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FOR THE LOVE OF CORDUROY

The celebration of corduroy culture and fabrication is a never ending story of inspiration and exploration.

Although corduroy may seem to be a 20th century fashion phenomenon, its history actually spans over two thousand years. This manufactured textile existed for thousands of years before it came to acquire the name of corduroy as we know it. It was used and manufactured in 200 AD in Egypt, in a city called Fustat near Cairo (the capital of Arabian Egypt at this time). In Fustat, around 200AD, Egyptian weavers figured out that thick twills and coarse sateen fabrics (often blended with wool and linen) were hearty enough to withstand brushing; the finish that made these fabrics soft and special. Brushed fabrics were an exclusive Egyptian specialty until they were imported to Italy during the Middle Ages, where the Royals appreciated the novelty of it.

The fabric became known as ‘fustian’ in 12th Century Europe, evolving from the ancient cotton weave known as ‘fustian’ - and although a close association to what we now call corduroy, the name was not fully developed until England’s Industrial Revolution pulverised the way textiles were manufactured. The fabric became more popular with the growth in the cotton trade from the 12th – 14th centuries, distributing the fabric throughout Europe via Italy and a sought- after exotic fabric amongst royalty and wealthy Europeans - the most expensive versions - Naples fustian - a true-cut pile made using the original technique continues the elite reputation of the textile worn by King Henry VIII in the 16th Century. In the 17th Century, French royal servants were known to wear a fine but durable woven velvet fustian-style fabric made from silk and by the 18th Century fustian becomes commonly known as a cotton and linen mix woven fabric with a raised and sheared nap. In England,the cloth, still called fustian, is manufactured as a modern, practical choice of outdoor textile and a popular choice for workwear given it's warmth, dries quickly and is hard-wearing.

During the 18th century it becomes commonly used as working garments as well as sporty garments for use in horse riding courses and the military. Ribbed fustian becomes widely available which more closely resembles the corduroy we recognize from the 20th Century. Fustian starts to become known as ‘cotton velvet’ and ‘corduroy’ in England - the idea behind changing its name to 'corduroy’, was to promote the fabric as a royal symbol of French 18th century prestige, taken from the phrase -“corde du roi (cloth of the king)”. It also becomes especially popular amongst schoolmasters and in ink-based trades (an image that still is associated with corduroy today). White fustian is also adopted for ladies’ dresses at this time. What we now recognize as corduroy emerged in the late 18th century in Manchester, England as factory wear during the Industrial Revolution.

Iconic Corduroy

Modern history

Given that everyone has a history with corduroy the culture and the celebration of the fabrication is plentiful and a never ending story of inspiration and exploration. Through out modern history corduroy has played an important role in the artistic and cultural world. This is a short cut to some of the greatest corduroy moments and icons of our times, so far.

1960s

Corduroy increases in popularity and becomes a symbol of anti-establishment as a natural, less rigid material in neutral colours. College students and beatniks wear it as an alternative to their chinos and denim jeans. During the late 1960s and 1970s era, corduroy becomes a symbol of anti-establishment as a natural, less rigid material in neutral colours. The faded, worn look of the 1960s gave way to splashy colour in the 1970s that is still popular today.

1970s

Corduroy becomes fashionable among preps and surfers. The faded, worn look of the 1960s gives way to an explosion of colour and pattern. Corduroy jeans start to become a widespread staple of informal dressing still popular today. The Southern Californian surf and skate culture of the 70s is probably one of the meaningful cultural connexions to corduroy. Browse through Hugh Holland’s photo book “Locals Only” and you’ll get the picture. Surfer slang corduroy refers to the perfect blue glassy waves stretching into the distance, rolling towards the shore in neat lines resembling of the wales of the fabrication.

1980’s and 1990s

During the Grunge era, led by Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vader of Pearl Jam, corduroy pants are casually combined with flannel shirts and Dr. Martens. In late 1990s stretch corduroy is introduced, creating a new, less bulky shape for the fashion-conscious.

The Future

The Cords & Co revitalises a classic, familiar, often forgotten fabric and present it to a new audience in a new way. 

We reinvent and rediscover keeping front of mind the very characteristics of the fabrication - the durability and functionality and interpret and incorporate them into everything we do. We experiment in wales, washes, treatments, selvage and - paying homage to the past but progressing into the future. 

Modern Corduroy

CONSTRUCTION

‘Corduroy’ is made of textile fibres, like cotton or cotton-blends such as rayon and polyester. The fibres are woven with loose threads that are then cut to create a pile, or thick, soft texture. Most corduroy has ridges, or wales, of this pile that run the length of the fabric. It is characterised by a raised, ribbed, sheared surface nap and underlying weave with one warp and two fillings. Made from woven, twisted fibres which lie in parallel rows or ‘cords’ to form the cloth’s texture, the cords usually have a channel between them. Known to be a strong durable fabric with a rounded cord, rib, or wale surface formed by cut pile yarn, the back of the fabric has a plain or a twill weave. After it is woven, the back of the cloth is coated with glue; the floats of pile yarn are then cut in their centre. The glue prevents the filling from drawing out of the goods during the cutting. The glue is removed from the face, which is then subjected to a series of brushings, waxing, and singeing to produce a velvet-like ribbed finish.

Wales

The different qualities of corduroy are named according to the number of wales per inch. The wales (ridges) of corduroy are formed by having extra filling yarns woven into a background. The filling yarns float over several or more warp yarns, then under one or two. The yarns floating over the surface are then cut, leaving tufts of yarn that are brushed up into soft vertical ridges. The wales are rounded as the float threads are longer at the centres of the ridges.