All dressed up and nowhere to go: Corduroy for a COVID winter

Paolo Sandoval 

Contributing Writer

Amidst the storm of uncertainty and unease that 2020 has ushered in, it seems irrational, if not downright comical, to put on “real clothes.” For me, this is further compounded by being a senior in college — with the “real world” quickly approaching but four taxing years of term papers, late nights, and intro to adulthood 101 not quite behind, it’s only logical to unabashedly cling to comfy clothes. 

Indeed, even in a normal year, my senior classmates and I would expect to be pragmatically draped up and dripped out in the schlubbiest of drawstrings, the thought of reaching for trou (short for trousers, see: pants) in the morning revolting. On top of this, the seasonal shift to chilly is in full swing, providing even more reason to hunker down in double-spun cotton until winter break. So then, in this great winter age of ‘rona-induced lethargy, what would be the point of wearing anything without an elastic waistband and ribbed cuffing? 

Dressing for comfort seems to have firmly cemented itself as the quintessential coping mechanism for a global pandemic: going out is down, thanks to COVID-19 safety mandates, and online sweatpant sales are up, according to the New York Times. However, I consider leisurewear the gateway drug to stylistic stagnation, so this conundrum has vexed me since the beginning of the pandemic. Finally, after much soul-searching and a dig through my dresser, a solution to the monotony of “every-day-is-sweatpants-day” materialized in the form of my L.L. Bean chestnut brown, relaxed-fit, wide-wale corduroy pants. 

This seminal style has been the cure to my what-to-wear-woes as temperatures drop. Don’t get me wrong: I very much enjoy wearing the same sweaty Champion hoodie four days in a row, but with the soft, ropy comfort that wide-wale’s flared fit provides, lounging isn’t an issue, and, even more importantly, I can avoid looking like a walking Gildan ad.

“But why corduroy pants? Don’t they make you look like a grandpa?” you might ask. Well, yes, but the cool kind of grandpa. Think Indiana Jones, but when he’s teaching archeology. In fact, corduroys have been the go-to digs of the illest dressers since time immemorial: from New England preppies to Henry David Thoreau (according to The Wall Street Journal), Ralph Lauren to Robin Williams in “Dead Poet’s Society,” wide-wale has proven itself the garment for form and function. 

This specific pair of pants offers a combination of academia and Americana heritage wear (L.L. Bean has been a Maine staple since 1912) that feels prudent to the time and space I currently occupy as an almost second-semester senior. Should I need to spread out a quilted blanket in the park with a good book or cheese plate, my cords fit right in. And might I hear, say, the call of the wild and bound off toward the woods, my cords would not seem out of place among the trees. They’re even thick enough that frolicking in the snow (socially distanced, of course) doesn’t seem out of the question. An added bonus, the sound of my waled thighs rubbing together is said to ward off any anti-maskers. 

My decisions about clothes tend to revolve around the three C’s: comfort, classiness, and “Does this make me look better than other people?” — or clout, for short. These cords check all three boxes. The coziness is there, and, since I wear my wales oversized, they offer a generous amount of space for the hot dogs my legs have become. They put my slightly heartier flannel PJ pants to shame in terms of style, with a classy “Am I an investment-banker, or a lobster fisherman?” look that I just don’t get elsewhere. Fancy on top, cords on the bottom? Looks just right with a belt and loafers. Want to toss on a tee instead? That works, too! Corduroy on corduroy? Call that the Sandoval Special. Plus, as a consistent corduroy-wearer in a class full of sweatpant scrubs, knowing that I’m best dressed is just enough to get me through the drudgery and fatigue that is Zoom with a boost of serotonin. If you’re going to look at yourself in that little box for an hour and a half, isn’t it assuring to know the cut off portion of you looks good, too? 

With 2021 shaping up to be a frightening, uncertain sequel, people need all the comfort that they can get. I myself will be finding solace in the fact that my pants can handle anything: I’m riding 2020 out in the widest wales I can find.

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