What did or would Walter Sobchak's dog tags say?
October 21, 2013 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on a costume of being Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski. I want to get dog tags made up. What's on them?

The format Wikipedia offers for US Army dogtags is this:
Last name
First name, middle initial
Social Security number
Blood type
Okay so I have:

I'm using "F" as the middle initial. To honor John Milius' middle name Frederick (Walter is based on Milius). But is there any evidence for Walter having a different middle name, or no middle name? Also, is there actually a comma in the printed dog tag?

SSN I just have 5's, but any suggestions for clever numbers to use would be welcome. But would there be dashes in the number?

Blood type - Walter says he's "pumping blood" but what are my options there? And how would it be written out? Would it be "ONEGATIVE" or "O NEGATIVE" OR "O-"?

Religion: now, this one I think is "Hebrew" which he converted to when he was married to Cynthia. But was he married pre-Vietnam or post-Vietnam? And what was his religion prior to that? Sobchak sounds Polish and so maybe Catholic was what he was. But I can see Walter being a "NO PREFERENCE" type guy or maybe even something like QUAKER.

And more, we're sure Walter was in the Army, right? Not some other service? Watching buddies die in the muck sounds like Army to me, but might Walter be being grandiose and overstating his service record?

Any other suggestions welcome for Walter cosplay. Thanks!
posted by artlung to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Apparently Catholic is the religion you want for the tags, and you also want his wedding ring on the same chain. This guy has done a lot of your work for you. The Folgers can is a nice touch.
posted by The Bellman at 11:35 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here are some specific dogtags for Vietnam era.

I would go with what you have, but no comma after Walter, period after F, and abbreviate the blood type like so:


As for religion, was Walter a convert and might not've been Jewish during the war? I have that sense, but of the many Coen Bros movies, that one is not one I'm strong on remembering well. Also, I think we can take it for granted that he was Army Infantry.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:36 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Walter Sobchak: I'm saying, I see what you're getting at, Dude, he kept the money. My point is, here we are, it's shabbas, the sabbath, which I'm allowed to break only if it's a matter of life or death...
The Dude: Will you come off it, Walter? You're not even fucking Jewish, man.
Walter Sobchak: What the fuck are you talkin' about?
The Dude: Man, you're fucking Polish Catholic...
Walter Sobchak: What the fuck are you talking about? I converted when I married Cynthia! Come on, Dude!

posted by JPD at 11:38 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Folgers can may be tough to find unless you have, like, an old-school Sunday School room that hasn't been cleaned recently. We were going for a Walter costume a few years back and found that Folgers had gone almost exclusively to those plastic ones. This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps!
posted by Madamina at 11:43 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, his conversion happened post-war is how I've taken it. It's recent enough that it's a bone of contention for The Dude and Walter.

And I'd think Walter is a Marine. John Milius attempted to join the USMC, not the Army during Vietnam. Barring any evidence from the script itself, I'd say the Milius choice should be respected.
posted by inturnaround at 11:45 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Found this thread with Marine formats. Gas mask size included though, in Vietnam?

If Marines:
555 55 5555 O-
Based on me thinking he was there after 1965, before which it would have been Service Number.

If Army looking like:
I'm inclined to believe Marines too, though Army doesn't sound wrong as such. He's pretty gung ho, after all.
posted by artlung at 11:58 AM on October 21, 2013

Assuming Walter was born in California, his SSN will start with a number between 602 and 626; they used geographic location based on the Social Security office in which one applies for an SSN, which is most likely near where he was born.

SSN rules prevent any field (the groups separated by hyphens) being all zeros, and has never issued an SSN with the first field above 740.

Any idea whether Walter was drafted? If we take Walter's age to be that of John Goodman in 1998 (film was released), I get age 47, and a 47-year-old in 1990 (setting of the film) was born in 1943, and meaning he was a good draft candidate according to the pre-lottery "oldest first" system (pre 1970) which drafted men aged 25 and down. A man born in '43 turned 25 in '68, which was the last year he could be drafted. However, Walter could've enlisted in the Marines (if that's where he served). The Marines only drafted a small number (1000ish) whereas the Army did the rest of the drafting. The Navy at large and the Air Force did not draft.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:02 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

This may be beyond the scope of your ability/desire to replicate but be aware that the shape of the tag has changed over the years, most relevant to your situation would be the notch.

It looks like, judging from this link, that you might be best served with a notched dogtag. I'm sure someone with more expertise can advise you on this aspect of the tag.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:20 PM on October 21, 2013

The Marines used service number instead of SSN until like 1969, so its more likely that his dog tag had a service number, which was likely a six or seven digit number. Format of the service number can be found on Wikipedia

(edit to add wiki link)
posted by Lame_username at 12:22 PM on October 21, 2013

And once you get it you'll need to ding it up a bit, I've never seen a dogtag from my older relatives that served that wasn't at least partially beat to shit. Maybe throw it in the washing machine or drag it behind your car down a dirt road or something in that vein.

Ditto for the necklace, if you're supposing it's the OG issue then it will have developed a bit of a tarnish by that time in Walter's life. Bright and shiny would be sub-optimal.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:29 PM on October 21, 2013

Was it established that Walter was actually in Vietnam? He always struck me as the Soldier of Fortune reader type.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:14 PM on October 21, 2013

Californians of Walter's age would probably have an SSN starting with 545-573.

My mom was born in San Diego in 1949 and her SSN starts with 567.

If you get a metal coffee can and are slightly decent with Photoshop you can print yourself a new Folgers label.

And I always felt that Walter was drafted into the Army.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:53 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's no way that Walter was drafted. As gung ho as he gets about things in his life? He, like my father, signed up. And I still think he is a Marine.
posted by inturnaround at 11:50 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What I went with finally was:
292 161 O-
And here's how the costume turned out.

292 is the number of times "Fuck" or variations of "Fuck" is said in the movie. 161 is the number of times "Dude" is said. Thanks AskMe!
posted by artlung at 5:25 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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