jellyfish tentacles and Medusa’s hair.”)

"Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling."

“Fuck it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.”

The Dude wears a pair of Vuarnet VL1307 sunglasses with matte black plastic square frames and green polarized lenses, though no amount of polarization can protect them from Donny’s scattered ashes covering them… as well as The Dude’s entire face.

The Dude gets one last moment with Donny.

The Dude gets one last moment with Donny.

Originally retailing for $350, these sunglasses were once available from third-party sellers on Amazon though they’re unavailable as of April 2019.

Jeff Bridges as "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski (1998)

Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski (1998)

How to Get the Look

Little did 26-year-old Art Myers know in 1968 that replicas of his simple shirt would be made and sold in bulk as Halloween costumes after his bowling attire would be immortalized on screen in one of the most popular cult comedies of all time. While you’d be better served to track down a one-of-a-kind vintage bowling shirt of your own, fans dedicated to cribbing the Lebowski look can find replicas of varying quality on Amazon.

  • Yellow polyester short-sleeve bowling shirt with brown front-and-back yoke, plain front, breast pocket (with bowling embroidery and “Art” monogram),
  • Brown-on-cream shadow grid-check plaid cotton knee-length shorts with side pockets
  • Transparent PVC “jelly” sandals
  • Vuarnet VL1307 sunglasses with matte black plastic square frames, “saddle nose” bridge with molded plastic pads, and green polarized 58mm lenses

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie, one of my all-time favorites.

The Quote

Well, you know… the Dude abides.

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