Jesse Thorn’s description of corduroy might be the best I’ve ever read. In an address to the Corduroy Appreciation Club (a club dedicated to corduroy, which is perhaps the only thing whiter than the cloth itself), he said:
For a thousand years, corduroy has stood for what is right in our lives. Intellectual rigor. Fresh air. The comfort of a crackling fire. It is a fabric as forgiving and enduring as our spirits at their best. […] Corduroy is a fabric built to take on the world. Tuck your corduroy trousers into your boots and feed the pigs. Roll up your corduroy sleeves and bring in the harvest. Put on a corduroy field jacket and go outside to build something. […] Corduroy is the fabric of living.
You can (and should) read the whole thing here. It’s great.
Of course, every coin has two sides, and for every positive association we have of corduroy, there’s also a negative. The cloth is seen as fusty, old-fashioned, and worn by those who are hopelessly out-of-touch. See: every movie about an English Lit professor, who’s often wearing a threadbare, ill-shaped corduroy sport coat to class. Never mind that professors don’t actually wear corduroy in real life. The fabric is a way for directors to communicate something to their audiences, much like how dark shirts with suits are used to identify made men in mob movies.
It’s that down-to-earth, out-of-touch character that makes corduroy such a great fabric for tailored clothes. In an age when wearing anything with long sleeves can be seen as dressy, a corduroy sport coat is one of the few ways you can wear a tailored jacket without looking like you put too much thought into clothes. Wear one with khaki colored chinos and soft, brown suede shoes. As the fabric naturally wears down and bags over time, it’ll only feel and look more comfortable.
I have a corduroy sport coat from Steed I’ve been wearing a lot (actually, it’s a suit, but I mostly wear the pieces as separates). It’s made from a dark-brown, mid-wale cord from Hunter & Winterbotham’s Eskdale bunch. I’ve been liking it so much that I’m thinking about getting another. Maybe something in a soft olive or that dusty tan Matt Damon wore in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Voxsartoria also has something made from a really nice, rich mid-brown.
For ready-to-wear, you can turn to SuitSupply for something affordable. Brooks Brothers also has something every fall, although their products shots are sometimes a bit misleading (they often style jackets a bit too small on their models for some reason). For something jauntier, check out this double breasted suit from Eidos. A corduroy DB might seem a bit daring, but you can hardly go wrong with this fabric.