What Is Corduroy?
When men think of corduroy, they often think of pants they were forced to wear as school children along with turtleneck jerseys and Coke bottle glasses.
With this association, it’s no surprise that lots of men don’t take too kindly to corduroy, which is unfortunate. It happens to be a great cold-weather fabric whose ridges give it a lot of visual interest.
Corduroy is essentially a ridged form of velvet, which places it in the cotton category. A thicker material, it’s best suited to fall and winter wear, as it would be much too heavy for any warm weather applications. Furthermore, its appearance is quite casual and works best on country-inspired clothing.
The common claim as to the etymology of the word “corduroy” is that it’s an English corruption of the French phrase corde du roi, meaning “cord of the King.” This is actually false. The word is derived from the words cord and duroy, the latter of which was a coarse woolen made in 18th-century England.
In a nutshell, corduroy is a durable cloth that looks like numerous cords have been stitched together close to each other in parallel.
Historically, corduroy was utilized for British country clothing and achieved a great degree of popularity in the 1970’s.
What Is “Wale”?
No discussion of corduroy can be had without mentioning wale. The term “wale” refers to the size of each individual cord and can be further analyzed to refer to the number of ridges (cords) per inch on a given corduroy garment. The lower the wale number, the bigger the cords, and vice-versa.
The average wale is somewhere between 10 and 12. Wide wale corduroys are typically limited to very casual trousers, and finer wale cords are found on above-the-waist garments: sport coats, waistcoats, and shirts.
Different Types Of Corduroy
Not all cords are created equal. The most common types are listed below.
Named after Bedford, England, Bedford Cord is itself a misnomer: it’s not actually corduroy, but rather a durable fabric that resembles corduroy. It’s woven to have faint lengthwise ridges but lacks the weft yarns that make for true corduroy.
trousers made with this material are often referred to as “Bedford cords.”
Elephant cord refers to any corduroy with a very wide wale. Such fabric will typically be only used for trousers, but furniture may also be upholstered in such corduroy.
The polar opposite of elephant cord, pincord is to corduroy what pindots are to dots: an extremely small-scale version of the base pattern. Pincords make for excellent velvet substitutes and could theoretically work for smoking jackets to the untrained eye.
How & When To Wear Corduroy
Corduroy is, in fact, a very handsome fabric when it’s not paired with a cotton turtleneck and a haircut your mother gave you. Below we enumerate some of the best ways to wear corduroy.
A corduroy suit is a rare find and will likely require a custom tailor to acquire (they’re typically not sold off the rack), but it’s quite handsome nonetheless. It’s a casual suit, so we don’t recommend wearing one of these to a sartorially conservative office, at least not if you’re going to be client-facing.
However, if you have an affinity for suits and are looking for an easy way to keep the chill at bay, a corduroy suit is a great option. Go for one with patch pockets to hammer home the casual vibe, and be sure to go with a thick cuff (turn up) at the pant hem.
In fact, we’ve gathered a few excellent specimens, which you can peruse below!
A corduroy sport coat is undoubtedly the easiest way to wear corduroy and look awesome doing it. In a simple earth tone like brown, forest green, or burgundy, it’s a very handsome complement to denim or cavalry twill pants. The casualness of it allows you to pair chunky sweaters with it just as easily as you can a simple button-down shirt.
Our sport jacket guide has much more information on sport coats if you’re curious to learn more.
Also referred to as “corduroys” or just “cords,” corduroy pants, unlike suits, are actually quite common in menswear stores. They’re an excellent denim alternative in cold weather when thin chinos will leave you freezing, and they look great with tweed sport coats, which tend to be a bit hairier and more casual than other sport jackets.
Generally, we recommend a medium-wale corduroy trouser, as this is the most versatile cord from a body type perspective. Bigger men can get away with elephant cords, but we suggest that small-framed men steer clear of these wide-waled numbers.
If you don’t know what your body type is but would like to determine it (and we highly recommend that you do), our body type guide will help in in just a few minutes.
Waistcoats & Hats
Corduroy waistcoats & hats are the last items on the list that really see any play on the menswear scene. An odd waistcoat made of corduroy is a handsome way to add a layer of warmth to a casual outfit. if you go this route, we suggest a more casual single-breasted vest, though a double-breasted one will get you extra style points based on rarity alone.
Corduroy is a great material for hats, flat caps in particular. The material is warm, and since we lose most of our body heat through our heads, it makes sense to cover our domes with a thick, warm material.
Colors Found In Corduroy
As its heritage is in casual, British country clothing, it makes sense that corduroy is most at home in Earth tones: browns, tans, greens, blues, burgundy, and other such colors. This isn’t to say that other colors don’t exist; it’s perfectly normal to see a black corduroy sport coat or midnight blue corduroy trousers, of course.
Just don’t expect to find a lavender corduroy suit as easily as you’d find that same color in, say, linen.
Best Corduroy Suits To Buy Online
As mentioned above, we’ve gathered a few of our favourite made-to-measure corduroy suits to buy online. They are listed in no particular order of preference but each provide an insight into the fabric’s characteristics.
- Indochino Olive Corduroy Suit
- Indochino Tan Corduroy Suit
- Hockerty Blue Corduroy Suit
- Hockerty Brown Corduroy Suit
You can use the menu above to jump ahead or scroll down to discover them all.