A Wale of a Time - The History of Corduroy and The Newark Overshirt
To coincide with the release of the brand new Admiral Sporting Goods Newark Cord Overshirt, we’ve delved into the history books to discover just where corduroy, a tactile and timeless material, originated.
Surprisingly we have to travel back to the ancient Egyptian city of Al-Fustat in 200 BC to witness the birth of corduroy, albeit in a flatter and slightly less ‘groovey’ form. Situated close to the Nile river (and later swallowed up by Cairo) the city was renowned for producing tough woven fabrics, including a heavy cloth that was woven using a warp of linen thread and weft of thick cotton that was twilled in such a way as to produce a thick pile on one side. Though popular locally for centuries it was during the medieval period that this material became popular elsewhere thanks to Italian merchants introducing the fabric to Western European nobility. Named ‘Fustian’ as a nod to the city in which it originated, ‘Fustian’ was in high demand with the aristocracy who used it to line their gowns and doublets to stay warm, not least of which included our very own King Henry the Eighth.
Given the popularity of corduroy amongst European royalty it's easy to understand the explanation sometimes attributed to its name. Often thought to be from the French ‘corde du roi’ meaning ‘cloth of the king’ the origins actually come from England. The word cord refers to a tufted row of ridges (or wales) in conjunction with Duroy which was a coarse woollen fabric that was popular at the time. Thanks to the Industrial revolution in late 18th Century Manchester, this incredibly expensive material that had previously been worn only by Kings and Queens suddenly became available to the working classes. Produced by the cotton mills of Manchester this warm and sturdy fabric proved perfect attire for hard working folk without central heating. This is also where the term for measuring cord ‘wale’ comes from. An old English word meaning wheel, it was often used in relation to the stripes around a boat or basket. Though with cord it refers to the number of ridges per inch of fabric, so a jumbo cord would have a lower number (e.g. 4 wale) than that of a standard fine cord like our Newark shirt which is 12 wale.
Still referred to as ‘Manchester cloth’ throughout the Western world, the many charms of corduroy were rediscovered in the second half of the twentieth century. From Sixties Ivy League students and movie stars in the USA to British yuppies and football casuals in the Eighties, cord had once again become synonymous with luxury and fashion. Whilst its practical workwear roots also held sway with counter cultural groups such as CND and the Hippy movement. Which brings us bang up to date with corduroy now being one of the most highly revered and fashionable fabrics out there, having been embraced by the biggest couture houses to the coolest streetwear brands. Though when a fabric looks as good as it feels, it's no wonder that corduroy has been so popular around the world for over two thousand years.
The Newark Overshirt Details
12 Wale Corduroy
300gsm 100% Cotton
Elasticated Cuff Opening
Concealed Placket with YKK Zip and Buttons
Words by Neil Summers