You probably don’t need us to point out that we live in strange and confusing times. At the exact same moment that the remains of the knuckle-dragging, sex-pest attitudes of the seventies are (thankfully) public enemy number one, in the menswear world if it’s got a whiff of the brown and orange decade, it’s hot property.
For us, there is nothing more pure, unadulterated seventies than corduroy, which has slowly been edging its compulsively strokable surface back into men’s wardrobes. Thanks in no small part to a reputation for killing your sex appeal faster than back hair, it’s not been an easy comeback.
“The problem with corduroy’s outing in the seventies is that it was dyed either brown or green, which meant it was purely fodder for librarians and geography teaches, but now it comes in such a variety of weights and colours,” says Chris Gove, the creative director of Percival, a British menswear brand that knows its cord inside out.
In truth, the fabric is a lot more versatile than most people imagine. If you’re one of the naysayers who thinks that corduroy’s all big, baggy and dishwater brown, then we’re calling fake news. In 2018 it’s well-cut and appears in unexpected ways. If you don’t fancy channelling the seventies look then there are plenty of darker shades on offer, and cord is no longer going to drown your frame in puddles of fabric. Even better, corduroy is tough AF, which means anything you buy in the fabric should go the distance.
Broken down piece by piece, here’s everything you need to know about wearing cord in a way that won’t leave you instantly undateable.
On the mention of corduroy, we’re willing to bet good money that a fine (needle if you want to get technical) corduroy shirt isn’t the first thing that pops into your head: it’s vomit-worthy purple cord flares or something similar, right? If you’re a mild to severe corduroy-phobe though, it’s the perfect place to begin your rehabilitation.
“A fine corduroy shirt can be just the piece to add some texture to your wardrobe,” says Suzie Street, a menswear stylist who has worked with the likes of Tinie Tempah and Rafferty Law. “Capitalise on the rich colour options that are around such as dark green, mustard, burgundy and navy, which all look great in cord.”
Styling your new shirt is a walk in the park too, thankfully. “Team a cord shirt with dark indigo denim and worker boots for Western-inspired styling or [use it to] update your 9-5 wardrobe; they pair nicely with tailored trousers and smart brogues,” says Street.
According to our calculations, that’s approximately as far as it’s possible to get from Boogie Nights.
Tragically, even those who can get on board with a bit of cord here or there are quick to wrinkle their noses at the daddy of all corduroy combos: the full cord suit. Those alarm bells currently ringing in your head aren’t justified any more though. The evidence? From high end (see Brunello Cucinelli) to high street (see Topman) the corduroy suit has been catching our eye with its slick new look for too long to carry on ignoring.
Menswear model and influencer Richard Biedul has long been one of the corduroy suit’s biggest enthusiasts. He says: “A corduroy suit should channel the suaveness of a seventies gigolo rather than geekiness of a geography teacher.” Easier said than done? Not if you pay due attention to cut and colour.
“Adopt a vintage aesthetic but make it slightly modern. Blazers should be soft at the shoulders and trousers straight through the leg. For colour think browns, greens or blues and then finish your look with knitwear layered beneath your jacket in a tonal variation of your suit’s shade,” says Biedul.
If you swerve NHS prescription glasses, checked shirts and jazzy ties, you’re in surprisingly safe hands.
For those more streetwear don than City boy, corduroy’s not off bounds: a cord cap or snapback provides an easy way to nod (figuratively and literally) to menswear’s new-found love of this touchy-feely fabric. The only challenge faced when wearing a cord cap is ensuring that you don’t look like an overgrown child en route to Disneyland.
Topman buying director Rachel Morgans says: “A corduroy cap is the perfect bridge between smart and casual, combining the sportswear heritage of the baseball cap with corduroy’s refined feel.” A true multitasker, then. However, Morgans advises going easy on the adventurous styling. “Keep things simple when wearing a corduroy cap and avoid clashing colours or overloading on [the fabric].”
We concur. The cord cap can be a bit of a statement maker, so play it safe with a darker colour. Indigo jeans and brown worker boots will also keep a corduroy cap’s more #fashion tendencies in check. Similarly, a plain sweatshirt or a shirt worn open over a plain white T-shirt will make sure things don’t feel too ‘out there’ either.
If your only frame of reference for corduroy trousers is off-duty Jeremy Clarkson, it’s time to open your eyes to the seriously wearable options that don’t have the singular purpose of appealing to men of a certain age.
Much like with your hair, cut is everything when it comes to corduroy trousers: screw it up and you stand to be mercilessly mocked. In this case, stick to straight- or slim-leg fits to avoid a corduroy crisis.
One brand which is capitalising on menswear’s new-found love of corduroy is The Cords & Co, who has dedicated its name and purpose to putting cord on the menswear map once more. Design director Linnéa Bach Gärde says: “Corduroy is having a true comeback and a pair of contemporary 5-pocket corduroy trousers will look great teamed with a simple white T-shirt or relaxed hoodie.”
When it comes to styling, treat corduroy trousers as if they were patterned: best worn with quieter wardrobe staples to keep things calm. And don’t think that corduroy trousers must be brown. Navy, green and even black are all available on the current market and are infinitely easier to wear.
If it’s got worker or utility vibes, there’s a 99.9 per cent chance we’ll love it before we’ve even seen it. Combine that with a tactile trending fabric and you’ve got yourself menswear magic. That’s what’s on offer from a corduroy overshirt, which is one happy marriage of fashion and function.
Michael Hill, Drake’s creative director and co-owner says: “A corduroy jacket or a pair of trousers can be a little intimidating for some, but an overshirt is an easy-wearing alternative: casual and contemporary, but still boasting that lovely texture that comes with cord.”
Styling is a cinch too, because overshirts love to layer. “Throw one over an Oxford cloth button-down and some chinos, or with a sporty polo shirt and denim jeans,” says Hill.
If you’re scared to commit to corduroy, the overshirt is a good way to introduce the texture to your look without attracting too much attention.
For all those convinced that corduroy’s out to terminate their chances of pulling, allow us to introduce you to the corduroy jacket, which – thanks to a wealth of modern cuts and colourways – has zero boffin vibes when you get it right.
It’s not all about looks though, a cord jacket is actually good at keeping you warm (who’d have thought?) so your mum will love it too. Menswear designer Oliver Spencer says: “Corduroy is one of the most tactile and durable fabrics out there, its thermal qualities and soft handle are perfect for the colder months, making it an ideal fabric for outerwear.”
Versatility is another of the corduroy jacket’s strong suits. Whether you choose a bomber, Harrington or trucker, you’re free to go as casual or swish as your mood takes you. For Spencer though, a knit’s always a winner. “Pair with a merino crew neck or roll neck jumper underneath, then go for a less textured pair of trousers or indigo jeans to complement the jacket. Finish with a pair of leather boots or trainers for a more casual look.”