Every Christmas, I ask my loved ones for at least two pairs of corduroy trousers. Off with a sigh tramps my girlfriend, who knows that fashion cycles dictate that corduroy will be ‘in’, and therefore purchasable, only every fourth or fifth year or so. For three or four years corduroy will be invisible. Shop assistants will look askance at anyone who dares even mention it. Then corduroy is rediscovered by whoever decides these things, and it’s everywhere. Cushions are in corduroy. Dogs wear corduroy. I saw a corduroy tie the other day. At such times we corduroy lovers stock up, conscious of the long corduroy-free winter that will inevitably follow.
I bought my first two pairs of corduroy trousers in 1979, when I was at university. One was blue, one was brown, they were both thick corduroy and I wore them both with great pleasure. Until one day I happened to be present when two of my friends decided to ingest some magic mushrooms. One of them is now dead (nothing to do with mushrooms), the other is an eminent and extremely rich merchant banker. Like many drug neophytes, they wondered why the mushrooms weren’t working and so took some more — far too many, as it turns out. I was there in an observational capacity (i.e. to take them to hospital if it all went wrong) and they decided, among other things, that my brown corduroy trousers were watching them. Indeed, after the drugs had worn off, these remained ‘the watching trousers’, and both of my friends reacted with alarm, leaching into abject terror, whenever they saw me wearing them. So obviously I did wear them, possibly a little too often.
Did I become a writer because of my fondness for corduroy? Or did my writerly leanings propel me in a corduroy direction? I’m not sure I care, to be honest, but I would say that there remains a fellowship of corduroy-wearers that transcends all other considerations. If you see a fellow scribbler wearing a natty corduroy suit, it is perfectly acceptable for you to fawn all over him and ask where he got it, because corduroy suits are rarer than beluga caviar and rather more expensive. He won’t tell you, of course, because he has found a supply and he means to keep it for himself. The fellowship only goes so far.
There are downsides, of course. Corduroy is the only known multi-media fabric, in that you can usually hear it coming. Wiff-wiff-wiff go the brushing legs of corduroy trousers, or WIFF-WIFF-WIFF if they’re flared. Although theoretically hard-wearing, it has a tendency to go bald and threadbare surprisingly quickly. If you are not careful you can go from debonair man about town to tramp in a matter of weeks. I had a green corduroy suit I particularly liked, and the trousers became so compromised you could see daylight through them. The jacket remains in perfect nick, and sits in the cupboard, tragically unworn.
But I love a corduroy suit because it’s a way of wearing a suit without really wearing a suit, if you see what I mean. You have all the conveniences without the dreary connotations. Either that or you’re a geography teacher. It’s definitely one of the two.