Fall is definitely one of my favourite seasons of the year, especially when it comes to dressing well. It’s the perfect time of year to start experimenting with different textures and layers, not to mention with richer and warmer colours as well.
Things like tweed sport coats, lambswool sweaters, chunky knit cardigans, and leather boots etc. is what the fall season is all about.
In other words, it’s about looking good while keeping warm.
In fact, I can’t think of a better way to do just that then with a pair of corduroy trousers – a quintessential garment for the fall and winter season and a style essential for every man.
For those of you who don’t know, corduroy is basically a rigid form of velvet that is created by twisting fibres of cotton together and weaving them in parallel rows or “cords.” This is what gives corduroy its distinctive “ribbed” texture.
Given corduroy’s natural rough, durable texture it has been used extensively for men’s working and sporting clothing for hundreds of years.
That’s why cords are an excellent addition to any man’s wardrobe for the fall and winter months. Not only does their unique texture add some visual interest to your outfit, but they can also keep you warm. In other words, cords do a great job of combining both form and function.
What are wales?
You know those characteristic ridges or cords you see on a pair of corduroy trousers? They are actually referred to as “wales”, and the number of whales per inch determines how thick a pair of cords will appear. For example, the lower the wale number, the thicker the width of the cord. Most standard corduroy trousers will come in 11-wale (11 wales or cords per inch), while 4-wale cord trousers will be about the thickest you will find on the market.
As a general rule of thumb, the lower the wale number (i.e. thicker cords) means the less formal the trousers will be (largely as a result of a thicker and heavier fabric). So if you are interested in “dressing up” your cords, then I highly recommend looking into cords that are at least 11-wale and above.
How to wear cords
However, if I were to “dress up” my cords I would make sure to choose a pair of cords with a high wale count (at least 11-wale). The finer or higher wale count results in a trouser that looks little more refined and polished in my opinion and pairs much better with formal items such as dress shirts, ties, and blazers etc.
One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is through a pair of colourful cord trousers, but you have to make sure you do it right. First, focus on the fall spectrum of colours – mustard, olive, rust, and burgundy are all excellent choices for the season. Second, my recommendation would be to ensure that you keep whatever else you are wearing relatively muted. For example, if you decide to wear a pair of mustard coloured cords, don’t pair them with a rust coloured sweater. Chances are that you will have just too much going on. Instead, go with something more neutral like a navy sweater. In other words, let the cords speak for themselves.
It almost goes without saying but finding a pair of cords that fit is absolutely essential. It’s the difference between looking like a stylish gent or more like your grandfather.
The fact is that cords don’t have the best reputation to begin with. When most people think of corduroy they think of stuffy old professors and senior citizens, not young, hip, stylish men. The problem is with the way cords are typically worn by men. First, they choose cords with an ultra-low wale count which looks flattering on the rarest of men. Secondly, like most other garments, cords are worn with a baggy fit. These two factors combined result in a less than flattering look and draws the wrong kind of attention.
That’s why it’s critical that you focus on the fit of your cords. Ensure that they fit trim (not necessarily slim) through the thigh and that you don’t have an excessive pooling of fabric at your ankles – the standard advice for the fit of any trouser.
Cords are an excellent option for the fall and winter months. Their texture, durability, and overall rugged aesthetic make them perfect for pairing with other work wear items. The key to wearing them well is in choosing a pair with an appropriate wale count for how you want to wear them (dressed up vs. casual), selecting the right colour, and dialing in the fit. These details are what will separate you from the pack so make sure you get them right. Remember, details matter!
And as always,
Here’s to looking sharp!