Bad corduroy is bad. Granted. But so’s bad denim. So’s bad anything. Dads love dad jeans. Selvedge doesn’t suffer the association. Yes, a lot of men get cords wrong. It’s a fabric loved by those into warm, hardwearing clothes. By people who base their buying decisions on when a piece will wear out, not when it will slip out of style. But it’s not only for them. Even though fashion loves aesthetic for aesthetic’s sake, practical can still be on point.
You see, there are two kinds of men who wear cords. There’s your dad, or your granddad, with too-big trousers puddling on their shoes. Then there’s the likes of Bob Dylan or Wes Anderson – men who embrace depth in their wardrobes, as in their art.
These are men who understand the power of texture. As should every man, especially in winter. With brights in storage, your fabrics do the heavy lifting to keep looks interesting. Corduroy has the perfect mix of shimmer and softness, the contrast between light ridge and shadowy valley. That juxtaposition takes colour beautifully. It’s a canvas that makes rich shades richer.
But men stumble with corduroy because it offers so many options. There’s the fit: steer too loose you look like an untenured professor; too slim and you risk starting fires as you walk. Then there’s the wale (the distance between the ridges): too wide looks like you just inherited a country estate and don’t know what to do with it. But pincord looks suspiciously like velvet.
The sweet spot is the same silhouette you’d take for tailoring – fitted but with room to move, to let the fabric scrunch and swing – with a wale you can make out from an arm’s length away.
Once you’ve nailed that particular Venn diagram, just swerve your old man’s palette. Forget latrine brown. Corduroy makes jewel tones sparkle – emerald, ruby, sapphire blue. Lecturers don’t go bright, so you should. Then layer your textures, cord with wool or suede or slubby cotton.
Embrace unexpected iterations to steer things even younger – no grandfather ever wore a corduroy baseball cap, or a cord-and-shearling trucker jacket. Just don’t add leather elbow patches.
— Tom Banham, Associate Editor
Granddad was great for many things. Werther’s Originals. Walks in the park. Backhanded compliments (he was really great at those). But sadly style – like a basic grasp of Microsoft Windows – eluded pops. He loved his jumpers with holes in, because replacing them was “pissing money up the wall”. He loved baseball caps that looked like he’d found them on the M1. He even loved those cheap bifocals from Poundland.
And corduroys. Frumpy, old-fashioned, unflattering corduroys. He loved them. Me, not so much. But then, poor granddad wouldn’t have donned a decent pair even if he knew what to look for. Because such a thing doesn’t exist.
The first problem with corduroy is the usual fits. We’re talking wide-legged trousers that belong on a Victorian pickpocket. Bizarre, box-like blazers that should’ve died with that Strokes poster you bought in Year 10. No matter how you style them, you always end up looking like a cross between a bean bag and a living room suite.
But things get even worse when corduroys go tight. The fabric. The texture. Anything that boasts such heightened (and weird) sensory softness should only be available in certain clubs, for consenting adults. Yes, comfort is key, but you don’t want to shudder whenever trousers graze the back of your thighs.
And then there’s the availability. Even if there were shining examples of how to utilise corduroy (which I highly doubt), where on earth do you find them? What brands are pushing it? Which designers were brave enough to send it down the runway? Exactly. None to my recent memory.
If only all corduroys had been condemned at granddad’s funeral, the world would be a better place. Don’t get me wrong, he really was great. But his wardrobe staples were, frankly, shocking.
— Murray Clark, Assistant Editor