It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that autumn/winter seasons of late have been awash with talk of texture. Tweed, wool, quilting, velvet (or velour) and, of course, corduroy. During 2011, tactile dominated menswear and we all harboured a healthy obsession with the heritage of the British countryside.
As we approach the colder seasons once again, texture looks likely to stay put for at least another year, with the key trends for the coming season building upon the footholds of the last. This is good news for those of us who have already invested heavily in this look – but by no means has the chance to get on the cord bandwagon passed you by.
Corduroy trousers, or ‘cords’ as they’re more readily known, have been an on-and-off wardrobe staple for decades. Often unfairly stigmatised with the tarnished brush of ‘geography teacher’ attire – much like the ubiquitous tweed blazer until fairly recently – cords, if done right, are a stylish autumn/winter alternative to your chinos and jeans.
Keeping the cut and style of your cords contemporary is essential to pulling them off in a manner that doesn’t echo anything resembling your grandad’s dust offs. A slimmer cut, similar to that of the current go-to fit of both chinos and jeans, is what you want to be aiming for – a streamlined silhouette will help repel any notions of the 80s and 90s.
A high wale (the ridge that characterises their look) count is a safe bet here for a modern, cultured take, providing you with a much sharper look. A wale refers to the width of the cord. A low count (5 or 6-wale) means the individual cords are much thicker. A low count cord is more often used for upholstery – not a look you particularly want to mimic on your legs.
High wale corduroy (16+), often referred to as ‘needlecord’, is the opposite. The individual cords are much finer, as the name suggests, and helps produce a more velvety appearance, with a similar soft feel.
Hopefully by now I’ve tempted you into considering adding a pair of cords to your wardrobe for the coming season, or swayed you to perhaps dust off last season’s pair for a second coming?
With that in mind, you may be looking for some styling ideas and inspiration as to how to pull off this essential without channelling your inner academic. In which case, I’m going to break down three key looks that incorporate cord trousers, in order to keep you looking good and free of frostbite when the temperature drops.
Cords are a fantastic replacement for chinos in your standard smart-causal looks. They’ll add an air of countryside authenticity to a tweed blazer and will have you looking more like Lord of the manor than peasantry poacher.
A simple white shirt with a pocket square and brogues finishes off this timeless outfit in true statesmanlike style. You could throw on a tie (or bowtie) for a little more smart than casual, in which case I’d recommend a knitted version for an added burst of texture.
To avoid the need for outerwear – or if it really is just that cold – consider adding some knitwear. A good V-neck will never go out of fashion; equally, a good cable-knit or chunky jumper will add bags of charm. Alternatively, if you’re faced with slightly warmer day, consider swapping the shirt for a simple tee and lightweight blazer:
Add a work wear twist to your cords by pairing them with a chambray/denim shirt and gilet. A sturdy pair of boots finishes this rugged, masculine outfit off without too much thought.
Great for a quick drink down the pub or a casual day out, its no fuss and no frills approach demonstrates the relaxed aesthetic cords can bring to the table:
I recently wrote an updated advisory on coloured trousers for the autumn/winter season. Make a pair of cords your coloured trouser of choice for a bolder approach.
Dyed cords make a great statement and are even more appealing when you consider they bring not only texture to a look but also play against their expected neutrality. Pair alongside outerwear for a casual yet refined look and finish off with some leather desert boots:
Not only do cords provide an opportunity to add some of that much talked about texture to an outfit (which can often be the difference when looking to take your look to the next level), they are also a much warmer option than your standard heavyweight chinos. This hang up also gives denim a run for its money in terms of insulation, making the choice inarguable. With ticks against texture, style and warmth, you’d be forgiven for assuming cords are perhaps not all that comfortable, maybe even a bit stiff?
In fact, cords are very much both soft and comfortable, not to mention they retain their shape exceedingly well. Their only major drawback is that you may want to consider having a lint roller (or two) spare. Corduroy has a habit of picking up any loose hairs, dust etc. so it’s always a good idea to give them a good going over before stepping out.
An understanding of when, where and why to wear cords will pay dividends once again this season. Key wardrobe essentials such as the tweed blazer, wool trousers and quilted jackets all look forward to an on-trend pairing with what is fast becoming a menswear staple.
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