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Essential Journal

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One Thing Done Well: Pendleton Woolen Mills

Our series of brands doing one item especially well continues this month with the Pendleton Westerley Sweater

In the summer of 1998, Hollywood heavy-hitters, Joel and Ethan Coen, followed up on the success of their darkly comedic Fargo with cult classic in the making, The Big Lebowski. Whatever The Big Lebowski set out to be or do, it struck an awkward chord with audiences. What was it? A comedy? A farce? A manifesto for dudeist philosophy? Nobody really knew. It confused as much as it entertained; it beguiled as much as it divided. But over the course of two decades, The Big Lebowski not only endured, it positively thrived.

In many ways, the film itself is a fitting metaphor of the humble cardigan. Despite its warmth, virtuosity and charm, the cardigan has always been the marmite of the woolenwear sector. It’s an understandable dilemma: One wrong move and the wearer slips from the lofty-but-laid-back sophistication of Mad Men’s Don Draper to the oversized, clumsy frumpiness of Friends’ Chandler Bing. But love it or hate it, you can’t deny the cardigan’s enduring presence. 

And no cardigan has endured quite like Pendleton’s Westerley Sweater. First released by Pendleton Woolen Mills in 1974 and inspired by the hand-knit Cowichan sweaters of Pacific Northwest tribes, the Westerley is a sweater of singular providence and pedigree. As a matter of fact, Jeff Bridges himself insisted on wearing his own Westerley throughout the shooting of the Coen Brothers’ misunderstood masterpiece. 

The dude abides, then. And it’s easy to see why: The Pendleton Westerley is, above all, a casual cardigan taken very, very seriously indeed. It’s latest, 2018 iteration is a love letter to classic cardigan craftsmanship. Boasting a hefty 3gg, 100% lambswool construction, the Westerley is heavy enough to stand alone as a solid outer layer. In Pendleton’s own words: ‘You could wear it in a monsoon, and you’d still stay warm.’ The smaller touches, such as the oversized ring-zipper pull and tan pattern have been meticulously recreated from Pendleton’s archives. 

It’s these smaller details that serve to remind us that the Westerley Sweater has a heritage that far predates its cinematic debut. With six generations of family ownership, Pendleton has spent the last 155 years weaving superior fabrics in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. Since 1863, Pendleton Woolen Mills have made quite the name for themselves by producing superlative woolenwear that inspires and innovates in equal measure. As a result, the Pendleton Westerley not only serves as a benchmark in timeless Americana charm, but also stands as a loud-and-clear defence of the classic cool of the cardigan. But, you know, that’s just like, our opinion, man. EJ

Words by Will HALBERT
Image Credits by Brandon Burk Photography