Ode to Corduroy

Have you ever wondered what the hell happened to corduroy?

Ever since Numbers Stores closed its doors (with three branches: High Street and Mucurapo Street San Fernando and Gulf City La Romaine) corduroy is as scarce as calypso on the radio. Numbers was the place to get any popular design or clothes fad. I found out the hard way that the chain of stores was the source of fashionable trends for the average person when I turned up at a Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive Disco in an alternating horizontal blue and gray striped button up jersey and met sixteen other dudes in the same attire. I could probably have said as scarce as the Eight Track cassette but I am reliably informed that there is a fleet of two Kingswood cars (each with a couch seat in front and grooved leatherette seat covers) working the Belmont to Port of Spain route each with a functioning Eight Track cassette player under the glove compartment. I am also establishing that the Kingswood is still alive.

But corduroy isn’t.

A fashion trend could either be a short road into a dead end from which it never emerges or it could pave a long road that bends and curves as it meanders its way back onto our lives. Corduroy took its velvety softness into that dead end with Lee Cooper and never came out.

Corduroy is a thick cotton fabric with velvety ribs running from waist to hem. The fascination and immediate attraction lay in those ribs, then in the texture of the fabric itself. Corduroy was so soft! Other names are often used for corduroy included leeroy, ribbed jeans, corded velveteen, pin cord, Manchester cloth, elephant cord, cords and Roy. Roy was perhaps the name that best spoke of the familiarity that persons saw in their corduroy garments. Corduroy became next of kin with a three letter name almost as if the garment had a room in the very same house.

Roy worked for any occasion. It never seemed out of place on the construction site nor on the dance floor. It didn’t take on the contrast of an old man with a retreating hairline that miraculously and youthfully extends into a ponytail. It did not seem as odd as a more mature woman in brightly coloured fake sequined spandex. Corduroy worked for all age groups.

At its height of popularity corduroy came in the form of slacks, hats, jackets, shirts and skirts. There was thin corduroy, fat corduroy, not-so-fat corduroy, muted corduroy and shiny corduroy. Fat corduroy was the workhouse and its durability was well-known. Pin corduroy was the dress Roy and had multiplicity of applications including semi-formal attire. Corduroy came in all colours however the king of corduroy, was the black corduroy.

A black corduroy slacks did wonders for both men and women. I suppose where cultural boundaries exist, it would also work hasten acceptance for newcomers to any group, shortening the forming stage when everyone got to know the others, so wondrous was its appeal and silky finish. Black corduroy removed any need for group storming and was conducive to mutual conforming. Black Roy said, “Come and get to know me”.

I once paid heed to that subtle invitation when I saw Cassandra in a not-so-fat corduroy, muted not shiny, closely cropped but not tight, and then realized that she was speaking to Richard, Adrian and Birosingh. Her call was really a public announcement but each of us who responded felt the singularity of the black Roy.

Corduroy is categorically not the same as denim. I suppose this needs to be said as many of the adolescents and young adults today would never have experienced the Joy of Roy.

So I say to all of you who have a corduroy garment hidden in the back of your wardrobe or folded in that suitcase without wheels (aka Grip) that your Aunt Esmeralda left when she returned from America in 1976, let’s all bring them out for one more day. Let’s all have a Celebration of Corduroy, a Fete of Fat Roy, a Panache of the Pin Roy, a Convulsion of Cord! Let that velveteen sweet fabric be felt for one more time, for we live knowing that Corduroy is gone for good, never to be worn as a trend again. Roy has gone to that place where all fashion fades leaving us to rub our hands on lesser fabrics and wonder if we shall feel that softness against our skin again.

Say to a person tomorrow, “Did you know Roy?”

This is an Ode to Corduroy.

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