Lebowski Dude-torial

This year for Halloween I went as The Dude from that modern American classic, The Big Lebowski.

Superficially, it didn’t seem that hard. He’s just an aging hippie that bowls, right? But therein lies the problem; if you aren’t careful, it’s all too easy to slip into a generic aging hippie. It took extensive Google Image searches to zero in on some specific iconic pieces.

I found a site of mega fans creating their own costumes who exhaustively research actual brands and manufacturers of the original items (I found a similar place for Daryl Dixon fans), which isn’t the most helpful when you realize you need a ridiculously disposable income to achieve authenticity. I had no confidence anymore would even recognize me even if I spent hundreds (based on an informal poll I took where five out of six friends said, “Oh yeah, the Big Lebowski! I’ve heard of that movie” (but never saw it).) So there’s the challenge.

First the glasses. Not the most crucial, but let’s face it: my eyes don’t look like Jeff Bridges’ eyes. They’d help a lot.

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Naturally, these are a discontinued model of Ray Bans (this quickly became a recurring theme in my search). I was hoping to spend under $15. After spending a few hours browsing around 30 pairs on eBay, I suddenly became sick and tired of looking at sunglasses and bought the next pair I clicked on, for around $9.

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This photo was an immensely helpful reference for the rest of my outfit.

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Let’s start with the most boring, the V-neck T-shirt. I have eight of these, so I chose the most worn frayed one and dyed it purple (actually Rit Navy Blue, which every single Amazon reviewer complainted look more purple). Done.

Let’s skip to those pants. They’re just your run-of-the-mill parachute/weightlifting pants, right? According to the mega fans, these are from Mr. Bridges’ personal wardrobe. Turns out there are plenty of this style on eBay, all with deeply saturated, obnoxiously 80’s patterns looking nothing at all like these. So I made my one concession and bought an “official” pair from a Chinaman (not the preferred nomenclature), for $36. Wasn’t happy spending that much (especially when they arrived and China’s idea of “XL” was a lot closer to an American “M”), but it was really the best choice.

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Easily the most identifiable piece of The Dude’s look is that cardigan sweater. Unfortunately eBay sellers are fully aware of this, and anything remotely Dude-like (even those taking some real artistic license) put “Lebowski” in the title and double the price. Actual authentic replicas go for upwards of $500 (the most modestly priced receptacle I could find was still close to $100). And again, I had no confidence anyone would have the slightest idea who I was, so I certainly didn’t want to spend that much.

I searched sporadically for a few days. Every time I look for something on eBay, I learn more than I want to know about things I don’t really care about. For instance, just “cardigan” wasn’t enough. I also had to incorporate “cowichan,” which I believe is the color pattern, and better still “Pendleton,” which is the manufacturer of the original.

I stumbled onto this one for around $16. Bid on it, held my breath for three days, and surprisingly won it with only one amateur challenger who tried to outbid me by a dollar. I am crazy proud of this win, and the impact it makes on the whole look.

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Especially problematic was the shoes. The Dude only wears either a) jelly sandals, which are again surprisingly pricey for an out of fashion 80’s item (and I was concerned about my feet getting cold), b) martial arts shoes by Otomix, discontinued, which look like white Pony sneakers, again pricey, or c) silver bowling shoes in the drug/dream sequence. Bowling shoes! That seemed the easiest way to include bowling while protecting my toes from the elements.

I tried image searching for “Lebowski bowling shoes” with no luck (apart from online sellers who slapped the name on their used shoes hoping for a sap). Turns out, fun fact, The Dude is never actually seen bowling. I eventually had to pop the DVD in and skip to a bowling scene, where he pulls a pair out of his bag (but I believe never actually puts them on). They were just your typical, two-tone blue/red rentals. No problem, right?

Wrong. They’re all over Ebay, all with tons of interest, that is when I could find my actual size. And buying shoes online is tricky, especially “vintage.” I found a pair on Craigslist that didn’t look at all right but for only $15, and a pair on Etsy that were better but green/red and $35; as of this writing, I’m STILL waiting for responses to my emails.

Time was running out (this was just a week and a half before the party), and I found a pair brand new on a bowling supply site but also $30. That was my last resort. Then I found what seemed to be the perfect pair, my size, vintage, right color and everything, on eBay. I placed a bid, then got outbid, but kept watching, preparing to snipe. The problem was the auction was ending while I was starting my shift at the hospital, and I couldn’t very well excuse myself from my coworkers to go sit on the computer. So I entrusted the crucial deed to my friend. I went to work, and serendipitously found myself alone with five minutes left in the auction. I started texting my friend frantically, and for a few breathless seconds I was afraid I’d lose because of a miscommunication while we tried to decide which of us was going to perform the snipe. But she came through, pulled the trigger, and they were mine for around $16. I was THRILLED. They would really tie the costume together. They were a bit snug, but for $16 I’d gladly suffer. They even had the big number 10 on the back, authentic ex-rentals.

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The final product:

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Final touch:  the beard. I thought the shoes were the key, but even I didn’t see “Dude” until I applied the beard, a $5 makeup kit from the thrift store (which by the end of the night left me with a greasy smeared Homer Simpson 5 o’clock shadow mess). I sometimes envy guys having facial hair, except for the pain in the ass of shaving every day. (Speaking of hair, the biggest coup? My hair looks close enough to Jeff Bridges to pass. That doesn’t happen every Halloween. In fact, that NEVER EVER happens).

Accessories: while planning the costume, I considered adding a pager to clip onto my shirt (an exceptionally obscure reference to the movie); my friend pointed out if people didn’t get the rest of the clues, a pager wouldn’t make a difference. I had already spend $80 on this thing (so much for saving money with homemade costumes), and wasn’t eager to spend any more. It turns out, not necessary. Almost everyone at the party instantly knew who I was. It was extremely gratifying.

The most popular question asked to show off their recognition was why I wasn’t drinking a Caucasian. Well, a) I don’t actually drink, b) I did have to go back to work after the party, and c) I asked the host for a cocktail glass to drink from but he had none. (He doesn’t mess around with them and guzzles his alcohol instead from regular-sized cups).

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It was also suggested I could have carried around a) a bowling ball, b) an Oriental rug, or c) a cat carrier (which makes the least sense. Walter carries the carrier into the bowling alley, not The Dude). Honestly, it was all I could do to keep track of my drink. You want me to slog around with all this luggage,? Make your own kick-ass Dude costume.

I was such a hit that my friends asked me to preside over the renewal of their vows, when I revealed I’m an ordained Dudeist priest (anyone can be, here: http://www.dudeism.com/ordination).  I need to refine my beard technique before then.

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