The Way Of The Dude: Style Abides In The Big Lebowski
How the Coen brothers’ hero takes it easy for all us sinners
Perhaps no movie has been more quoted, analyzed, or adored as Joel and Ethan Coen's The Big Lebowski. Over the years, The Dude (Jeff Bridges), the film’s White Russian-drinking slacker, has been transformed from the hero of the Coen brothers’ shaggy-dog story of kidnapping and bowling into a true American folk hero. Books like The Tao of The Dude and The Big Lebowski and Philosophy: Keeping Your Mind Limber with Abiding Wisdom have plumbed El Duderino’s deep wisdom. In 2005, Oliver Benjamin even founded a religion called Dudeism, or The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, based on his teachings.
While we can’t tell you how to find your inner Dude—because as The Dude says, “Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion man”—we can identify the elements of style that make up the way of the Dude. To grasp one's dudeness one must look beyond a single object—be it a jelly sandal or a pair of righteous shades—and look at the bigger picture. To help every woman and man find their own inner dude in preparation for the Focus watch event for The Big Lebowski, we highlight how his manner of living, from clothes to cocktails, can point you towards the way of The Dude.
The duds make The Dude
“How does a man who dresses like The Dude manage to look so good?” asks The Financial Times. For them, The Dude is a fashion paradox. While the filmmakers dressed him in “the ugliest parody of California style they could manage…The Dude looks resplendent, glorious and perfect.” Picking out his wardrobe mainly from thrift stores near his home in Venice, California, the film’s costume designer Mary Zophres explains that “it's obvious The Dude gives little thought to what he wears, and the costumes show that. Things tend, well, not to match.” It would be easy to recreate his closet: a tattered bathroom, oversized board shorts, hippie-patterned weightlifting pants, stretched-out t-shirts, a faded yellow bowling shirt, worn out sandals, a few hoodies, and a big comfy Pendleton Cowichan sweater. What makes The Dude a fashion icon, however, is not any individual garment but the way they come together to create a look that is immediately recognizable and much beloved. His old sweater became so popular that Pendleton resurrected the style for a line they call “The Dude’s Collection.” (As an exclusive for Focus Insiders, we’ve partnered with Pendleton to give away The Dude’s sweater to our fans.) The Dude’s style of being “terminally relaxed” realizes the command of St. Francis of Assisi to “Wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.”
The Dude’s décor
In a film that pays homage to icons of Los Angeles style—from the big Lebowski’s Beverly Hills estate (the Greystone Mansion) to Jackie Treehorn’s Malibu digs (the John Lautner-designed Sheats-Goldstein house)—the Dude’s Venice bungalow seems downright modest. In décor, the Dude is more interested in the way things hang together than the things themselves. While none of the pieces, from his mismatched shell chairs to his tiki-style bamboo bar, are particularly valuable, they all work together especially with the rug, which as he reminds us throughout the film “really tied the room together.” The Dude's own feng shui around the rug is demonstrated by the fact, according to ELLE Decor, that "whatever money he chose not to spend on the home, went straight into that centerpiece."
The Dude’s hair and beard
From Anton Chigurh’s (Javier Bardem) psycho bangs in No Country For Old Men to Walter Sobchak’s (John Goodman) “Post-'Nam buzzcut" in The Big Lebowski, the Coen brothers use unique hairstyles to craft unforgettable characters. Anyone trying to mimic The Dude’s style knows that getting the hair and goatee just right is essential. Every cosplay site on the web makes “Dude wig and beard kit” an essential component you'll need to buy to create the overall look. While some Dude scholars, like Andrew Rabin, point out “the obvious similarity of hairstyle” between our hero and various Jesus figures, the most important function of his long, hippie-styled do is purely functional. With a sweep of his hand, he can set his look for the day.
"Careful, Man! There's a Beverage Here."
He may live by the beach, but The Dude is hardly the poster child for California cuisine. “He gets most of his nutrition from Kahlúa, vodka and milk, so yeah, he doesn't mind looking the way he does," explains Jeff Bridges about his character. "He eats pretty much whenever and whatever he wants.” When the film came out, The Dude’s signature cocktail, a White Russian, was exactly the cocktail you would NOT order to impress someone. It’s toxic mix of sweet and strong made it, according to Esquire’s drink editor David Wondrich, primarily for “lightweights and lushes.” While White Russian are one of The Dude's primary food groups—even writing a $.69 check to get more half-and-half to replenish his supply—he’s no culinary snob. At one point, he happily uses non-dairy creamer for his favorite libation. What makes the White Russian so perfect for The Dude is its versatility. It contains enough coffee to perk him up in the morning and enough cream to put him to bed at night. The cocktail which “would, if it could, wear a ratty bathrobe,” suggests Imbibe Magazine, “would likely have faded into obscurity had it not been…ushered into the spotlight” by The Dude. His love of the drink in The Big Lebowski has not only created new White Russian fans but a score of film-related variations.