The Original Westerley: Dude, it’s finally back.

It’s Baaaack

You may know it as The Dude’s cardigan or the Big Lebowski sweater, but we debuted the Westerley cardigan in 1974 as part of our High Grade Westernwear line.

Colorado  Manager & sign for Westerley sweaters

Original History

The Westerley drew inspiration from beautiful Cowichan sweaters that are hand-knit by Pacific Northwest tribes. Our version was machine-knitted by Winona Knitting Mills of Minnesota, a two-facility company owned by the Woodworth family. Winona Mills was one of the very few USA knitting mills who offered a 2gg knit, a term meaning only two knit stitches per inch. A 2gg sweater is heavy enough to work as outerwear. As the long-time leader of our menswear division expressed it, “You could wear it in a monsoon, and you’d stay warm.”

The vintage Westerley was knit in 3gg, and it was almost as impressive as the 2gg for thickness and warmth. The Westerley was one cozy sweater. We offered it in the western, outdoor and casual lines for over ten years. Over its run of production, the zip front, ring zipper pull and shawl collar stayed the same, as did the Greek key-inspired pattern. Archival visits show that the Westerley’s color variations are surprisingly wide.

Six different coloration of the Pendleton Westerley sweater.

The sweater went out of production in the 1980s, but found the limelight in the early 2000s, thanks to an obscure movie that didn’t stay obscure.

The Big Lebowski

This Coen brothers film was released to low to middling success in 1998, but quietly grew into a cult favorite. No one can pinpoint the exact reason why. Was it Donny’s clueless questions? Walter’s chin-strap beard? The German nihilists? The dream sequence scored by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition?

Movie poster of The Big Lebowski

Well, it was probably a grand confluence of all of these important factors, plus the masterful turn taken by Jeff Bridges as The Dude. He staggers in and out of trouble, wearing alternately sweats, shorts, pajama pants, a bathrobe, a purple t-shirt and a battered Westerley cardigan.

Jeff Bridges as The Dude

Jeff Bridges wore his own clothes for this role, and though there were two sweaters hand-knitted as back-ups, he preferred wearing his personal Pendleton Westerley.

“The Big Lebowski” continues to grow as a cultural phenomenon. It’s not a movie anymore, it’s a lifestyle. Its fans, the Achievers, have conventions and their own documentary. And as the movie’s audience has grown, so has the demand for a re-creation of The Dude’s sweater.

The First Revivals

Pendleton’s first run at reproducing the “Big Lebowski sweater” came in the Fall of 2011. The Dude Cardigan was not an exact replica. It had the weight and coloration of the original Westerley, with a slightly different knit pattern and a leather zipper pull. This homage sweater generated an enormous amount of publicity, especially because the sweater worn by Jeff Bridges in the movie was going to auction that same year. The provenance of the auction sweater came into question and it was withdrawn from auction. Pendleton’s version sold out almost immediately.

New Dude

In Fall 2013, we brought back the sweater in the original 3gg knit under the Westerley name. We went to the archives, and settled on two versions: a cream with red and black pattern, and a desert brown version with navy and gold pattern.

1974 Westerley ad, and the version of the sweater it inspired.

We offered the Westerley in another archival coloration in charcoal and blue early in the fall of 2014.  These were all great Westerleys. They were archivally accurate, beautifully made and selling well to fans of traditional menswear. We stand behind these Westerleys!

But this was not the sweater the Achievers wanted, and the Achievers would not be denied.

The Original Westerley

Well, it’s here. We have researched the archives and studied the movie to capture the coloration as best we can for our newest version, known as The Original Westerley.

The contemporary version of Pendleton's Westerley sweater

This is 100% lambswool in 3gg knit, and it’s ready to take you through your next monsoon, or maybe to your next Lebowskifest. We’ve even restored the ring zipper pull, to which we’ve attached a small bowling pin keychain. We think it really pulls the sweater together.

The Dude abides. And so does his sweater. Come see us in our stores (see Ben, the manager of our Colorado store, above), or order online before they’re gone.


14 thoughts on “The Original Westerley: Dude, it’s finally back.

  1. Pingback: The Dude Cardigan Abides. | Pendleton Woolen Mills

      • Hi. I have one of the early ones with the ring zipper pull, which has what I would call a true shawl collar like the one Jeff wore in the movie. I also have one which I think is a fall 2013 model. It has a collar like what they call a “Peter Pan collar” in the pictures at . The collar is also of thinner material. I got it by mail-order and opted to keep it, though I was disappointed in the shape and thin material of the collar.
        The newest version that comes out on 2/9/15 looks in the pictures more like the “Peter Pan” style. If it is really a true shawl style, and the same thickness as the rest of the sweater, I think I will order one when they become available.
        Knowing now exactly what I am talking about, can you reassure me?

      • Hi Richard. A Peter Pan collar is set in at a crew neckline. A shawl collar is a completely different construction, wherein fabric is folded upon itself as part of the collar and attached around a variety of necklines. Shawl collars are made in many different lengths or drops, with the longest being seen on a shawl collar tuxedo jacket or overcoat. The collar on this sweater was made to the specs on the vintage Westerleys. You can refer to the collage of vintage sweaters for examples. In the movie, the Dude’s sweater is oversized, stretched out, and it’s never zipped up. This probably accounts for why it hangs a little lower. We hope this information is helpful!

      • Thank you for the informative reply. Is the fabric of the collar on the new one as thick and heavy as the rest of the sweater? Thanks

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