Corduroy is back in style this season, the physically enduring ridged fabric is a perennial fashion staple. In this post we discuss what corduroy is, its functionality, history, and aesthetics.Corduroy Jacket for MenKey Takeaways

  • Corduroy originated in the city of Al-Fustat, Egypt in 200 BC.
  • Its adoption has oscillated among many social classes across centuries.
  • Corduroy is best paired with less textured clothing.

Introduction To Corduroy

Corduroy is a velvety fabric made from cotton which is woven to lie parallel to each other, so it forms individual cords that almost appear to be separate and attached. The width of the cord is commonly referred to as the size of the “wale” (i.e. the number of ridges per inch).

The soft, durable fabric is a variation of velvet that’s easy to maintain and keeps its shape relatively well.  It’s very popular for hunting apparel, trousers, jackets, suits and other cool-weather attire due to its warmth. Wide wales are more commonly used in trousers and furniture upholstery; medium, narrow, and fine wale fabrics are usually found in garments worn above the waist.

red corduroy

Corduroy fulfills the functionality of warmth, while being visually aesthetic, pleasant to the touch and durable. The fabric looks as if it is made from multiple cords laid parallel to each other and then stitched together. It is associated with different types of people like working men, royalty, hippies, intellectuals, etc, due to its relevance across different eras.

Origins of Corduroy

Corduroy’s beginnings can be traced to the Egyptian city of Al-Fustat in 200 BC, it was a cotton weave known as “fustian” that was locally popular for centuries. Fustian’s popularity increased throughout Western Europe in the Medieval period, when Italian merchants introduced the fabric to nobles. Fustian provided warmth at a time before heating, and it was much coveted by high society, most notably, England’s King Henry VIII.

Fine Corduroy fabricWhat we now recognize as corduroy emerged in the late 18th century in Manchester, England as factory wear during the Industrial Revolution. The word corduroy is from cord and duroy – a coarse woolen cloth made in England in the 18th century.

The width of the wale gives corduroy jackets different levels of formality, pinwale corduroy is sometimes used creating a softer-edged and textured version of the classic style. Tougher corduroys with wider wales are used to make colored sport coats, these are the classic autumnal jackets.

Styling Corduroy Jackets

I am Galla Corduroy style

Photo Credit: I am Galla

A key rule for corduroy is to wear one piece at a time. Oversaturating your outfit with corduroy can put you at risk of looking and feeling uncomfortable. Over a white shirt and tie, a corduroy jacket for men looks like an Ivy League professor’s outfit; over a chambray shirt and textured chukka boots, you get a modern, striking, and interesting look.

When it comes to worker jackets, you can pair it with knitwear, or flannel shirts, selvedge jeans, and sturdy boots. The idea for the pairings is thickness to supplement the casual nature of a worker jacket. Royal, or navy blue are great options for worker jackets, you could also try lighter pastel colors over a dark outfit.

Layering Corduroy

Try layering corduroy bombers over a sweatshirt, cargo pants, and white leather sneakers, the rounded finish of bombers incline it to streetwear leaning outfits. Corduroy blazers are best unstructured and well fit to the body. For formal situations, it’s appropriate on a crisp white shirt and suit trousers, it can also dress down smarter pieces like like tailored pants and a roll neck.

Rowan Row corduroy jacket

Photo Credit: Rowan Row

Overshirts are a versatile way to wear corduroy, worn open over T-shirts or sweatshirts on mild autumn days. Buttoned up and under an overcoat changes the dynamic to work in less casual settings. As far as you don’t double up on corduroy while wearing a cord overcoat, you should be fine.

A white crew neck blends well underneath a black corduroy jacket, along with a less textured pair of trousers to complement the jacket. Shoes accentuate levels of formality with corduroy, sneakers or boat shoes give a casual effect, while leather lace-ups say office wear. Belts have the same effect; simple leather for work, and colored cloth or textured leather for play.

Robert Pattison Corduroy styling

Photo Credit: Robert Pattison

Modern Colours

Versatile colors for a corduroy jacket include brown, tan, olive, khaki, sand, black and navy. You can also choose to go all out in a corduroy suit in vibrant colors such as red, burgundy, or mustard yellow, the key is to accessorize simply and keep the shirt white. In the grey days of winter, corduroy gives you a chance to fill your environment up with brightness.

A modern way to get some corduroy into your upper half rotation is to buy a jacket with a thick wade in a boxier cut, like a denim or bomber jacket. Neutral colours will always work, but if you’re feeling brave go for something fresher in mauve, olive or even sky blue, keeping the rest of your outfit nice and muted.

Embrace The Look

It’s still quite easy to look like an 80’s geography teacher in corduroy. When you get it right you’ll stand out in a crowd for all the right reasons. Modern fashion culture embraces looking different and trying a number of styles. Corduroy’s transience in vogue always makes it a bold choice.

Celebrities are making this choice to transcend the realm of regular style. Take John Boyega and Tinie Tempah for instance, who have styled themselves in corduroy ensembles.

Tinie Tempah Full Corduroy

Photo Credit: Tinie Tempah

Corduroy at U.Mi-1

At U.Mi-1 we used corduroy to create a contemporary spring/autumn jacket with matching trousers. The jacket is cut like a contemporary safari jacket. The trousers feature turn-ups, which contrasts with the traditional appeal of the corduroy fabric. The idea behind them is to give our customers an interesting and new take on the classics.

Both pieces have a tailored silhouette. They give a new spin on a corduroy suit, making it a great selection for a modern man offering him an adventurous wardrobe addition. And corduroy can be applied in scenarios where you may like to subvert defined styles while keeping a smart look. Another good reason to choose a corduroy jacket is because of its tight weave. On top of that, it is efficiently warm as long as it’s dry.Corduroy style

Corduroy can also be matched with modern t-shirts and other contemporary garments. If you are looking to create a stylish smart casual look for an evening you might want to look into our Ode to Eyo collection which offers great summer pieces that can be styled with a corduroy jacket.

Corduroy’s movement in style is quite like the tides, habitually coming and going but never gone. The warmth it provides makes corduroy an essential for every autumn/winter season. Beyond that, the debonair impression it can create on a night out cannot be replicated. Coursing through the phases of being practical, posh, groovy, geeky, stylish, etc, the corduroy style trend is a perennial mainstay.

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