As summer winds down and leaves begin to fall, the change in seasons calls for a wardrobe update too. Fall is perfect for thicker fabrics and layers, and the fabric of choice this season is definitely corduroy.
Though it was most famously worn by English royalty, corduroy dates back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt. It’s related to fustian, an ancient cotton weave that was once manufactured in the Egyptian city of Fustat. The fabric eventually made its way to Europe in the 1700s, particularly France and England, where it was called “corde du roi,” or cord of the king. Thanks to its durability and density, corduroy’s popularity eventually trickled down to the working class and was often worn by those working in harsh conditions or cold temperatures.
In more recent memory, corduroy has been associated with everyone from beatniks to college professors. But that was then, and corduroy now—worn as a suit or mixed in with other fabrics as separates—is making a fashion-forward comeback.
How to Style Your Corduroy
Corduroy suits are perfect for the chillier fall months and look great in dark tones like navy, or earthy hues like olive or tan. (Avoid brown if you don’t want that retro professor look.) The best part about a corduroy suit is you get three great options: a suit that’s laid back but still formal enough for the office, and a classic blazer and trousers you can wear as separates. A navy or olive corduroy suit is more formal, whereas a tan one is essentially the winter version of a summer khaki suit.
If you prefer to start small with just the corduroy pants, keep the fabric of your shirt low-key. A crisp, white dress shirt will look clean and professional, while the texture of the corduroy adds interest to the rest of the outfit. If you want to keep warm, throw on a loose cardigan. A corduroy blazer will look great with a crew neck sweater and dark denim.
The width of the vertical ridges between the lines on the corduroy pants, known as “wales,” indicate how thick the weave of the fabric is. The wider the distance between the wales, the thicker and more velvety the actual fabric is. Generally, a finer wale is more subtle in appearance, making it a better option for semi-formal and casual occasions. In contrast, corduroy suits with wider wales are more striking and are ideal for guys who are more fashion-forward.
For one final styling tip, a corduroy jacket with elbow patches is totally acceptable and will preserve the look of your suit. Pair one with a thin knit sweater and slim-fitting pants for a fashionable take on this preppy classic.