Probably one of the first images that comes to mind when thinking of corduroy are, for most of us, its distincive stripes. Meanwhile tough, their first appearance can be dated as recently as XX 60’ – an incredible fact, considering that the history of this unique fabric reaches as far as ancient Egypt!
The history of this wonderful fabric is indeed marked by many surprising facts.
11th of November marks the Idependance Day in Poland, in England – it’s the Veterans Day. It is, however, another important date – the International Corduroy Day! Why was this particular day chosen to celebrate this fabric? Corduroy exists in various widths of stripes and its kind is defined by wale – a unit of measure signifying the number of stripes per inch of fabric. Thicker corduroys were traditionally used for making trousers or outerwear and thinner ones – for pieces worn from waist up. The date – 11th of November, or 11/11 is a reference to the way the fabric is woven.
To the touch corduroy resembles velvet, and not surprisingly so as both fabrics stem from the same roots. It is a cotton, cotton-wool or cotton-silk blend woven in a unique way, giving it a distinctive sheen. It is velvety to the touch and yet very warm and resistant.
One thing differentiating corduroy from velvet tough is subtleness – corduroy is much thicker, more rough and resistant. It comes as no surprise then that it is considered a more manly fabric than velvet, perhaps less noble and perceived as an „ugly step sister” to it’s velvety sibling.
Similarly to tweed, corduroy is considered to be a singularly English fabric. Unfortunately the sole remaining traditional supplier of cord is Brisbane Moss as most British manufacturers did not stand the test of time.
Cord did not have an easy way onto the catwalk – its road has always been marked by comparisons to its velvety counterpart, a more noble and older sister. Named the „velvet of the poor”, corduroy’s endurance and resistance would paradoxically always lose the battle against velvet’s fineness and remain a „lesser” fabric for the years to come.
Even tough cord had its spot with the heights of society, rising as far as the royal court for a certain period, it quickly went downhill and started being used for less elegant purposes such as children’s clothes, military uniforms, hunting or riding wear and finally clothing for the working class.
Corduroy’s identity changed, however, in the XX 60’ thanks to both its characteristic stripe and intellectuals of that time with their labour sympathies. Cord’s nonchalance and working class connotations, supported by its softness to touch and luxurious sheen established it as a fabric of choice for the intellectual movement of the decade.
Thinking of corduroy inevitably conjures up the 1970’. And with good reason. This was the particular moment in time when corduroy had a true spot in the limelight. A previously underestimated fabric became a real anti-establishment banner.
In 1973 „The Chicago Tribune” would write: „Why? Because it’s luxurious and functional at the same time. It can look dressed up or dressed down. It holds its shape and is easy to care for. It adapts well to clothing for your entire family. It’s durable – and economical.”
Soon after, however, corduroy was quickly put back down on the discard pile. In the 80’ the house of Versace seemed determined to made a go of reestablishing it as a fashionable choice but with poor result. In the 90. corduroy had a brief moment of glory as a cord-stretch blend and was appreciated by the grunge culture. Since then, unfortunately, it has been set aside as a representative of the defamed „dad clothes” category.
It seems, tough, that corduroy has not said it’s last word, it has simply been waiting for the right time. In 2018 cord graced the collections of many, from Ralph Lauren, through Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Prada, to Brunello Cuccinelli, Luca Rubinacci and finally Drake’s…
Our Corduroy Garments
Why should we love this fabric then? The reasons are quite mundane and simple: it’s soft but at the same time resilient, warm but visually aesthetic, pleasant to the touch and durable, it comes from a labour background but is somehow associated mostly with intellectuals and great cinema. Cord simply has it all!
A brief list of corduroy’s admirers (Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Pablo Picasso, Wes Anderson, Matisse, Paul Newman, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Woody Allen…) says everything – cord is and has been in indeed good company and in good taste.
Chances are that corduroy will establish its place in our hearts as well as on the streets for good. And rightfully so! There are only so many universal fabrics of this kind, especially dedicated to those of us based in places where the weather doesn’t spoil us all year round.