Corduroy is, arguably, still the underrated MVP of cold weather fabrics. Despite its ability to bridge the gap between casual and put together without being too stuffy or too rugged, it’s had a bad rap for a long time. It was seen as the material of choice for old college professors, Wes Anderson, and old college professors in Wes Anderson movies.
When in the form of shapeless sport coats with leather patches or poorly fitting trousers in blood red, it doesn’t strike as a very attractive option when compared to the smooth hardiness of cotton twill or the fuzzy nap of a wool flannel. This needn’t be a turn off however. When done right corduroy has its place.
Down to earth and humble - not stuffy
The ridged cotton fabric has a hardy, yet soft texture that is just warm enough to see you through those harsh winds. It’s a very down to earth, humble fabric that was originally made for country wear - stomping through mud, and shooting at animals - factory work, and later was adopted by Ivy students and Beatniks. If anything, it’s made to be roughed around a little. The way corduroy ages over time is part of its charm; the initial toughness will naturally soften and bag down a bit, making it even more comfortable, the colour will fade with wear and give it a lot more noticeable character.
It’s an inherently casual fabric that looks a little flat when too pristine, so don’t be afraid to put it through its paces.
Start with trousers
One of the easiest ways to dip into this robust and plush material is with trousers. Chunky cords are some of the coziest things you can pull over your legs, and once you start you’ll wonder how you ever went without.
Pairs from Rota are classically tailored, yet have an easy going silhouette that is incredibly versatile for dressing up or down. A wide waled dark navy or beige set of trousers can be heavily relied on day after day and there isn't much thought needed when it comes to pairing. They’ll work with everything from oxford shirts to heavily textured knitwear.. It should also be mentioned that for those really can’t let go of the silhouette of their jeans, Glenn’s Denim have a selection of medium wale five pocket cords in various colours that should not be missed. With these two options, you won’t be reaching for the denim for a while.
Think about the wales
Whilst most associate corduroy with a wide wale - the vertical ribbing which gives it a distinctive appearance and texture - a thinner wale shouldn’t be overlooked. It can be more discreet and look a lot smarter, which can be great for tailoring but is an excellent option when it comes to shirts. It gives them that soft, durable texture you love without the overly down to earth, rugged look.
A snap button Western shirt is always a good option and this season Doppia have one that, instead of being made out of the usual stiff denim, is in a dusty pink fine needle cord. Something like this is a real workhorse, so having the shirt made of needle cord subverts the workwear history of a Western shirt. Plus, it's always refreshing to break up the monotony of greys and blues that we tend to surround ourselves with, so this subdued shade of pink is a gentle step out of the usual comfort zone. If you’re really not feeling it though, there’s a mint green option and if you really just wanna keep things simple, bag it in white. Done.
A perfect match for casual tailoring or sport coat replacements
Naturally, corduroy works a charm when it comes to casual tailoring, with the most popular form being as a casual sport jacket that can be thrown on in pretty much any situation in place of a tweed one. Admittedly, most of us aren’t thinking about tailoring much at the moment, and so are more probably inclined to reach for something like an overshirt. G. Inglese's take on the safari jacket is a refreshingly retro option that calls back to something worn in the 70’s by counter cultural figures, and makes for a solid layering piece that could see you well into the spring. The jacket has alternating wales which gives it an interesting texture to run your hand over, and the rounded patch pockets at the hip just beg to be filled with all kinds of things. The olive tinged brown cord is a very easy colour to pull off, so the jacket should work well with almost every item of clothing you can think of, bar the most formal.
If you really want something special to throw on however, the Ikeja jacket from Post Imperial is an absolute show stopper. It screams comfort at you and everyone else who sees you wearing it. The bright yellow is eye catching as anything, so the advice with this would be keep everything else you wear dark and simple so as to let the jacket do all the talking. That being said, you could be bold and follow the lead of Rachel Tashjian (GQ staff writer and author of the incredible Opulent Tips newsletter), who recently went all out in a head to toe yellow corduroy suit from the brand. No one is comparing her to a history teacher anytime soon. Opulence indeed.