Let me tell you a little story. When I was at college, many moons ago, I had a pair of Topman corduroy flares that were a light rust colour, and they were awesome. I kept them with me from college to my work life until they literally fell apart around me – which was an embarrassing visit to ASDA, let me tell you. At the time they were fantastic because they were right on the super-flare trend, suitable for my Shetland Pony-ish legs and they also incorporated a twist to make them look slightly different from the run of the mill garments available on the high street.
Lucky for me – and my Shetland Pony legs – corduroy is coming back this year with a bang. Taking inspiration from the very popular Heritage trend we are seeing this season, the premium fashion houses and the high street are pushing traditional British countryside styling and fabrics, with emphasis on items such as tweed, quilting, gilets, brogue boots… and now corduroy.
The History: Corduroy
Although the general conception is that the fabric originated in France and that the word ‘corduroy’ is an almost direct translation of ‘body of King’, this is in fact incorrect. So the next time that Anna Wintour gets up in your grill spouting her vast knowledge of fashion, you can reply ‘Oi! Anna, take your glasses off and see the daylight love,’ then teach her a lesson she will never forget.
Corduroy was the precursor to denim (which is a French fabric), worn by peasants and people who generally needed a fabric that didn’t split when they picked potatoes or delivered cows. Although it did get replaced by the cheaper and harder wearing denim, it still has a place in the hearts of English countrymen and peasants alike. There’s something authentically British about corduroy trousers, a waxy gilet and a flat cap with a shotgun tucked under one arm and a rabbit hanging in the other.
In The Stores
It’s slightly too early to showcase a mass of corduroy, but there are some amazing pieces that you can pick up right now to start padding out your capsule wardrobe. The two key corduroy pieces you need in your wardrobe this year are showcased below.
The Town and Country theme is very, very prevalent in the outerwear that you will find in the stores this autumn/winter. There’s something beautiful about a waxy jacket with corduroy lapels; it just oozes traditional British Heritage and style. When paired with new popular pieces such as chinos and brogue boots, you have the perfect mix and clashing of styles between old and new.
If Heritage or Town and Country inspired trends are not to your personal taste, or you just feel that the quilted jacket (and similar) has been over done (see our debate on style overload here) – maybe a quilted or waxed jacket is not for you. Luckily, a corduroy blazer is an excellent alternative, which will help you nail Preppy and/or Ivy League look with ease. If you were to pair it with the relaxed or drop crotch tailoring that will be literally EVERYWHERE in Autumn, not only will you be creating the right silhouette, but you will also be incorporating some of the most in-vogue fabrics around.
For a more subtle take on the trend, you can purchase outwear which has corduroy detailing, rather than full on construction. So key an eye out for stitched on elbow pads (again very much Heritage/Countryside inspired), corduroy collars, or even pocket flaps. This is much easier to wear and integrate within your current looks, but adds an extra element to your jacket by giving it some texture. At the same time it shows you know the latest trends without being a slave to them.
Corduroy trousers are one of my favourite fashion pieces of all time – coming in a close second place to my Superman themed Converse. I’ve already bored you about my corduroy flares, but I can’t stress how excited I was when I heard that corduroy was going to be making it’s way back into men’s wardrobes. In my eyes, cord trousers are not actually a trend but an essential piece for any fashionable male. They are built to last, and are a great alternative to jeans and chinos for those who want to stand out. I imagine in the near future cords will go through the same rise in popularity that chinos did a couple of years back, when men wanted to experiment with their style and create UNIQUE looks.
Very much classed as an exclusive autumn/winter piece due to their heavy nature and the warmth they provide, the essential tag comes from the versatility they provide. We have already discussed how corduroy fits in with Heritage and Town and Country trends, but it is also possible to adapt them into Preppy, Ivy League and worker wear inspired looks, just by changing your surrounding pieces. They are also refined enough to be worn with shirts and brogues, whilst you can easily pull them off with a pair of Converse, a scoop tee and a denim jacket.
The upcoming silhouette for menswear this year sees a shift from skinny and slim to looser cuts and straight comfort fits. Corduroy usually sits somewhere in between, but there is enough variety on the high street for those wanting to keep their cords refined and slimline. Topman and All Saints are particularly pushing the skinny and slim fits within their essentials ranges.
Cropped length trousers are going to be a big fashion hit as we journey closer to the dark nights and colder days, so having a pair of corduroy cropped trousers – short enough to just show off a ribbed sock, not short enough to make it look like you’ve gone hem happy with a pair of trousers – is going to be a big boon to your wardrobe.
Try and pick colours that you would expect to see in piles of autumn leaves if you want to inject your wardrobe with some much needed flair. Earth tones such as brown, olive and mustard are going to look excellent against burgundy and burnt orange come October.
How To Wear
To show how to incorporate corduroy into an outfit without looking like a geography teacher, we have created two looks; one casual, one smart, just to give you a helping hand.
Outfit One – Casual
When autumn/winter is in full swing, we will be seeing lots of statement knitwear layered over shirts and under clashing outerwear – perfect clothes for unpredictable weather – so incorporating corduroy into this outfit was a tricky call.
To try and balance the bottom half of the outfit so it doesn’t overpower the top half, we had to use simple block colours that didn’t draw attention from the clashing prints, or make you look like a clown. So, we picked wine coloured skinny cords with a complimentary pair of navy desert boots; keeping the colour blocking trend consistent as well as combining two contrasting colours that look fantastic together.
For the top half of the outfit we wanted to be able to add or remove layers without reducing the quality of the overall look. The check shirt when paired with the wine cords is a statement in itself, meaning if you are inside with the heating on you can remove the knitwear and roll up your sleeves. When the temperature drops slightly, you can throw on the Fair Isle jumper over the top of the shirt, as Fair Isle is another key part of the Heritage trend and provides a statement piece to your look. You shouldn’t be afraid to clash patterns and print (big within the Nomad trend), as the jumper will negate the effect of the shirt and you will only see the collar when they are layered over the top of each other.
Taking inspiration from both Paul’s article on neutralising bold colours, and Ben’s article on the versatility of the trench coat, I have chosen to keep our last layer lightweight and perfect for protecting against the autumn/winter weather. A grey trench coat is the perfect anchor for this whole outfit, and when thrown on top of the cords and jumper, it will neutralise some of the boldness of the colours and prints. You should tie your belt around the front but leave the jacket unbuttoned, in order to create a break between the top and bottom half – whilst letting the statement pieces shine through.
Other outerwear options to finish this look off would be a denim jacket or classic wool overcoat – it really just comes down to personal preference and the style you are going for.
Outfit Two – Smart
This second outfit is for those that can wear relaxed tailoring within an office environment, or for men who want a smart casual look for a night out or event. This time we are utilising one of my favourite pieces for the upcoming autumn/winter season, the cord blazer. This beautiful example may be a little (OK, a lot) pricey, but the camel colour is right on trend and exactly the kind of statement you want to make when wearing a cord blazer.
Try pairing it with another of this autumn/winter’s key pieces; grey tailoring. Keep the trousers smart but look for a cropped pair to really be on trend. Don’t worry about the weather, if it gets cold you can just bridge the gap between hem and tongue with pair of great ribbed socks in a bold colour. Also remember to keep the shirt fitted and crisp; white is the perfect anchor to the bold camel colour of the blazer, plus it will let you integrate a bold coloured tie. We opted for navy as it coordinates beautifully against shades of browns and grey.
If the weather does drop, then you can add an extra layer in the form of a cardigan. We opted for grey as it coordinates with the trousers and gives the outfit a modified ‘3-piece’ look. Finish with brown loafers as they are perfect for wearing without socks and cropped trousers on warmer days, whilst they are smart enough to wear with socks and full length trousers as we progress through the season.
It is difficult to find the balance between smart, and smart casual. What we found to be the lynch pin of keeping things smart were the trousers. It’s probably best not to pick trousers that are corduroy, just because cords often give off a more casual vibe as standard. Plus a corduroy blazer is just so much more of a statement.