How to wear corduroy
If we’re going back to the 1970s in terms of economic inflation, we might as well go back to this decade for something much more wonderful: corduroy.
While corduroy clothing came to prominence in the days of gas shortages and boogie nights, it never quite went out of style (although the baggy corduroy pants of the 90s—with plenty of room for a proper hacker throw—did their best to kill it ). Corduroy is a classic. It’s soft – it’s actually made from the same fabric as velvet. It’s warm and comfortable – perfect for the colder months. It’s durable—and stain-resistant, too. Plus, it has a nice, tactile texture that’s not only great to touch, but also stands out (and not just because of the squirming sound it can make when you walk).
The uniqueness of corduroy gives men some hesitation to incorporate it into their wardrobe. You may have asked yourself, “How can I style this ribbed fabric and what do I wear it with?”
We’ll give you some tips below.
A few general principles for wearing corduroy
Corduroy is casual. The formality of corduroy pants is on par with jeans and khakis, depending on the cut and style. And while corduroys of all kinds can be dressed up or down a bit, they’re smart casual. It is a substance with relaxed vibrations.
Thinner plate=more formal / wider waist=more casual. Corduroy’s cords — its vertically running ribs/ridges — are called wales. Each piece of corduroy fabric has a “stitch count” which is its number of stitches per inch. Thicker walls mean fewer walls; thinner walls mean more walls. A garment with a lower number of ribs (wider ribs) is more casual; a garment with a higher number of ribs (thinner ribs) is more formal (relatively speaking).
A thinner, finer stripe (called pincord, pinwale or needlecord) is often found on upper body garments (shirts, blazers), with a thicker stripe being more common on trousers. The exception to this rule is corduroy outerwear, which usually has a low thread count.
Don’t go overboard with the patterns/textures you pair with corduroy. Corduroy has a lot of texture and personality, so when you wear a garment made from this fabric, let it be the star of your sartorial show. As a general (not ironclad) rule of thumb, you don’t want your get up too busy by pairing a corduroy piece with other boldly patterned/textured pieces. So if you’re wearing corduroy pants, pair them with a smoother knit sweater rather than a chunky, ribbed one. Or if you’re wearing a corduroy jacket, layer it with solid colored buttons rather than a loud plaid.
Also, unless you’re rocking a corduroy suit (and that’s great for you if you are), you only want to wear one corduroy piece.
How to wear corduroy
There are many garments made from corduroy, including suits, outerwear, jackets, and hats. Below we offer some tips on how to wear its most basic and common iterations: sports jackets, pants and shirts.
How to wear a corduroy sports jacket/blazer
A corduroy sports jacket (often referred to as a blazer, even though it technically isn’t) may be associated with academic types, but it’s smart without being stuffy, no matter what your profession.
A corduroy sports jacket is a great choice when you want to look a bit dressed up but still relaxed. Wear one if you work in a more casual workplace, but not a jeans-and-t-shirt casual workplace (like being a teacher or a librarian – natch!) or for an event that feels special but not formal, like going out to dinner with your lady.
Corduroy sports jackets are most often found in various shades of brown, and the versatility of this color makes it a good choice to complement your wardrobe. You can also find jackets in green, burgundy and navy, and these can certainly work if your budget and taste allows for a piece that will see less use and make you stand out more.
Paul Newman demonstrates how a corduroy sports jacket look, when styled differently, can range from “eager professor” to “unassailable cool dude”.
For the bottom half, pair a corduroy sports jacket with jeans, chinos or trousers along with chukkas, leather boots or dress shoes at the more casual end of the formality spectrum. Layer a solid color (it’s hard to go wrong with white) button down or a thin solid color sweater or turtleneck (give the turtleneck a chance!). If you’re wearing a button down, consider adding a more casual tie; as an exception to the rule of not pairing textured accessories with textured corduroy, a knit tie works well here.
If your jacket wears on your elbows, you can sew on patches for a full professor look.
How to wear corduroy pants
Corduroy pants are more comfortable than jeans and more interesting than chinos.
They come in a spectrum of colors, with brown, grey, green and navy being the most common, and are available in a multi-pant style, as well as a five-pocket version; the former is a bit dressier and the latter is basically interchangeable with jeans. But while corduroy sport jackets with thinner ribbing can be dressed up and down a bit more, corduroy trousers with their thicker ribbing form a base that’s more firmly rooted in casualness.
To avoid the dated, baggy look of the 90s-era wide leg, opt for corduroy trousers with a slimmer, straighter cut. Pants should have little or no chafing; the bottom of the leg should touch the top of your shoes without the fabric folding/squeezing over them.
Corduroy pants pair well with crewneck sweaters, henleys, solid-colored tees, turtlenecks, and casual button-down shirts. Combine a simple plaid with pants that complement one of its colors. In the footwear department, reach for boots, chukkas and leather or canvas sneakers.
How to wear corduroy shirts
Corduroy shirts are warm, comfortable, rugged, handsome and stupidly easy to wear.
Those made with a fine pin are more suitable for wearing alone; those made with a thick cord are more suitable for layering over another shirt. But both can do double duty as a standalone piece or as an overshirt/jacket shirt. The second option is perfect for autumn when the weather is cool, but not so cold that you need to wear a full coat. Just layer a corduroy shirt over a henley or plain tee (white is classic), pair with jeans or chinos and canvas trainers or leather boots and you’re good to go.