‘People just love the texture of it,’ says Oliver Spencer, designer of Favourbrook, the British occasionwear label based in Pall Mall in London, explaining why corduroy is having a moment. Known for its stylish formalwear for men and women – a perfect solution for black tie events, weddings, Ascot and the like – the label got kick-started by featuring as part of the wardrobe for Four Weddings and a Funeral back in 1994.
But while Favourbrook’s stock in trade for men’s eveningwear has been velvet tuxedos and trousers, Spencer is seeing a new trend emerging – corduroy as dresswear. The label has a suit style with a one-button jacket with a peak lapel, like a classic tux, but instead of velvet or wool, it’s in cotton corduroy and comes in two different widths, or “whales”. ‘This isn’t a three-button corduroy sports jacket,’ says Spencer. ‘It’s a more chic style, with really good proportions and a substantial lapel, though not too wide – we’re not in the 1970s.’
It is, says Spencer, part of ‘a new renaissance of dressing smart’, which sees people wanting to adopt ‘a new old way of dressing’. His take on the corduroy suit is an opportunity to do just that.
‘We’re finding that customers love that it’s formal but that it also has a certain informality about it. Even those that are quite conservative in their dress sense are happy wearing something like this that’s a little bit different.’ Spencer says that corduroy falls in and out of fashion favour, but acknowledges that the traditional view is that it’s a bit librarian or geography teacher.
He, however, has a completely different view. ‘I think it’s a little bit sort of louche if you really dress up with it. Wearing it out at night is a wonderful thing. Maybe it’s not quite as daring as, say, velvet, yet it’s equally attractive looking. And, like velvet, it’s a wonderful colour vehicle. It takes colour so well; the whale gives you that sort of three-dimensional thing, so it has a lustre to it that you don’t get from a flat fabric.’
Favourbrook capitalises on this quality by offering a number of colours of corduroy, from dusky pink and olive to chocolate brown and what Spencer calls ‘royal navy blue’. And he recommends wearing his corduroy suits with coloured shirts, particularly pleated dress shirts, which he offers in unusual fabrics: ‘We have linen, and even pleated denim and cotton chambray. Put one of these on, open at the collar, no bow tie, and you have instant alternative eveningwear. You’ll look totally relaxed and distinctive.’
The designer says that the new trend may be a consequence of post-Covid dressing: people seeking to look smart but with an element of comfort. He himself prefers the fatter ribs: ‘I’m always going to go for the fatter whale because it just looks so much more luxe.’ The width doesn’t, however, make the garments notably heavier.
‘A corduroy suit is actually better after a year,’ he notes. ‘The first time you wear it, it does feel a bit stiff, almost like a pair of new shoes. So it’s the type of thing that grows on you and gets better and better, and fits the body better and better over time.’
There is also a pragmatic benefit to investing in one of Favourbrook’s corduroy suits. ‘The great thing about buying one of these is that, without the jacket, you have a pair of cords to romp around in; but also you’ve got this cool jacket you can wear with track pants or your jeans.’
As a suit, too, despite its more sartorial configuration, it is perfect for daywear, says its designer. ‘Stick a simple shirt or even knit under it and you’ve got a perfectly relaxed outfit for everyday wear. So, counting that as distinct from an eveningwear outfit, it’s actually four looks for the price of one!’