Despite its nerdy, librarian-chic connotations, corduroy is a fabric that has an enduring capacity for cool. For every buttoned-up Wes Anderson star there’s an insouciant Jane Birkin. This autumn, both geeky and relaxed versions of the cut-pile fabric appeared on the catwalks, the highlight for me being Prada’s 1970s-inspired trouser suit (jacket, £1,540, trousers, £505), neatly cut, dapper and worthy of a place in Fantastic Mr Fox’s wardrobe.
Cord was also on offer from Marc Jacobs, Céline, Lemaire and Sportmax, leaving me incredibly pleased with the mint-condition, second-hand Margaret Howell corduroy blazer I’d recently snaffled at Jim Dandy Vintage in Camberwell. Drawn to its irresistible velvety texture, I couldn’t wait to stroke the nap and slip it on.
Although I associate corduroy with a childhood spent up north in the 1970s, the name derives from the French corde du roi – or “cloth of the king”. Until the 19th century, this ribbed cotton or wool fabric was used for livery, going on to be employed as workwear for farm labourers, and later factory workers. “I love its history – from royal cloth to working class hero,” says Omar Varts, CEO of new Swedish label The Cords & Co, whose womens- and menswear offerings are made up entirely of corduroy. “It has a dressed-up, dressed-down aesthetic and is as much a choice for mountaineering as for poetry writing. I love its texture, its stripes, its ribs, its ups and downs.”
Emphasising the fabric’s countercultural connections, Australia-born Varts goes on to list some of his favourite cord-wearers, including Bob Dylan, photographer Hugh Holland and painter/filmmaker Julian Schnabel. I’ve fallen for the brand’s sumptuous, black cord biker jacket ($475), which proves that the cloth of kings is also suitable for Scandi-loving style queens. With six Cords & Co stores opening around the world this autumn – including in Stockholm, London and New York – company owner Mikael Söderlindh (who also founded colourful hosiery brand Happy Socks) must be hoping that the company’s strapline “For the love of corduroy” may well catch on.
Corduroy’s trademark ridges (known as wales) come in both narrow and wider versions, referred to as needle- and jumbo cord. The latter made an appearance on the Paris catwalk at Lemaire, where a chocolate-brown oversized jacket (€880) and matching trousers (€420) had autumn all wrapped up, and showed up at Céline in the form of low-slung trousers in a rose-pink straight leg (£670) or fuchsia flares (£870). Meanwhile, those partial to Western-inspired fashion will appreciate Marc Jacobs’ beautiful, plum, needlecord jacket with faux-shearling lining (£550 from Net-a-Porter).