The Style Column - The corduroy conundrum

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Esquire's former-editor-turned-columnist Jeremy Langmead delivers some advice on how to wear corduroy.Corduroy, tweed and velvet: what do those three words conjure up in your brain? I’d take a guess the image that springs to mind isn’t Daisy Lowe frantically ripping your clothes off, but a slightly less seductive one of Mr Owens, your old geography teacher at school, droning on about stratocumulus clouds. And yet, despite the odds seeming stacked against them, all three fabrics are in fashion this autumn - and they’re looking pretty good.

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It’s quite heartwarming to see fusty old fabrics get an Extreme Makeover. And this isn’t the fashion industry sneakily helping the EU get rid of mountains of unwanted corduroy and tweed. Designers such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Hentsch Man really have reinvented these Seventies mainstays and given them a sleek, stylish new look.

The most impressive comeback is corduroy. The main problem with it until now is that it’s never been seen as sexy. I blame jumbo cords. In the past, they always came in a dodgy dark brown, or a strange marmalade colour that you don’t often see any more, and looked as if they were tailor-made for Hagrid (and worn by Hooray Henrys).

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And, to top it all, if you tried to scratch a bit of spilt Ginsters pie off them the tufts became irreparably damaged — I assume this is because Sloanes don’t eat Ginsters pies and this design flaw was therefore seen as unimportant.

The cords out this autumn, however, are slim-fitting, available in an impressive array of colours (believe it or not, crumpled orange or red are a good bet), and make a viable alternative to jeans. I’m currently wearing a pair of light brown skinny Gucci ones, teamed with a mustard and navy striped This is Not a Polo Shirt and a midnight blue velvet Burberry jacket (oh dear, this sounds like a tweet from someone who works at Vogue).

And, despite my advanced years, Brian Blessed beard, and horn-framed spectacles, the ensemble doesn’t, I think, make me look remotely fuddy-duddy. So imagine how nice it would look on young people.

It’s all in the nip’n’tuck with velvet, too; a fabric that can, in the wrong hands, make you appear a wee bit weighty looks startlingly modern and flattering when cut slim and short in a blazer by Burberry Prorsum. In the right hands, velvet’s definitely more Lil Wayne than Leslie Phillips; more hip-hop than ding dong.

And the same goes for tweed. Admittedly, this has plopped in and out of fashion numerous times over the last decade, but this time they’ve really got it right: tweed is good, as Gordon Gekko would have said if Michael Douglas had played him with a lisp. In the hands of Maison Martin Margiela, or Topman, it’s far more Jay Gatsby than Toad of Toad Hall.

A former colleague of mine at The Sunday Times, a little on the plump side if I’m honest, had a penchant for loudly checked tweeds. It was not a happy coupling. Whenever he was spotted approaching our desks, the copy editors would warn each other by hollering: “Poop poop!” So if you’re going down the tweed route, keep the adornments to a minimum and, rather than do a full tweed ensemble, mash it up a bit by teaming a tweed blazer with denims, or tweed trousers with a simple white shirt, slim tie and fitted cardigan (very Yves Saint Laurent).
There’s a guy in my office today - he’s called Tom Ford, but isn’t that Tom Ford - wearing a grey tweed Topman jacket with an untucked blue chambray shirt, skinny black jeans, red socks and scuffed brown brogues. It looks great; in fact, it looks very Dr Who.

In which case - and you may well have seen this one coming - corduroy, tweed and velvet probably should conjure up images of Daisy Lowe frantically ripping your clothes off. After all, it worked for Matt Smith.

Jeremy Langmead is the editor-in-chief of MR PORTER

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