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Four ways to wear corduroy

Four ways to wear corduroy

For most men, corduroy is something from their dad's wardrobe – if not their grandad's. Its rep for being a very sensible fabric – warm, hard-wearing, comfortable, impervious to spills and stains – has long made it a favourite of those who value practicality over aesthetics. “But corduroy can offer both,” says Thread stylist Toby Standing.

Long before its adoption by geography teachers, corduroy was considered an affordable alternative to velvet; the fabrics are woven in similar ways and both offer a unique texture and visual depth. “The light plays on corduroy in really interesting ways,” says Toby. “It’s a great way to make any outfit feel a bit more unique.”

That’s courtesy of its signature ridges, properly known as ‘wales’, which refers to the number of ridges per inch: elephant cord has around eight; pinwale around 18. “A high wale generally makes something easier to wear,” says Toby. “It’s also more modern.” From a distance, pinwale adds richness but barely looks like corduroy at all.

Normally, we’d be of the opinion that a man can never have too much texture. But corduroy is the exception. “It can get quite busy,” says Toby. “It’s best to stick to one piece at a time and let it be the focal point.” Below, Toby explains how to make four different pieces work in any wardrobe.

Corduroy trousers

Cord trousers

Photographed: Paul Smith corduroy trousers (£110); Nigel Hall shirt (£85); Wax London coat (£195); Pointer trainers (£99.99)

Wale: Thicker ridges work best below-the-belt.

Fit: Trousers are the most classic use of corduroy, but they can also look dated. “To make it fresh, they should be slim and tapered to the ankle,” says Toby. Length is also vital. “They should touch your shoes, but with no ‘break’ – that means no excess fabric that folds at the ankle.”

Colour: Experimental colours are not the best way to make corduroy feel modern. “Cord trousers should be darker than cord anything else,” says Toby. “Then stick to a rich palette – a plain shirt and neutral coat keep the focus on the texture.”

How to wear it: That said, don’t overdo the texture. “Leather shoes work better than suede, and you should avoid lots of broguing. Added to the ridges in your trousers, your look gets very busy.” Stick to plain smart shoes, or minimal trainers.

Corduroy shirt

Cord shirt

Photographed: Nigel Hall corduroy shirt (£85); Nigel Hall overcoat (£295); GANT trousers (£175)

Wale: Pinwale is best against your skin as it’s subtle and more comfortable.

Fit: Corduroy shirts are more relaxed than cotton, so you can wear them untucked too. “That means they can fit a little looser – think relaxed, not tailored,” says Toby. “They also look great unbuttoned over a tee, because even in finer wales the fabric is thicker and warmer, like an overshirt.”

Colour: The texture already stands out, so don’t double-down with bold colours. “Stick to classic neutrals like navy, particularly if you want to wear it smarter,” says Toby. “The brighter you go, the more casual it feels.”

How to wear it: “A cord shirt is at the more casual end of smart-casual,” says Toby. It’s not the best with suits and you should generally wear them without a tie. However, they’re ideal for making smart trousers more relaxed, but still seeming smart. “They can also look great with dark denim and blazer.”

Corduroy hat

Cord hat

Photographed: Saturdays corduroy hat (£55); H&M Edition jumper (£79.99); Paul Smith jeans (£135); Clae trainers (£90)

Wale: A finer wale works best, but you can go thicker than you would with a shirt.

Style:  Baseball caps are the easiest to wear, but because cord’s a traditional fabric, the hat should look classic too. That means a short brim and no logos.

Colour: As with any accessory, you’ve got more leeway with colour. “It’s a great way to add in something new without it being really impactful on the rest of the outfit,” says Toby.

How to wear it: Caps are always casual, so this is better with a jumper and jeans than a blazer. “You should also avoid cord anywhere else,” says Toby. “Especially trousers, or it can look like you’re bookending your outfit.”

Corduroy jacket

Cord jacket

Photographed: Wax London corduroy jacket (£160); MVP shirt (£22); MVP chinos (£30)

Wale: Cord jackets have workwear heritage, so the ridges should be thicker and more heavy duty.

Fit: You can get corduroy blazers, but they’re tough to wear without looking like a lecturer. “Boxier jackets, which have the same shape as a denim or trucker jacket, are more modern,” says Toby. They should feel relaxed and have room for layering underneath, which makes them perfect for in-between weather.

Colour: “A cord jacket is a great place to experiment with colour,” says Toby. The texture makes brighter shades feel less threatening, as the light creates shadows and depth, which you don’t get with shiny fabrics. If yellow feels a bit much, then other autumnal shades like burgundy or forest green are also a great way to try something new.

How to wear it: As with any bright colour, you need to anchor it in the rest of your outfit. “Stick to neutrals like grey, navy or black so nothing clashes,” says Toby. “You should also chill out on the texture anywhere else.” The jacket itself makes a statement, so let that be the one item that draws the eye.