Monday, December 03, 2007

The Corduroy Appreciation Club

Check out this brilliant article on the Corduroy Appreciation Club's annual 11|11 meeting from the menswear trade magazine MR:
Catching Up: The Corduroy Appreciation Club's Miles Rohan

When I walked into Brooklyn’s old Montauk Club for the third annual meeting of the Corduroy Appreciation Club, I felt self-conscious, like a reporter who had taken off all of his clothes to attend a meeting of nudists. I don’t normally wear much corduroy, but tonight I was sporting a red narrow-wale corduroy tie and a wider-waled black corduroy jacket to comply with the meeting’s minimum two articles of corduroy mandate.

The meeting was held on November 11, or 11|11, “the day which most resembles corduroy,” and it was packed with about 200 enthusiasts, all decked out in cords. “People like the challenge of coming up with two items,” Miles Rohan, the club’s founder, told me when I met him a week before the big meeting.

The club’s first meeting in 2005 got the attention of The New Yorker. The second one got a write-up in the New York Times by novelist Jonathon Ames, the meeting’s keynote speaker. This year’s big news was that the event would be sponsored by Cotton Incorporated, the growers’ and textile makers’ organization.

Rohan’s comical but earnest efforts to raise the profile of corduroy have brought together nearly 1,300 members worldwide, up from last year’s 864. “There’s something about it – forgive me if I’m getting too metaphysical about it – I think corduroy also offers a protective sense. It’s almost like shelter or armor,” he explained.

He continued, “I think there’s something about corduroy that people can really rally around. Everyone seems to have a memory or a reaction to corduroy. A lot of people ... corduroy reminds them of their childhood.”

When I pointed out how easy it was to find corduroy in clothing stores, Rohan nodded his head. “I like to say that this is the golden age of corduroy because it is kind of everywhere. You can go into any of the big retail shops like the Gap, Banana Republic or even American Apparel or J. Crew, which is to the rafters in corduroy.”

Its profile isn’t as high as it might have been twenty or thirty years ago, but corduroy seems to have found a permanent place in the American wardrobe. The latest issue of Details shows a $1,300 three-piece corduroy suit by Polo with the opinion that “The corduroy suit deserves status as a staple.”

At the meeting, I surveyed the crowd. What does a room full of corduroy look like? Pretty normal. A group dedicated to a pattern, like plaid for instance, rather than a texture might have a greater assault on the senses. Occasionally you’ll see someone reaching over to inspect a fellow member’s corduroy, rubbing the wale between thumb and forefinger. You can tell the veteran members by the more extravagant get-ups, and the reporters and photographers by the less unimaginative outfits.

In the beginning of the meeting, an interloper wearing only one piece of corduroy is dramatically ejected by two guards wearing wide-waled cloaks. There is a rant about velvet, “the great deceiver, the fabric of leprechauns” and another about how denim is overrated. Rohan’s vision of a secret society dedicated to corduroy is very theatrical, but completely egalitarian – as long as one is in corduroy. Its motto is “All Wales Welcome.”

During the “secret rituals,” I got to practice the secret handshake with a reporter from Men’s Vogue. Later, a representative from Cotton Incorporated “brought forth the sacred offerings” – celery sticks and ridged potato chips.

In a break between speakers, I wandered the crowd. “Don’t let too much friction build up around the baby,” a guy in his 30s said to a woman holding an infant in a colorful corduroy onesie.

You can’t just brush past another person wearing corduroy. As I weaved my way through the tangle of revelers by the bar, I feel the sensation of wales meeting, locking, and stopping me in my tracks. I almost spun around as my corduroy sportcoat met with a young woman’s corduroy blazer. We rotated against each other like gears, and then got away. This, I think to myself as I left the meeting, is what the guy was warning the woman with the baby about.

--Harry Sheff
Read the original version here.


Anonymous Jo Madre said...

I can't help it! I have to say it!

Ribbed for her pleasure.

Sorry, it was that last paragraph in the post that got me.

I think the Lords of the Cords are missing out on an opportunity to bring corduroy to boudoir. As the author points out, corduroy is a textured fabric. It is longing to be touched, put between thumb and forefinger, pet. It needs to get away from the evocation of junior jumpers and the like. Why not lingerie, perhaps corduroy lined also?

9:09 PM  

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