2019 Tailoring

Striking a Cord

By Nick Carvell

Jul 13, 2022

Striking a Cord

One of the things that’s always surprised me when you see corduroy featured in the style press is that it often comes with the assumption men find it inherently uncool, ruined at some fictional period of our adolescence by geography teachers and stuffy librarians in baggy trousers and ill-fitting blazers. I find this rather odd. After all, what unites John F Kennedy, Robert Redford, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Wes Anderson and Donald Glover? They’re all men who frequently appear on Pinterest boards as the pinnacles of modern men’s style, but, more importantly, they have also all been known to dabble in corduroy.

Historically, there is a misconception that the word “corduroy” came to us during the nineteenth century from the French corde du roi (or “cord of the king”). And while it’s true that the French aristocracy used the fabric for its servants’ riding gear in the 1800s, the actual origin of the word is probably from England a century earlier, traced back to “duroy”, a coarse wool cloth widely produced in the country at that time.

On a side note, if you ever find yourself hunting for vintage cords in Paris, the French actually call corduroy velour côtelé. De rien. However, what’s notable about corduroy is that it’s always been respected for its hardiness, meaning that as the centuries progressed, it became inextricably linked to workwear - first for servants in wealthy houses, then for jobs that required clothes which could resist being roughed up. By the early 1900s it was the go-to material for trousers for the US Army, and by the mid-20th century it had filtered back up to the new aristocracy: the students at prestigious Ivy League universities on East Coast America adopted cords as their uniform, crucially in a more tailored form.

Today, the best examples of corduroy in a man’s wardrobe will mix that time-honed reputation for durability with its more recently-earned preppiness. Perhaps the most versatile item to invest in is a relaxed corduroy suit, which brings the sort of rugged sleekness that allows it to be dressed-up or dressed-down as needed.

That’s especially true of the two new models that have just arrived here at Drake’s. They’re unstructured and finished with patch pockets for added casual versatility. Slip on with a white shirt, black tie and loafers and you’re set for Friday at work; throw over a fine-gauge crew neck and Chelsea boots and you’re ready for brunch with the folks; wear over a rugby shirt with a pair of trainers and you’re set for a macchiato with someone new. It’s the kind of item that gives you instant confidence as, whatever the situation, it’s got you covered. So while corduroy might not be the cloth of kings, a suit made from it certainly has the ability to make you feel pretty damn powerful.

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This article was originally published online in September 2018, under the title 'The Cord Suit'.

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