Winter is upon us, and JON ‘MOJO’ MILLS, living his inner dude, has just bought the iconic Westerley for his winter wardrobe. KAREN BERRY, Pendleton’s Euro marketing manager tells the proud knit owner about the history and enduring appeal of his quality woolly
The Westerley sweater was originally released in the ’70s in Pendleton’s Westernwear line, where it did very well. It was marketed to the traditional outdoor customer, as seen in the attached period ad, which features a hunting jacket and a yoked Western shirt and cowboy hat, as well as the Westerley. Its design drew inspiration from the beautiful Cowichan sweaters that are hand-knit by Pacific Northwest tribes. The Pendleton 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 Westerley was popular enough that it was offered in many different colourways over the years. The enclosed collage shows only some of the many versions. In fact, Pendleton has offered a new colouration every few years and they do very well.
As far as The Big Lebowski goes, the wardrobe designer had the sweater, but most of Jeff Bridges’ wardrobe for the film was chosen from his own clothing. This large, warm, easy-to-wear vintage sweater must have spoken to him on some level.
By the time the movie premiered, the Westerley was out of the Pendleton line. The movie was a sleeper that became more and more popular over time, with fan conventions and costume contests and so on. Fans who wanted the same cardigan as The Dude bought and sold the sweaters secondhand on eBay.
Credit for getting the sweater in the line goes to the Lebowski fans. A customer service associate kept reading emails and taking calls from fans who wanted Pendleton to recreate the sweater. She repeatedly brought the idea to the Menswear division, but no one there had seen the movie so the idea didn’t fly, but she didn’t give up.
A merchandiser eventually took notice and designed the first “homage” version, which was different in a few key ways, but still a fantastic success. Another designer created the second version, which was almost perfect; it didn’t have the stitch pattern exactly right on the front placket.
The third version faithfully captured the original design, with the same yarn weight, stitch pattern and gauge, and ring zipper pull. That is the version Pendleton currently offers. The new “Original Westerley” is knit in 3gg, and it is almost as impressive as the 2gg for thickness and warmth. The Westerley is one cozy sweater. The older version of the sweater has a tan label (“High Grade Westernwear”), instead of the blue and gold label the modern version has.
Stay warm this winter and buy one now directly from Pendleton.