Is Corduroy Warm and is it Good for Winter Cold Weather?


Corduroy is a comfortable fabric that has a cozy feel to it. And if the winter weather is starting to set in, you might be wondering if that cozy feel actually translates to warmth. Is corduroy warm?

Yes, corduroy fabric is warm. It is made with a pile weave that makes it inherently a thicker material, and reasonably good at trapping heat. Corduroy comes in different weights so you can buy a thicker material if needed. Corduroy is a good choice for winter—but only within certain limits. 

If you will be spending time outside in dangerously cold temperatures, corduroy pants by themselves will not be warm enough to keep you safe and comfortable. For extreme sub-freezing temperatures, you will need insulated pants if you plan to spend a prolonged period of time outside (best insulated pants).

But you can expect corduroy to supply medium warmth suitable for chilly fall and spring conditions, or even certain mild winter days. Corduroy is made of cotton, and as we discussed above, can come in various weights, which can affect warmth.

In this article let’s take a closer look at how suitable corduroy pants are for winter weather, and what specific attributes make it good for cooler temperatures. Let’s also discuss

Is Corduroy Warm? 

Yes, as we discussed above, corduroy fabric is warm – but only within certain limits. A pair of corduroy pants or a corduroy jacket is most often best used for fall and spring conditions, or mild winter days. Think of it as a medium warmth.

Corduroy can offer medium warmth for a few reasons: 

  • Corduroy is made from cotton, and cotton can trap air between its fibers and keep you warmer—but to a point: any item made of cotton loses its ability to keep you warm when it becomes damp or wet.
  • Manufactured corduroy has a pile weave that creates the cords or wales; these cords make it thicker. Thicker fabric equals added warmth.
  • The number of wales, or cords, determines the thickness and the weight; the more wales, the thinner the fabric, the fewer wales, the thicker. Fewer cords also mean thicker cords, which usually adds a bit of warmth as long as the material stays dry (more on this later). 

Can You Wear Corduroy in Winter?

Yes, corduroy is suitable for certain types of winter weather. Don’t think of corduroy as a material that will tackle extreme weather. But for cooler, dry, winter days a pair of corduroy pants or a corduroy jacket will usually get the job done.

For more extreme temperatures and/or precipitation, you will want to opt for a winter pant (think wool or fleece/flannel lined pants) or perhaps canvas or twill pants that have been treated to be water-resistant. And for jackets, a thicker, insulated jacket will be the safer winter option compared to a lightweight corduroy jacket.

Is Corduroy Waterproof?

While the heavier kinds of corduroy offer warmth, it is not considered a fabric that provides protection in inclement weather such as rain, snow, and extreme cold. This is for a few reasons: 

  • Water-resistant or waterproof fabrics are treated or coated with a material that repels water. Corduroy is not a fabric that’s treated to offer protection from rain and snow. My advice is if you are looking for a cozy fabric that offers weather protection, choose wool which is naturally water-repellent and a good insulator of warmth.
  • Corduroy is made from cotton, and when cotton gets wet, it loses its capacity to provide warmth. Modern day, you will often see corduroy cotton blended with spandex to create stretch corduroy pants. These pants usually offer a bit less warmth.

In short, corduroy, while providing warmth, has no protection from rain, sleet, snow, and cold, and if your corduroy is made from cotton (most is), it will absorb moisture and lose its ability to provide warmth.

What is a Corduroy Wale and How Does it Affect Warmth?

A “wale” is the term used for each individual row of cords on a corduroy garment. This is important because corduroy pants will often be described using their wale amount.

For example, you may see a pair of corduroy pants listed as “21-wale” cords. What this means is there are 21 wales in a single inch of the material used on the pants. The higher the number, the thinner the corduroy rows will be.

corduroy-wale

For example, a standard wale amount is usually around 11. That means a 21-wale will be thinner rows of corduroy. If you prefer thicker corduroy rows, then you will want a smaller wale number.

In my opinion, a thicker wale (which means a lower wale amount) creates a warmer, cozier feel. Some higher wale amounts make the corduroy rows so thin that it’s hard to even notice from a distance that the material is corduroy. Sometimes this type of material is referred to as a micro-cord material.

Thicker wales can sometimes impact warmth, but in general, the wale amount mostly comes down to your personal preference on how you like your corduroy pants to look. If you prefer a thicker cord row, then choose a smaller wale amount for your stretch cords.


Corduroy Warmth vs Other Fabrics

We know that corduroy is a uniquely comfortable material because of its wales (or cords). Given that it’s so different, how does it stack up against other textiles regarding features and the level of warmth they provide? 

  • Denim – Denim is a fabric made of cotton, so like corduroy, it offers warmth that depends on fabric thickness and performs well as long as it stays dry (denim vs corduroy). Once you introduce moisture, it loses its ability to provide warmth. Many types of modern jeans use a thinner material, and don’t offer as much warmth.
  • Wool – Both wool and corduroy offer warmth, but that’s where the similarities end. Wool is warmer, water-resistant, and wicks perspiration away. Wool is also very good at retaining your body heat even when the fabric becomes damp. Wool is the better choice for winter weather.
  • Fleece – Fleece is a synthetic textile and blows most other fabrics out of the water when it comes to warmth. Fleece is lightweight and warm, dries easily, is water-resistant, and wicks away moisture. The only qualities fleece and corduroy share are warmth, and both have a unique surface texture.
  • Flannel – Flannel and corduroy have a lot in common. Both are warm, drape beautifully, are comfortable, and very durable. Both are used in outdoor-type clothing, and neither retains any warmth once they become wet. 
  • Velvet – Velvet and corduroy are very similar in that they are soft and comfy fabrics that are also warm. Velvet has a smooth surface that has a sheen; corduroy is ridged but has a sheen too. Neither remains warm when damp.
  • Canvas Canvas is a tough, durable material often used in outdoor gear and work clothing. The tight weave is very coarse, and feels nothing like comfortable corduroy fabric. But canvas is another material that is quite good at trapping heat.
  • Down – This natural and lightweight insulator made from feathers (goose or duck) traps body heat; combine down with a water-resistant or waterproof exterior, and there’s no comparison whatsoever with corduroy.  

Because they’re water-resistant, wool and fleece tend to be the best fabrics at keeping wearers warm, while down material is great for keeping the heat in when combined with waterproof material. 

However, that doesn’t mean you should rule out corduroy, denim, flannel, and velvet; as long as you keep these materials dry, they will keep you comfortable and warm. 

Is Corduroy More for Style Than Warmth?

As mentioned earlier, corduroy has been around for a long time; it has had a long-time presence in men’s and women’s clothing styles, and it has a history of being used both for professional and casual settings. Corduroy is a timeless trend that goes in and out of fashion. 

It is best used for fall and spring temperatures, and is very common in casual pants or lightweight jackets. Here are some options to consider if you are shopping for corduroy outerwear:

Present day, you will also occasionally find lightweight corduroy used in warm weather pants. It’s no longer seen as a fabric for winter use only. Since there are fabrics that provide more warmth, such as wool, fleece, and down-filled items, corduroy can fall into the category of offering more fashion than function. 

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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