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.