Tough enough for a bounty hunter, genteel enough for a hobbit; whatever the genre, corduroy comes into its own on the silver screen.
Corduroy was once considered a fusty fabric, only fit for history teachers and trainspotters. But this timeless cloth is enjoying a resurgence among British men. We take a look at ten famous characters who wear it well.
Sundance Kid (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
This 1969 classic stars Robert Redford as Henry Longbaugh, an outlaw otherwise known as the Sundance kid. In early versions of the film, it’s not easy to see the grooves on his cord jacket, as cinematographer Conrad Hall tended to film in the shadows. However, high definition versions reveal that Redford’s jacket is definitely corduroy.
Cut like a suit jacket apart from the leather faced collar, this wide waled garment has five front buttons and plain cuffs. There’s a whiff of western about the yoke which graces the upper back and chest. A long single rear vent makes this well worn jacket ideal for leaping onto trains, and other acts of cowboy banditry.
Tom Ripley (The Talented Mr Ripley)
Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley wears his trusty cord jacket awkwardly. This is somewhat symbolic, as the jacket simply doesn’t fit in with the luxurious world of Dickie Greenleaf, whose lifestyle Ripley adopts. As Ripley morphs into Greenleaf’s life, he swaps preppy jacket for a more classic, tailored European look.
Costume designer Gary Jones adjusted vintage original garments to fit Matt Damon. Perfect for a character who has a limited wardrobe of well-worn clothes.
Jack Torrance (The Shining)
When writer Jack Torrance accepts the post of winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, he hopes the change of scenery will get his creative juices flowing. Instead, the hotel’s violent past takes over and Jack’s changing outfits reflect the gradual decline of his mental state. He starts the film wearing smart tweed jackets and knitted ties but as madness closes in, he reverts to wearing a casual cord bomber with work boots and jeans.
In 2012, designer Margaret Howell announced that she was re-issuing the corduroy jacket Jack wore in The Shining, although the original bomber belonged to actor Jack Nicholson. The question is, did he dare to wear it when filming finished?
Joyce and Jonathan Byers (Stranger Things)
Tear sheets inspired designer Kimberley Adams when she was creating the costumes for this drama. Each character’s wardrobe began with a collection of images from books, movies, magazines and family photograph albums.
Retail clerk Joyce Byers and her son Jonathan are central characters in this nostalgic mystery series, and the use of corduroy features heavily in their wardrobe.
It all adds to the heavy 80s theming. Iconic Rubik’s cubes, corded phones and chopper bikes feature alongside corduroy collars, jackets and even cargo trousers. Luckily, cord’s hardwearing qualities make it ideal for the young group of adventurers who are drawn into a mysterious world of top secret experiments and supernatural forces.
Dave Jennings (National Lampoon’s Animal House)
This 1978 college comedy features Donald Sutherland as paranoid English tutor Dave Jennings. Dressed in a rumpled brown three piece corduroy suit, Sutherland’s character divides his time between interpreting Milton’s poetry and teaching his students how to smoke pot.
Universal Studios only went ahead with the movie after Sutherland signed up to appear as Professor Jennings, as none of the other actors were well known at the time. Convinced that the film would flop, Sutherland declined a 2% share of the profits, asking instead for $35,000 up front. Unexpectedly, the movie was a hit and took $141,600,000 at the box office.
Fantastic Mr Fox
A combination of George Clooney’s voice and a natty cord suit brought Roald Dahl’s Mr Fox to life in Wes Anderson’s 2014 film. Anderson wanted the entire film to be flooded with autumn colours, and Mr Fox’s orangey brown corduroy suit to resemble an autumn leaf. In the words of blogger Quintessential Gent, “Nothing quite says autumn like various shades of orange and yellow in heavy corduroy!”
Fifteen models of the main character were created for this stop motion extravaganza. Our hero was transformed from a dapper young fox to a tailless battle scarred survivor. To immerse themselves in the novel’s countryside location, Wes and writer Baumbach wrote their script at the Dahl family’s house in Buckinghamshire.
Benjamin Braddock (The Graduate)
The Graduate’s iconic advertising poster features Dustin Hoffman in a tan corduroy sports jacket. This preppy piece of clothing encapsulates the Ivy League look, which began life in the elite universities of East coast America.
Braddock achieves the look by wearing clothes that are smart and well-fitting, but understated and comfortable. His jackets are soft shouldered with narrow lapels; the epitome of smart casual. But fashion was on the cusp of change.
While the Ivy look was stylish when Benjamin Braddock graduated, by the end of the 1960s, hair was longer and hippy clothing had replaced neat collegiate jackets. Fast forward to the 1980s and The Brat Pack initiated a resurgence in preppy clothes. Today’s fashionistas can’t get enough of Ivy inspired harrington jackets, unstructured blazers and seersucker shirts.
Django (Django Unchained)
It’s 1859 in America’s deep south. Django, a freed slave played by Jamie Foxx, is on the hunt for his wife, who is in the hands of a ruthless plantation owner. Django begins the film as a subdued slave; by the end he has become a swaggering bounty hunter. His sartorial choices reflect this transformation.
When bounty hunter Schultz first frees Django, he takes the former slave to a clothes shop and tells him to choose an outfit. Django’s initial choice of a baby blue two piece suit with a lace cravat may seem preposterous but it’s actually very similar to valet suits of the period.
For his final iconic look however, Quentin Tarantino wanted Django dressed in a green cord jacket, white trousers and a hat, to resemble Bonanza’s Little Joe. Designer Sharen Davis made 15 different versions of the jacket until she found a cord that looked rugged enough for Tarantino’s taste. Django pairs this with a flat crown hat featuring a sharply upturned brim and khaki trousers.
Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey)
Hobbits are peace-loving creatures who enjoy the simple things in life. Good food, a tankard of beer and a family party with fireworks. Designer Ann Maskrey’s costumes fit in perfectly with the rural idyll that is Hobbiton. Her inspirations were the colour palette and patterns of 19th century designer William Morris. So Bilbo’s costumes include a mix of gold, sandy brown, burgundy and green fabric.
Bilbo’s burgundy frock coat, green blazer and mid-length trousers reflect his status as a well respected hobbit. The corduroy coat features leather covered buttons, a single flap hip pocket and a long vented back, which allows him extra movement when defending himself against aggressive orcs.
Boyd Crowder (Justified)
Wily criminal mastermind Boyd Crowder, played by actor Walton Coggins, has just left prison at the start of this award winning crime drama. With Marshal Raylan Givens offering a $50000 dollar reward for his capture, Boyd is forced to live and work in the woods. To stave off the cold, he dons a grey corded jacket with black fleece insulation that extends over the collar.
According to Levis, Boyd’s jacket is a sherpa trucker design. It’s thin wale, with six metal buttons on the front and a single button to fasten each cuff. There are two patch pockets on the chest and vertical welt pockets to keep the wearer’s hands toasty.
Ideal for a winter in the great outdoors.
Who is your favourite cord-wearing character? We’d love to hear your suggestions over on our Facebook page.