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!
Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
Having already established their appreciation for film noir and detective pulp with earlier movies like Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing, the Coen brothers spun their fandom in a new direction with The Big Lebowski, a cult classic that riffs on the likes of Raymond Chandler, particularly his complex novel The Big Sleep. Rather than a quick-witted and snarky detective chain-smoking decks of unfiltered Camels in between shots of whiskey, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is a simple, good-natured slacker who chooses to bowl his way through life at a glacial pace fueled by weed and White Russians.
“We wanted something that would generate a certain narrative feeling – like a modern Raymond Chandler story, and that’s why it had to be set in Los Angeles,” Ethan Coen is quoted as explaining in Josh Levine’s 2000 biography The Coen Brothers: The Story of Two American Filmmakers. “We wanted to have a narrative flow, a story that moves like a Chandler book through different parts of town and different social classes.”
A tragically pissed-on rug leads to a case of mistaken identity that thrusts “The Dude” into an intriguing missing persons case, not unlike Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade before him, though our protagonist is seemingly the only one unaware that the genre of his life has gone from stoner comedy to detective thriller, concerned only with replacing the sullied rug, lighting another J, and listening to Bob.
The Dude hardly ranks among the most stylish heroes featured on BAMF Style’s pages, but his laidback, lived-in wardrobe has become rather iconic in its own right.
What’d He Wear?
Jeffrey Lebowski: Are you employed, sir?
The Dude: Employed?
Jeffrey Lebowski: You don’t go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?
The Dude: Is this a… what day is this?
Jeffrey Lebowski: Well, I do work sir, so if you don’t mind…
The Dude: I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.
For his first encounter with the “Big” Lebowski himself, millionaire philanthropist Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston), The Dude is astutely called out for his considerably informal manner of dressing “on a weekday?!” in an oversized zip-up hoodie, baggy T-shirt, faded shorts, and jelly sandals. It’s impossible to consider which piece of The Dude’s wardrobe would have most offended Lebowski’s sophisticated sartorial sensibilities, but it’s a sure bet that the aging millionaire wouldn’t have a hoodie in his closet.
The Dude’s favorite hoodie, worn in several memorable sequences from the movie, is a faded olive green sweatshirt with a brass zipper and patch pockets with a slanted side entry. The hood has drawstrings to tighten the fit, should The Dude make the uncharacteristic decision to wear anything even remotely restrictive.
The faded pale green color of The Dude’s sweatshirt is difficult to find on modern clothing, though there are a few hoodies from Alternative and Amazon Essentials—both with contrasting white drawstrings and zipper tape, though—that could do the job in a pinch, though the fit and styling seen on screen suggests an inexpensive activewear brand like Gildan or Hanes.
The Dude’s first outfit with this hoodie, worn for bowling and then his initial meeting with Lebowski, consists of a ragged white cotton V-neck short-sleeved undershirt with a small hole on the right side of the chest that suggests a burn from a cigarette.
His cotton flat front shorts are patterned in a variegated vertical stripe in pale blue, orange, and white. The shorts have side pockets, a zip fly with a white button at the top, and belt loops that go unused.
Days later, The Dude is back at the bowling alley, having been equipped with a beeper so he can be at The Big Lebowski’s beck and call while serving as his emissary in the case of his wife’s supposed kidnapping. He clips the beeper to the drooping V-neck of his T-shirt, similar in shape and style as his previously seen undershirt but dyed in a drab olive gray that’s just a shade darker than his hoodie.
The Dude is wearing a different pair of shorts, the faded brown-on-cream shadow plaid flat front shorts that appear to be a favorite of his as he also wears them with his yellow crew-neck sweatshirt and his famous Medina Sod bowling shirt. Similar shorts can be easily found online from brands like Amazon Essentials, Columbia, and IZOD.
Jeff Bridges provided the transparent PVC “jelly” T-bar sandals that became a signature piece of The Dude’s wardrobe, his everyday footwear when he isn’t wearing his white Otomix trainers. If you’re interested in a pair of jellies yourself, you can check out the dwindling stocks of Sarraizienne T-bar sandals from LaMeduse.com. (As the site explains, “Meduse in French means jellyfish because of the similarity between jellyfish tentacles and Medusa’s hair.”)
Fittingly, the most expensive part of The Dude’s wardrobe is his shades, a pair of Vuarnet VL1307 sunglasses with matte tortoise plastic square frames and brown polarized lenses.
You can still find some VL1307 frames from retailers like Amazon, though this particular pair has blue lenses rather than the screen-worn green. Eyewear brand Electric California paid tribute to our favorite slacker with their “retro-inspired” Dude frames (selling for $120 via Electric as of March 2020), though an inexpensive alternative has emerged with the JIM HALO polarized aviator (via Amazon).
While most of this outfit could likely be scrounged together for less than $40, The Dude would be honored—and no doubt puzzled—to learn that his hoodie, T-shirt, plaid shorts, and even underwear were auctioned in 2011 for $10,000! The Julien’s Live auction listing describes “a brown dyed V-neck T-shirt, brown plaid cotton shorts, an olive drab hooded sweatshirt with zipper front, and a pair of white Munsingwear briefs.”
(The T-shirt that the listing described as “brown” looked more olive gray-tinted to me, but you be the judge!
How to Get the Look
While The Dude’s go-to garb of a hoodie, T-shirt, shorts, and jellies may strike some as too informal for anything but sitting around the house (and perhaps not even that!), our hero’s cheap duds have become an unofficial uniform of Dudeism, a religious philosophy that blends elements of Taoism with The Dude’s laidback approach to life.
- Pale olive green cotton (or cotton-blend) zip-up hooded sweatshirt with drawstring hood and side-entry patch pockets
- Olive gray cotton V-neck short-sleeve T-shirt
- Brown-on-cream shadow grid-check plaid cotton knee-length shorts with side pockets
- White cotton briefs
- Transparent PVC “jelly” T-bar sandals
- Vuarnet VL1307 sunglasses with matte tortoise plastic square frames, “saddle nose” bridge with molded plastic pads, and brown polarized 58mm lenses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, one of my all-time favorites.
Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.