Corduroy is a textured, sturdy textile that is generally considered timeless. It comes in several hues, although it’s usually made in neutral colors like beige and brown. Corduroy has been in and out of style for decades, but it has been around for centuries.  

The big question is: is it eco-friendly

While corduroy can be environmentally friendly, it isn’t always made from natural materials. Here’s everything you need to know about corduroy and how to buy it sustainably

Corduroy coats hung up in different colors
Source: Valeri Vatel/Shutterstock

History of Corduroy

Corduroy has been used since Ancient Egyptian times. However, it didn’t have the same iconic raised texture it does today. In the 19th century, corduroy evolved into the textile we know and love today. Its durability made it ideal for factory workers who didn’t want to worry about ripping or scuffing their clothing during a hard day’s work. It is even referred to as ‘Manchester‘ in some parts of Europe. 

The 1970s was corduroy’s peak. It was a sign of anti-establishment ideologies and has been in and out of trend cycles ever since. 

This is good news for all the second-hand shoppers out there. Finding gently-used corduroy in thrift shops and vintage stores is an accessible and affordable way to enjoy corduroy. 

Conventional Cotton 

If corduroy is made with 100% organic cotton, it’s a sustainable and eco-friendly textile choice. However, conventional cotton is significantly worse for the environment and the people who grow it. 

Conventional cotton is picked using machines, which damages the fibers and reduces the purity of the cotton. Damaged cotton fibers result in more waste and loss, which is why organic cotton is carefully handpicked. 

The quality of the soil is also compromised when using conventional farming methods. Conventional cotton is planted repeatedly on the same chunk of land, which depletes the nutrients from the soil, leaving it infertile. This results in unhealthy crops and increases the amount of water required

Finally, harmful pesticides and herbicides are used on conventional cotton crops. These toxic chemicals get into the water, soil, and on the farmers working hard to manage the crops. 

Why You Should Avoid Fabric Blends 

Another issue you might encounter with corduroy is that it’s sometimes mixed with polyester

There are a lot of issues with polyester. To start, it’s made of plastic and contributes to the dizzying amount of microplastics and microfibers in our oceans, water systems, and bodies. It’s also the preferred textile for fast fashion companies, which is never a good sign. 

Fabric blends help clothing manufacturers keep costs down and obtain the desired texture for certain garments. However, it is currently impossible to recycle garments made with multiple fiber types. With this in mind, buying garments made entirely from one kind of fiber (even polyester) is preferred. 

Source: TEDx Talks/Youtube

Corduroy can be an eco-friendly choice, provided it’s made with 100% organic cotton. As the conversation surrounding sustainable fashion develops, it’s becoming more difficult to ignore the harsh environmental effects of conventional cotton and polyester. If you’re concerned about making mindful purchases, we highly recommend going to your local vintage or thrift shop and having a look around. Chances are, they probably have a few corduroy pieces with your name on them.

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