How to wear corduroy

Corduroy is the ideal fabric for warmth and style this winter
Image source: Samuel Windsor

It seems GQ and Vogue are rediscovering the merits of corduroy, raving about this most sophisticated, luxurious, yet hard wearing of fabrics. Here at Samuel Windsor, we don’t know what all the fuss is about – we’ve always known gents look great in cords. Here’s how to wear this fashionable fabric with style.

Walk like an Egyptian

Samuel Windsor corduroy trousers close-up

Needle cord is more formal than jumbo cord
Image source: Samuel Windsor

We know that at least as far back as 200 AD, the Egyptians weaved and wore a cloth called ‘fustian’, an early predecessor of the fabric we now know as corduroy. Made by weaving tightly twisted cotton yarn, the resulting ridges (called wales) are what gives corduroy its unmistakable look and feel.

A fast forward through the centuries sees the cloth traded across the Mediterranean, before spreading northwards. We know Henry VIII wore corduroy, as did French courtiers – the fabric gets its name from “Corde du Roi”, or “Cord of the King”. The notorious highwayman Dick Turpin ordered a new suit of corduroy especially for his execution – a dangling dandy indeed.

In the UK, corduroy was commonly made in the mill towns of the North of England, where its warmth and practicality made it standard issue for servants and manual workers.

For modern cord wearers, it’s important to know that, the higher the ‘wale’ – the number of ridges per inch – the more formal the fabric. The broader the ridges, the lower the wale, the more casual your cords become. Also important to bear in mind – broader, jumbo cords suit slimmer men.The narrower the cord, the more “lengthening” the fabric becomes.

Wear it once

Samuel Windsor corduroy trousers, tattersall shirt

Wear one item of corduroy at a time
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Bold colours, a soft, durable finish and rugged warmth make corduroy the perfect fabric for autumn and winter wear. Choose winter colours like bold reds, greens and deep blues, or for a more subtle look, go for muted heather, moss, stone and camel. The take-home message for wearing cords well, is only to include one item of corduroy clothing in your ensemble.


Samuel Windsor cord jacket - navy

Image source: Samuel Windsor

A cord jacket is a dapper cross-over garment that does smart casual or formal equally well, adding a touch of glamour to both. The secret is to choose the right jacket and match the rest of your wardrobe to the sophisticated vibe you’re looking to create. A high wale – narrow or ‘needle’ cord fabric, and slim fitting cut that gives your silhouette extra length is your best bet.

Wearing a textured, tactile fabric like corduroy only works if the rest of your outfit balances out the flamboyance. Think plain cotton Oxford shirt, or a turtleneck sweater in a contrasting colour. Go for plain indigo jeans, or chinos and a pair of black or brown brogues.


Samuel Windsor corduroy trousers

Cord trousers are perfect for all sorts of social occasions
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Corduroy trousers work in a range of scenarios from enjoying a relaxed lunch with friends, to smart casual occasions like the golf club Christmas party.

As the guys at Real Men Real Style say:

“Corduroys can be dressed up with a pair of good brown dress shoes and a collared shirt and tie, or they can go with soft sneakers and T-shirts for casual weekend wear.”

If a plain knit jumper and harrington jacket suit the occasion – so will a pair of cord trousers.

As with your cord jacket, the key here is to create a sense of balance between colour and texture, and smoothness and subtlety. Understated cords match bold pullovers in lilac, claret or green, or opt for bold red, green or mustard cords worn with a simple country check shirt and navy jumper. Brogues, loafers, chukkas, or country boots complete the look.


Featured product: Samuel Windsor cord shirt in camel

Corduroy shirts are great for layering. As the team at Fashion Beans say:

“The key to pulling off this look is choosing a thinner, lightweight design for the under layer.”

Wear your cord shirt with the cuffs rolled back, over a contrasting long sleeved Henley shirt. The texture shift between ridges and smooth cotton works perfectly on chilly days when the dipping thermometer sees you reaching for something warmer than your usual shirt and sweater.

Moleskin trousers or jeans, and a pair of rugged chukka boots look great with this outfit, and if it’s cold enough for an overcoat, continue the layering theme by slipping into a gilet or perhaps a quilted jacket.

Corduroy style tips

Still not sure how to wear corduroy? Here’s a quick summary of Samuel Windsor’s style tips:

  • Only wear one item of corduroy clothing at a time
  • Balance the weight and texture of your other clothes carefully – let the cord do the talking
  • Jumbo cords suit slimmer men
  • Finer, narrower cords are more formal and help to “lengthen” your silhouette
  • Corduroy shirts are ideal for layering, but wear a plain, round necked t-shirt underneath
  • Corduroy jackets work well with indigo jeans or winter chinos
  • Always pair with smart brogues, loafers, chukkas, or country boots

How do you wear your cords? We’d love to hear from you. Please do drop us a line via our Facebook page.

Posted in How To - Style.