Sweatpants are, unequivocally, the most comfortable things you can wear on your legs. They’re stretchy, soft, warm, cosy and comforting in the colder months. One of the cruellest tricks society ever pulled was deeming them ‘sloppy’, meaning they can seldom be enjoyed in the workplace or at gatherings. But what if we told you there’s a socially acceptable alternative?
Corduroy pants (or as we like to think of them: sweatpants for grown-ups) are your ticket to a cosier, more comfortable fall and winter. Cast aside any preconceived ideas you might hold about them being stuffy, old-fashioned or uncool, because if you’re willing to let some wale into your life, your winter wardrobe will be all the better for it.
Thinking of joining Club Corduroy? There are just a few things you should know before signing up. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at cords, letting you know what to consider in terms of fit and fabric, and introducing you to the best brands in the business.
Corduroy is a textured fabric, often made from cotton or wool, that features distinctive raised ridges, called ‘wales’. It’s what’s known as a ‘pile weave’, which is a type of fabric with a three-dimensional quality. Other examples of this type of textile would be velvet and terry cloth. Pile-weave fabrics are known for their soft feel and visible texture, and corduroy is no exception.
But why does any of that mean you should consider a pair of pants made from the stuff? Well, first off, the thickness of corduroy makes it warmer to wear than plain old cotton. The wales add volume, which helps to insulate, and the softness of the fabric makes it nice and cosy in cold weather.
Corduroy also has a good amount of stretch to it. This aids comfort, which is what we mean when we compare corduroy pants to sweatpants. They’re far less restrictive than jeans, chinos or dress pants, making them a more comfortable alternative.
As if that wasn’t enough to convince you of the merits of corduroy legwear, there’s the visual component too. This is a heavily textured fabric that has a lovely sheen to it. It packs a visual punch that can bring outfits to life in a subtle but effective way, without having to resort to statement colours or patterns.
Corduroy Pants Buying Considerations
As always, fit is king. You can spend hundreds on a pair of Gucci cords, but if they don’t fit right, they’re not going to look good. A good pair of corduroys should fit you much the same as a pair of jeans.
Chances are you already know what works for you, but if in doubt just remember that the end goal is balance. This means that if you’re very slim, you’ll want to avoid anything overly loose fitting or wide legged; if you’re thicker set, it’s best to steer clear of anything too tight or fitted.
Generally speaking, just avoid extremes altogether. A classic straight or tapered leg in a regular cut is always a foolproof option.
Corduroy isn’t all the same. It varies in thickness from garment to garment, and this thickness is determined by the width of each individual wale and the number of them.
At one end of the scale you have extremely fine ‘needle cord’, which generally has about 16 wales per inch, and the other you have wide-wale corduroy, which might feature as little as eight. The wider the wale, the thicker the fabric.
Fine corduroy with a high wale count is subtler and slightly smarter than its wide-wale counterpart .
Corduroy pants come in lots of different varieties so you need to think about when and how you want to wear them before choosing one.
Pleated cords are great for teaming with soft tailoring in smart-casual settings, whereas a plain, straight-leg cord is great for teaming up with casualwear. There are even cargo cords and corduroy worker pants these days.
The Best Brands For Corduroy pants
We’ve long been fans of Percival and its playful, distinctly British take on classic casualwear. The London-based label puts a contemporary spin on all the core menswear staples, resulting in a range of garments you could happily deck out an entire wardrobe in.
Naturally then, Percival is no stranger to a good pair of corduroy pants. The brand offers a number of its best-selling legwear options in cord, including its Dress Trousers, Wide Leg Trousers and classic Straight Leg Trousers.
ISTO is a brand that’s all about wardrobe minimalism and quality. The range isn’t huge, but that’s only because each piece has been carefully considered and simple, classic styles take precedence over transient, trend-led designs.
The label offers a single corduroy trouser, available in a small number of muted, wearable shades. It features a classic, tapered cut and is handmade in Portugal, with full pricing transparency on the ISTO website so you can see exactly where your money is going.
Corduroy has long been one of the key fabrics utilised by British brand Universal Works. It’s a material that fits in well with the label’s trademark mix of workwear, unstructured tailoring and relaxed casualwear, featuring heavily in the fall/winter collection every year.
There are too many corduroy legwear options to cover in depth, but a few of our favourites include the Military Chino, which features a mid rise and loose, tapered fit, and the incredible Super Chino, available in a stunning paisley printed fine-wale fabric.
We’re not sure what’s in the water in Denmark, but whatever it is, it helps to produce some fantastic brands. Founded in 2014, Forét is a relative newcomer to the scene, but it has already established itself as one of the coolest young tastemaking labels to emerge from the country.
It’s contemporary menswear with an outdoorsy twist, courtesy of an earthy colour palette and practical details. Legwear-wise, cords make up a big part of the offering.
We’re particularly fond of the Brook trouser, which has pleats, flat pockets on the back and a nice roomy cut.
Closed is a German brand with its roots in denim, but there’s more going on here than just great jeans. In the label’s own words, the clothes embrace Closed’s European heritage. Since 1978, the core idea behind the brand has been to embody “French imagination, Italian craftsmanship and German tradition”.
Denim is still a huge part of the brand’s offering, but there are plenty of other trouser styles to get stuck into too, including corduroy pants.
Form & Thread
Built around the concept of ‘slow fashion’, Form & Thread creates classic, versatile pieces that transcend trends and are designed to stand the test of time. In doing this, the aim is to reduce the consumption of throwaway fashion.
Everything in the range is clean and understated, with a big focus on high-quality production and premium materials. Take the corduroy pants for example, which are made in Portugal from an eight-wale corduroy fabric and feature double pleats and a roomy, relaxed cut.