How To Wear Corduroy (Without Looking Like A Geography Teacher)

The fabric trend of the season isn't going anywhere. Here's how to get it right.

BY SAM PARKER | Feb 21, 2018 | Fashion

Esquire UK: Photography by Sarah Blais; Styled by Catherine Hayward; outfits by Prada.

For years corduroy was a fabric left out in the cold, a menswear throwback no one would be seen dead in except Geography teachers, aging Trotskyists and, well, Jarvis Cocker.

No more. Now, corduroy is back with a vengeance, from the jackets in Stranger Things to the autumn / winter runways where Prada’s three-piece suits and Giorgio Armani’s zip-up hoodies were key corduroy sightings in a broader Seventies style revival.

Hard-wearing and warm, corduroy’s practical benefits have never been in doubt, but now the ridged ‘cord’ pattern – known as a ‘wale’ – is being appreciated once again as a way of adding depth and contrast to an outfit.

The problem is that, done sloppily, it will age you quicker than a glance at Donald Trump's Twitter feed. The trick to making sure your corduroy looks contemporary - rather than the result of raiding your Dad’s wardrobe - is to wear one key piece at a time, and avoid bagginess at all costs by keeping the style and cut modern.

And no leather patches. Definitely no leather patches.


Ever since 1978 when Donald Sutherland wore a rumpled brown corduroy suit as try-hard English lecturer Dave Jennings in National Lampoon’s Animal House, the corduroy blazer has been synonymous with dullness and academia. And there’s nothing cool about academia.

A modern way to get some corduroy into your upper half rotation is to buy a jacket with a thick wade in a boxier cut, like a denim or bomber jacket. Neutral colours will always work, but if you’re feeling brave go for something fresher in mauve, olive or even sky blue, keeping the rest of your outfit nice and muted.


Your trousers are the safest and most ‘classic’ way into corduroy, but there are risks. Cut too wide and worn with boots or brogues, you’re going to stray into That ’70s Showterritory. Instead go for a slim fit that tapers to the ankle, breaking at the top of your shoes – ideally a pair of minimalist leather trainers.


Smart layering is about mixing up textures, so a corduroy shirt is a great way to create some contrast with your cotton and wool wardrobe staples. Wear open over a t-shirt, buttoned up under a denim jacket or – it it’s chilly – both.

The 'expert level' of corduroy-dom (it's a thing), the key to wearing a corduroy suit is to stick to a narrow wade - also known as needlecord - that looks a bit like velvet for a slicker silhouette.


Thanks to corduroy's rep for being a bit slovenly, getting the fit perfect is more crucial than ever, so if you're buying off the peg, make sure you take it into a tailor for once over.

Finally, try and pair it with items that will counteract the retro vibe. A dress shirt buttoned up without a tie (air tie!), a roll-neck in a punchy colour or a denim shirt will all make a classic tan corduroy suit feel like it belongs in 2018, rather than 1978.

From: Esquire UK