Words by Mark Smith
Illustration by Clay Whitter
When outsiders consider Manchester, their thoughts inevitably turn to the rich musical history of the city. You‘ve heard all about that a million times over though, so rather than chat on about chords, it‘s time you heard about cords. The ones you wear on your legs.
The first thing to say is this isn‘t just us observing some weird micro-trend in the four streets surrounding our shop. Corduroy is a fabric rooted in our part of the world, so much so that elsewhere on the planet they don't call it Corduroy, they just call it Manchester. We're not making this up. We‘ll even pause while you open a new tab and google it.
See. Told you.
The golden age of corduroy in Manchester was arguably the era when the disenfranchised style conscious tribes of working class lads decided enough was enough, and it was time to dress down. In the mid-80s cord really established itself in the consciousness of clubbers and terrace dwellers alike.
It was an era when label-led lads were the thing to be, but typically in our part of the world, it was always more about the look. People dressed up to stand out, but it became such a cliché that dressing down was more likely to make you stand out. The luxury scruff was born and corduroy trousers were an integral part of the look. In fact some people even wore cord shoes and jackets. Rarely together, but still, cord fabric became the Mancunian mainstay.
It‘d be very easy to abandon the story at this point, but the appeal of this enigmatic fabric stretches way beyond the corduroy conurbation which envelopes Manchester.
While the burgeoning club culture a generation ago played a key part in our appreciation for corduroy, the real pioneers were brands like Levi's and Lee. Mastering the American sports casual aesthetic, they reclaimed this luxurious cloth for the common man and found favour with the musicians, creatives and clandestine communes of the 1960s.
While it‘s commonly and understandably associated with professors of Geography or History, the real appeal of cord lies in their antithesis. The counter culture of that era gave rise to the popularity of cord. The dishevelled dropout drummer and the bearded bohemian boffin are the real stars in the story of cord. The folk rock pioneers centred around Laurel Canyon. They're the real catalysts of cool.
Denim is quite rightly ubiquitous, whereas corduroy presents a more refined yet relaxed alternative, simultaneously boasting all those desirable qualities you'd find in denim. Like a pair of jeans, a cord trouser will assimilate itself to its wearer over time, like some kind of cool chameleon. One made out of corduroy.
All good design tends to be timeless, whether it‘s a nice Danish chair, some German engineering or intricate Japanese technology. A pair of cords belongs in the wardrobe of anyone who appreciates this sort of thing. Looking just as great now as they did when they were part of Jagger's sixties swagger, cord is here to stay.
So grow your hair, and dress like the Byrds to impress the birds. It‘s time to sing and praise the Cord.