Permanent Style's Simon Crompton tells us why corduroy is the perfect trouser for the contemporary gentleman.
Does corduroy have history? Of course it does - like so much menswear, it’s full of it. It’s the ‘corde du roi’ - the cord of the king. (Though in fact this is likely to be a distortion, a latter interpretation; it actually derives from earlier English words for ar rough, woollen cloth). But how much relevance does that history have today? Very little. It’s interesting to learn (the first time); it makes nice filler for magazine features; but it has no real bearing on how you wear it - how a man wears it - today.
Far more important is its connotations, its cultural associations: living memory, rather than history. Corduroy is associated in the minds of many with the academic, the teacher. It suggests elbow patches, tea stains and baggy knees. It is linked, unfortunately, with those that lack any conscious style, whose clothing has been chosen purely for its functional, economic, workaday qualities. We can never entirely escape these connotations. As much as we hate to admit it, fashion and style are relative concepts.
But there are several things we can do to mitigate them. When we buy and wear cord, we can do so in a contemporary manner that begins reclaim the cloth and its cultural status. One thing we can change is the fit: a pair of trousers can be slim through the thigh and calf, finishing in a neat hem that just flirts with the shoe rather than flopping on top of it.
Another is the cloth itself: that twisted cotton can be a touch heavier, a touch stiffer, without any suggestion of cashmere in the weave, to help prevent that dreadful bagging of the knees. We can also hang and press them properly. And most importantly, we can buy them in more contemporary colours. So less of the sandy trouser of the geography teacher; none of the bright cord that has its own, equally damaging associations.
Instead: dark, urban tones that befit a cloth worn largely for wandering around town, buying coffee, socialising and working in professional but not restrictive offices. In fact, corduroy in this incarnation has the potential to be extremely versatile, for any age and many occasions. Without even the slightest hint of academia.