For men of a certain age, corduroy brings to mind only dads and grandads, librarians and geography teachers. For the longest time, it was the fuddy-duddy of fabrics, sober, square and academic. Not any more. That narrow view is increasingly out-of-date and designers are liberally using cord in their collections – on tailoring, shirts and trousers, but best of all, on corduroy jackets.
Forget what you’ve heard about shoes. The first thing people notice about your outfit is usually the jacket. That means outerwear is best placed to make the most of corduroy’s benefits – the tactile textile is enjoying some long-overdue recognition as a versatile fabric for autumn/winter, being luxe and hard-wearing at the same time.
Those dusty-bookshelf connotations are only half the story. In its time, corduroy was durable enough for mountaineers and regal enough for princes.
“Technically it’s an amazing weave,” says Chris Gove, founder of boutique menswear label Percival. “It’s brushed and cut like velvet but woven like heavy twill. The depth and texture of the fabric means it catches the light but without the bling effect of an Elton John performance.”
These days you can dress it up with tailoring or down with denim and workwear staples. It can be an eye-catching point of difference in an outfit, or part of a statement full-cord look. Either way, get one and it will be the hardest working jacket in your wardrobe.
How To Wear A Corduroy Jacket
“Styling corduroy depends on the cut and shape of the jacket,” says Gove. “We tend to favour unlined cropped jackets that can serve as both a mid-layer piece or an outerwear solution. As a mid-layer, over a sweat or shirt is a good office look, then for the evening stint, a melton car coat or sheepskin number looks great over the top.”
You can pair a corduroy jacket with cord trousers if you’re brave enough. Brands like Brunello Cucinelli are selling corduroy suits and co-ord sets, but there is another way to use it in a formal look. Stylist Daniel Johnson says, “I think a corduroy blazer with a roll neck sweater gives an amazing 1970s reference, but with a shaped waist and wider lapel a blazer worn this way will be bang up to date.”
There are also two important factors to think about when you’re buying a corduroy jacket: the wales and the colour. The wale (the number of ridges per inch) determines how formal the jacket is. “The smaller the number, the heavier and bigger the corduroy weave,” says Gove.
“We tend to use anywhere between a 14-16, this is a slightly smaller cord finish that works well on a smarter, more contemporary fit. Occasionally we’ll go down to an 8 which we use on more casual boxier styles, it’s a nod to the retro chic of librarians and geography teachers.”
The texture of a cord jacket holds colour well and lets it shimmer in the light. Judge yours on the palette of the rest of your wardrobe. Black is a classic that will never date, but it’s more on the formal side, whereas bottle greens and deep burgundy shades offer an updated take for pairing with formal attire. Earthy tones of rust, deep beige and smokey blue are solid casual colours.
5 Key Cord Jacket Styles
Cord Trucker Jacket
A style synonymous with denim, a corduroy trucker helps you stand out from the crowd while still wearing something unshowy. It’s easy to style: jeans and a cotton tee are all you need for sunny autumn days or, sized up, layer one over a jumper when the weather turns colder.
Look for one with a borg collar or lining for the warmth of a winter coat on something that retains some blue-collar attitude.
Cord Cropped Jacket
A bomber or Harrington jacket is the most versatile way to embrace the cord jacket trend. This is a style that suits everyone at any age and every body type, plus their rounded silhouettes make the most of corduroy’s tactile finish.
For weekend casual, a cord Harrington looks great with a merino wool jumper, shirt underneath and jeans, or just a tee and some cropped trousers when the weather’s on your side. When it’s not, lean streetwear with a cord puffer jacket instead.
The cord blazer sounds like the easiest style to adopt, but get the fit and styling wrong and you’ll look like an adulterous middle-aged professor. When it’s tailored, however, corduroy is a great alternative to a classic wool blazer. Worn as occasionwear over a crisp white shirt and suit trousers, it’s an instant update for formal attire.
Equally, worn in a deep navy or brown to smarten up a more casual outfit, it becomes office-to-date-night appropriate. For extra menswear points, be bold and wear it with matching trousers.
Cord Worker Jacket
For those who prefer their outerwear casual, work jackets are an ideal way to experiment with corduroy. Deck jackets, chore jackets and other silhouettes are well-suited to autumn/winter being longer and fuller with plenty of pockets. They also lend themselves to thicker cord for maximum insulation.
The way to wear this is layered up and casual – think a T-shirt or knitwear, with a casual shirt layered over the top and jeans with either boots or trainers.
Not strictly speaking a jacket, a corduroy overshirt is arguably a more versatile way to dabble in the trend. Layer it according to the weather and it will work for streetwear, workwear and smart-casual outfits alike.
Wear open over a T-shirt or sweatshirt for mild autumn days, and add a beanie or bucket hat for inch-perfect weekend gear. Then for an evening at the bar, button up to the neck for a smarter look, especially under a tailored overcoat.