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A Closer Look At Corduroy

Posted on: 12th Dec, 2017

Corduroy is perhaps one of the most underrated cotton shirting fabrics in the world of fashion. For many people, it’s not necessarily associated with groundbreaking style. But it should be! Corduroy has a long and fascinating history behind it, and only this year it’s in the midst of a stunning comeback from some of the world’s biggest luxury brands.

The Story Behind Corduroy

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Here’s something you may not have known – corduroy is actually almost 2000 years old. It evolved from an ancient cotton weave called fustian, which was manufactured and used in Ancient Egypt – surprisingly enough in a city called Fustat, not far from Cairo – in around 200AD. Fast forward centuries later, halfway around the world, and it was still being widely used in 18th Century England, where it was viewed as practical and stylish due to its properties of being warm, quick-drying and hard wearing.

At some point, a century or so later, it acquired a reputation of being associated with the poor and the working classes, with higher social classes referring to it with disdain as ‘the poor man’s velvet’. That didn’t quite kill it off entirely, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it would see a resurgence in public popularity. Eventually, corduroy reclaimed an international image of being very much a British invention, becoming to England what tartan is to Scotland. It was even known as the Manchester Cloth in some parts of Europe.

Celebrity endorsement from cultural giants such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones certainly didn’t hurt, and before long it earned another name for itself, becoming a symbol of the creative industry. Now, fast forward again to 2017, and it’s rapidly becoming bigger than ever.

What’s The Appeal?

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Essentially corduroy is a ridged form of velvet, hence its historical moniker as the Poor Man’s Velvet. Its characteristic striped effect is formed by tufted cords, otherwise known as ‘wales’ (not the seafaring kind!). The size of the wale also affects the width of the cords – so basically, the lower the wale, the thicker the cords. The qualities that have made it so attractive to several civilisations throughout history all still apply: namely versatility, durability, warmth and its undeniably lustrous aspect.

With its historic association with the working classes and impoverished artists, it’s interesting to see that this link isn’t necessarily being challenged in today’s fashion world. Instead, they’re being subverted; instead of being ‘old’ and ‘dusty’, corduroy is now often seen as vintage and chic. The fabric’s strong history and cultural connotations alone make it an attractive option for many people, especially in the North of England, and it still has a strong presence in the creative, academia and bohemian scenes.

Experts have observed that these meanings, as well as corduroy’s tactile and visual appeal, all combine to give the shirting fabric an intriguing emotional value – which, when you think about it, is exactly what good personal style does. Our Haworth Stone Cotton Fabric is a prime example of this. Its unassuming stone colour gives it a sophisticated edge, and its notably high wale count imbues it with an intricately fine quality – it’s this latter quality which leads to our Haworth cotton shirting fabric sometimes being referred to as ‘micro-cord’.

If you have any further questions about our Haworth micro-cord, or corduroy in general, we’re here to help! You can email us on sales@acornfabrics.co.uk, or give us a quick call on 01282 698662, and we’ll be happy to provide any help you need.

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