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Manchester Cloth

Manchester Cloth

Pre-2017 the word corduroy probably conjured up an image of a middle-aged geography teacher, in the mid-1970s, sporting a handle bar moustache and wearing flared, brown corduroy trousers. Over the past year, however, corduroy has had something of a modern resurgence in the trend pages of many a fashionable read. Gone are the unsightly trousers, and in their place are neat corduroy skirts in varying lengths and zipped pinafore dresses. Before you have even stepped into a high street clothing store, scores of women and girls can be seen wearing this now fashionable fabric, and it’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Whilst many trends come and go, season after season, this one has remained throughout last Autumn / Winter and into this year’s colder months.

But this isn’t just any old fabric, once unfashionable and now on trend, corduroy has special links to the Manchester area. Whilst going by the names of corded velveteen, elephant cord and pin cord, corduroy is also known as ‘Manchester Cloth’. Often mistakenly referred to as French due to the assumption that the name corduroy comes from ‘corde du roi’, French for ‘the cord of the king’, the name is actually derived from cord and duroy, a coarse woollen cloth made in England in the 18th century. Later in this period, corduroy began to be manufactured in Manchester and is still known in parts of Europe, as well as in the UK, as ‘Manchester Cloth’. Today, not too far from Manchester, Lancashire-based Brisbane Moss is home to the UK’s biggest corduroy factory.

Although over the course of the last half a century, corduroy has had short interludes of popularity, such as the time when The Beatles embraced it, its lasting geography teacher association makes it markedly clear that it has never managed to maintain true fashionable status. But could this latest interlude mean that it is here to stay? Or at least create a better impression and make Mancs proud again to call it ‘Manchester Cloth’? Certainly, in our era of fast fashion and ever-changing trends, it is remarkable that this once working man’s fabric, the ‘poor man’s velvet, is still featuring everywhere in the shops, more than a year since Vogue, that bastion of all things fashionable, deemed it trendy.

Although in hindsight, it does seem strange that it hasn’t been more fashionable in the past. Corduroy has a lovely textural quality that works for both men and women, making it perfectly suitable for fashion’s continuing interest in genderless clothing. It is also a very wearable fabric, with its thickness making it especially durable during the colder winter months. Added to that, whether choosing a muted khaki or burgundy, or opting for something brighter, its versatility as a fabric that can look both casual and smart, dressed up or dressed down, makes it everyone’s go to item.

Let’s just hope that flared, brown corduroy trousers don’t make a comeback anytime soon!

All imagery courtesy of The Guardian

About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.

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