When shopping for a new pair of casual pants, you’re likely to run into two popular options: corduroy and denim. While both appear fairly similar, they are quite different. What is the difference between corduroy vs denim pants?
Although corduroy and denim both make for nice casual pants, their appearance and feel is quite different. Corduroy is a softer, warmer, less durable fabric that is woven in a manner that creates wales, which gives corduroy it’s unique fuzzy-rowed appearance. Denim is a tightly woven twill, that is also quite comfortable, but often more durable than corduroy.
Traditionally, corduroy pants have been thought of as nice fall and winter pants due to warmth, while denim jeans are thought of more as a year-round fabric. Present day, this has changed a bit due to the emergence of lighter-weight corduroy that can be worn during warmer months.
Both corduroy and denim pants can be worn casually, or in certain business-casual environments. With the popularity of stretch pants growing in recent years, you can find both stretch denim and stretch corduroy pants that incorporate spandex into the fabric to increase the flexibility of the pants.
Corduroy pants also have more color options compared to denim, which is generally only offered in blue hues. In this article let’s take a closer look at corduroy vs denim pants so you can decide which fabric might make the most sense for your situation.
Corduroy vs Denim Pants
Perhaps the biggest difference between corduroy and denim is how they are constructed.
- Denim – Denim is designed with tightly woven twill that may or may not have spandex or polyester. The rugged twill comes with lengthwise threads dyed indigo, otherwise known as the “classic” denim shade.
- Corduroy – Corduroy, on the other hand, is made of rigid cotton fabric. It is uniquely woven to create wales. These tufted wales give the fuzzy appearance of corduroy, which links it to its velvet cousin.
The fuzzy rows that corduroy is famous for are known as “wales”. For example, here are the wales on my corduroy pants:
These size of these wales can change pant to pant. When buying corduroy pants, you will often see them listed by their wale count (for example, 21-wale cords). The number represents the amount of rows per inch of fabric. The smaller the number, the thicker the rows.
Traditionally, a thicker wale is more popular, which means the pants would have a lower wale count ( a standard wale amount is usually around 11 to 14). But present day, some types of higher-wale cords have gained popularity. These high-wale cords have thinner rows, which are harder to see from a distance, and are often called “micro-cords”.
I own a pair of L.L. Bean corduroy pants that use a 14-wale, that falls in the standard range for wale amount. Here’s what they look like from a few feet away and up-close:
Corduroy tends to have a broader color scheme than denim. You can find corduroy of all different shades, although browns tend to be the most popular. Denim can be designed into different washes, although the trademark blue almost always remains the same.
Although denim pants can certainly be worn during the winter months, corduroy has traditionally been more associated with winter than denim. Denim jeans are often worn year-round by many people.
But, in general, corduroy and denim are both nice options for fall and winter. That’s because they are both designed with fairly thick fabric that will keep you warm, even in cold climates. They also pair well with winter-weather favorites like sweatshirts and sweaters.
However, while both are viable options for warmth, corduroy is the better winter option (can corduroy get wet?). Corduroy has a thicker and denser fabric than denim. Not only that but its warm and fuzzy texture can give the illusion of warmth, making it the ideal choice for winter wear.
If you live in extreme cold and prefer denim, you can find fleece and flannel lined denim jeans that provide extra warmth. To see options, visit our article about the best flannel lined jeans.
In terms of the durability of corduroy vs denim pants, denim tends to be the stronger fabric. Both of these fabrics are moderately durable and can take on outdoor conditions and provide a reasonable amount of abrasion resistance.
No, neither of these fabric will be as durable as a pair of canvas pants, but both of these fabrics are also much more comfortable than canvas. Think of these fabrics as a sort of middle ground between durability and comfort, with denim being the slightly more durable option (which is why many workers wear jeans).
Both denim and corduroy pants are machine washable. The actual fabric blend is not always 100% cotton. As we discussed earlier, some corduroy and denim pants will incorporate spandex for flexibility.
The biggest drawback to denim and corduroy is that both fabrics tend to shrink in the dryer. If you follow proper care instructions, you can minimize the amount of shrinkage. Air-drying or tumble drying on low heat may be your best option.
Denim and corduroy are designed to be somewhat form-fitting, although you can buy different types of denim such as “skinny” or “high-waisted,” or “loose.” If you want to browse through different denim options, here are some article to consider:
- Regular Fit vs Classic Fit Jeans
- Slim Fit vs Regular Jeans
- Straight Fit vs Slim Jeans
- Athletic Fit Jeans Explained
- What are Modern Jeans?
- Relaxed Fit Jeans Explained
- Relaxed Straight Jeans Explained
- Straight Jeans Explained
- Regular Fit Jeans Explained
- Best Levi Jeans for Skinny Guys
- What are 4 Way Stretch Jeans?
- Flex Jeans Explained
- Best Stretch Work Jeans
Overall, corduroy tends to be a bit more comfortable than denim. This is all thanks to the fuzzy, velvet-like exterior texture. Corduroy’s warm and cozy feeling can ultimately make them feel more comfortable than a pair of denim pants.
Denim and corduroy were both invented over one hundred years ago. While denim has never gone out of style during its lifespan, corduroy has had its ups and downs. Corduroy gained most of its popularity between the 1950s and the 1970s, and has seen extended periods of time where its popularity dropped significantly.
In the 1990s, corduroy started to make a comeback. In more recent years, the “retro” look has evolved and become a staple in the fashion biz. As we discussed earlier, corduroy can give off an outdoorsy, cabin vibe, which is a style that denim struggles to match.
Corduroy is a great option , whether for casual or business attire. Casually, corduroy pants can pair with sweaters, button-up shirts, or hoodies. Professionally, men can wear a blazer, leather jacket, or even a matching corduroy jacket or blazer for a full corduroy business suit.
Corduroy can be a bit more challenging to style compared to denim. That’s because corduroy has a distinct look that doesn’t mesh with everything. Denim, on the other hand, is significantly easier to style. Denim pants can be worn with just about anything. However, they typically can’t be styled up and worn to work the way corduroy can.
Pros & Cons of Corduroy vs Denim
|Not as Warm as Corduroy
|Shrinks in Dryer
|Not Many Colors
|Never Out of Style
|Stiffer than Corduroy
|Can Go Out of Style
|Shrinks in Dryer
|Casual or Business
|Not as Durable
|Won’t Match all Outfits
Denim and corduroy are excellent options if you’re looking for comfortable, stylish, and durable pants, especially in the winter months. However, corduroy is better suited for more professional wear and tends to be warmer and cozier than its denim counterpart. You have more color options with corduroy, while denim tends to stick to the classic blue hues.