In the fight against winter’s bite, few fabrics provide as much firepower as corduroy. Like a more versatile take on velvet, it has glorious potential as a rich, luxurious material that injects texture and – thanks to its air pockets – keeps you toasty.
Yet many men fear cord, thanks to co-signs from Woody Allen and every geography teacher you’ve ever had. But – shock horror – this season corduroy’s been rescued from the classroom. Think less Sandy Loam and more Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Landmine: Oversized or ill-fitting corduroy adds 20 years. The fabric’s heritage aesthetic means relaxed fits are a shortcut to dowdiness.
Dodge: “Corduroy should be tailored to fit and it will age well, moulding to your body shape,” says Sam Kershaw, luxury buyer for e-tailer Mr Porter. “A modern shape such as a slim jogging pant will add some much needed modernity, too.”
Bizarre as that idea might seem, you can at least be certain that you won’t spot Folk’s foray into corduroy sportswear anywhere near an oxbow lake.
Folk Tapered Drawcord Cotton Corduroy Trousers, available at Mr Porter, priced £125.
Landmine: A corduroy suit works if the styling is considered carefully, but beyond tailoring, there’s the potential for corduroy overkill. That much texture rubbing against itself risks your fire look igniting.
Dodge: In short – one item and one item only. An unstructured cord blazer looks slick with a knitted tie and white Oxford shirt, but corduroy can be dressed down further: “An otherwise understated casual outfit can be given a new lease of life,” says Kershaw. “A cropped cord jacket such as a Harrington or bomber is my go-to.”
Try teaming said jacket with white sneakers, dark jeans and a grey sweatshirt.
ASOS Cord Western Jacket, available at ASOS, priced £50.
Landmine: Two types of people wear corduroy flat caps: 1) West Country farmers and 2) Ian Wright. Common denominator here? A coolness vacuum.
Dodge: As with clothing, corduroy accessories really shine when the fabric is juxtaposed with modern shapes. A corduroy baseball cap is a far more flattering addition to a casual outfit. Team it with a simple button-down Oxford shirt, jeans and sneakers for something that’s just the right balance of contemporary and country.
A.P.C. Corduroy Baseball Cap, available at Mr Porter, priced £65.
It Was Acceptable In The 1970s
Landmine: That bilious brown you see pacing at the front of lecture theatres should be left there. Swerve it at all times to avoid looking like an extra from That ’70s Show.
Dodge: The plush texture of corduroy should be celebrated in equally plush jewel tones. “Inky blue, bottle green, burgundy or plum in a cropped jacket or button-down cord shirt will add a bold richness and depth to your ensemble,” says Kershaw.
Uniqlo Corduroy Long Sleeve Shirt, available at Uniqlo, priced £19.90.
Watch Your Wale
Landmine: This is where we get technical. The ‘wale’ is the width of the ridges in the corduroy. And it needs careful consideration: too narrow and it’s nigh-on impossible to notice, thus defeating the object; too wide and you’ll end up looking like a staff room sofa.
Dodge: As ever, there are exceptions, but generally the rules of play here are simple enough: the more casual the piece, the wider the wale.
“Tailoring tends to work best in a very narrow wale, otherwise known as needlecord,” says Sean Dixon, co-founder at Savile Row stalwart Richard James. “The narrow ridges reflect light beautifully, like velvet.”
That said, a heavier cord is truer to the durable nature of workwear or sportswear. “A wider cord is most popular in outerwear such as bombers or shackets,” says Dixon.