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$75 Vs. $295 Corduroy Pants (Trousers) – Key Differences

Have you ever wondered why corduroy trousers come in such different price ranges, and whether one is better than the other? Corduroy is the ultimate old-money pair of trousers that exudes a laid-back elegance. They’re comfortable, they have a cool look, and they can keep you warm. But, do you really have to pay a king’s ransom to get a decent pair of corduroy pants? That’s what we’ll examine today.

What is Corduroy?

First of all, what on earth is corduroy? Comparatively speaking, most fabric is woven in a straightforward way. Think of your wool suiting, your tweed, or your cotton chino fabrics. These are just woven and you end up with one layer of fabric that is then finished and, voila, you have the final product.

photo of a stack of corduroy trousers

At the core, corduroy is velvet that has ridges cut out. So, how much do you have to pay for corduroy trousers? Basically, you can get cheap bargain stuff at mega retailers like Target and you’ll find stuff probably in the $30 to $40 range. Then the next step up, there are brands like LL Bean or Brooks Brothers, where you can find things in the $70 to $80 range. Furthermore, you have brands like Polo Ralph Lauren, which have established themselves because of their really great styling, so they’ll charge more, so you’ll get them at like $200.

As you use a more high-quality fabric and have more special details and a more refined cut, you’ll find price points more than a $300, $350, maybe $400 range or more if you go made-to-measure or custom.

Cheap vs. Expensive: Corduroys

In today’s video, we’ll look at a pair of LL Bean corduroy pants, which retail for $69.95, and compare them to a $295 pair from Fort Belvedere to fully understand what the differences are, if it’s worth paying more than four times the price, and what you get so you know how you can best invest your hard-earned money.

Why not compare a lower-cost pair at $30 to $40? Well, at that point, you just have to make so many compromises that the comparison is really not one that is super helpful.

Fabric

First, let’s talk about fabric: fabric on an expensive pair of pants will have the majority of the cost than on the lower end. If you really get cheap fabric, the manufacturing cost may be higher than the fabric itself. When you buy a pair of corduroys for $69.95 retail price, you will have to make sacrifices on the quality of the fabric. There’s no way around that. Otherwise, you could not sell it at this price profitably.

Fabric label on a Ralph Lauren trouser
Natural fabrics like cotton stretched with additional synthetics are typical on cheaper corduroys.

Typically, corduroys are made with some percentage of cotton. Sometimes, they’re poly-cotton, which is less expensive; sometimes, they use recycled cotton or 100% cotton, but even if you do that, not all cotton is alike.

Cotton is a natural fiber that has different staple lengths, and it also depends on the yarn quality that you make it into. Is it a two-ply yarn? Is it a four-ply yarn? Is it very strong? What’s the luster of yarn? All these things come together.

So, even if two pairs are 100% cotton, the quality, the durability, the feel, and the luster may be entirely different. If you’ve been following us at the Gentleman’s Gazette, you know that we’re big proponents of natural fibers.

Why? Well, they’ve proven over time that they’re really nice to wear. You don’t have to worry about anything leaking into your body, and they just feel better and breathe better. They’re more comfortable at the end of the day.

Fabric Type

So our $70 LL Bean pair here is made of 98% cotton and 2% spandex. There’s not much more information about it, so we have to send it to a lab to actually do tests to see how many double rubs it can withstand before it breaks.

LL Bean Corduroy fabric label

Our $295 pair of corduroys is made out of 100% cotton that is rather heavy. It has a beautiful luster and it has a double rub rating of 20,000, which is a really good rating even for polyester fabric. So, when you wear these pants, you know that you can wear them for years to come, which means it’s automatically greener because you’re not producing cotton over and over and over again and just throwing it, but everything that’s needed, all the chemicals in the finishing process are just used once, and you can wear those pants for a decade or longer.

Personally, I haven’t seen how the LL Bean fabric was woven, but the warp count per inch is going to be a lot lower than on the $295 Fort Belvedere pants. Why does it matter? A higher warp count is more costly in the weaving process, but it also yields a superior, more durable fabric.

British Racing Green Corduroy
Quality cotton is hard to beat because it is breathable, comfortable, and durable.

When it comes to the overall weight, heavier doesn’t always mean more expensive; however, if you have a high warp count fabric, then a heavier fabric is definitely going to be more expensive.

Fabric Nap

Another thing that will be really different between the two pairs of pants is the fabric nap. When it comes to corduroy pants, you have this nap that goes in two different, distinctive directions. 

When you brush the corduroy down, you have this soft, shimmering, and mesmerizing surface; if you brush it up, even with your hand, you can already feel that you get a rougher, more textured surface.

Cheap Corduroy Nap

Cheap Corduroy

Nap Holes

On cheaper corduroy pants, this nap will deteriorate much quicker over time. You will see that there are areas where the material comes out, and you see almost little holes in that nap.

On the expensive pair of corduroys, it’s going to stay like that for a much longer time. Also, when you get really cheap corduroy pants, sometimes what happens is that, on the front side, the nap direction is top-down, and on the back side, it’s bottom-up—meaning the pants just don’t look right.

On the LL Bean pair, they at least got the nap all in the right direction. But if you compare the LL Bean on the left to the Fort Belvedere on the right, you can see a clear difference with these pants just by hanging them side by side. The LL Bean one looks fuzzier, looks more matte, and is just not nearly as lustrous as the Fort Belvedere one.

LL Bean and Fort Belvedere Corduroys
Visually comparing LL Bean and Fort Belvedere Corduroys

This becomes particularly obvious when there are wrinkles in the pants and, as you walk, there are going to be a lot of wrinkles as you sit. Just see how the wrinkle reacts to the light on the Fort Belvedere versus on the LL Bean.

Fabric Production

Typically, cheaper pants are also made in countries with a lower cost structure. So, the LL Bean pants are made in China, probably from Chinese fabric. The Fort Belvedere pants are made in Western Europe, in Portugal, and are made of fabric that is made in Italy.

Does “Made In” Matter? Countries of Origin for Menswear Products

When it comes to corduroy fabric, the two big powerhouses are English corduroys and Italian corduroys. Typically, the difference between them is that the English ones are a bit stiffer—they are often a bit firmer—and the Italian ones are more fluid and smoother.

These Fort Belvedere trousers try to combine the best of both worlds. It is a heavier, denser fabric that is like an English corduroy with a finishing and fluidity of more of an Italian corduroy.

Fort Belvedere corduroy combines the great qualities of English and Italian corduroys.
Fort Belvedere corduroy combines the great qualities of English and Italian corduroys.

Fabric Weight

There’s also a big difference in the weaving density and the weight of the fabric. You can get quality corduroy fabrics that are lightweight, and you can see some that are heavyweight. So, you should get the right kind of fabric for your purpose and climate.

The pair of LL Bean pants in size 38×32 weighs 716g, which is about 25 and 1/4oz. The Fort Belvedere corduroy in a size 38 waist with an inseam of 31, it’s a little shorter, and weighs in at 984 g or 34.7oz. So, that’s a substantial difference in weight of over 30%.

Weight of FB and LL Bean Corduroys
The Fort Belvedere Corduroy (left) weighs significantly higher than the LL Bean (right).

When it comes to fabric, they typically come in a weight measurement. That is typically the width of the fabric, which is about 150cm, and then the length, which is a yard or 1m. For most corduroy pants, you need between 1 and ½ and 1.7m of fabric. So, if you multiply that and you add things like the buttons and the trimmings, you come to a certain weight.

So, over the last two years, I tested probably 20 different corduroy weights, starting at a low end at about 325g per running meter, all the way up to 825g per running meter. My favorite fabric weight was 705g for the meter because, while it was still heavy and warm and comfortable, the physical feedback was much less pronounced, and it was much more pleasant to wear those. So, the Fort Belvedere corduroy is made of this 75g weight.

Break-in Period

Of course, when you put in a pair of corduroys for the first time, the fabric will be somewhat different, but as you wash them (and I suggest you wash them inside out), you’ll get a softer fabric that feels extremely comfortable over time. It’s basically like a short break-in period for your trousers. But, with Fort Belvedere trousers, that is not the case. There’s no real big break-in period. Also, with the LL Bean one, there’s not a big break-in period. It feels rather soft out of the box.

When you have the pants on, you can clearly see the difference though. The drape of the LL Bean pants is much inferior to the Fort Belvedere pants. Also, the feel on the inside as well as the outside of the LL Bean pants is much inferior to the Fort Belvedere pants. It’s stiffer. It’s flimsier. It’s just unexciting.

Ralph Lauren Corduroy Pants Weight

Weight of expensive corduroy

Ralph Lauren

Out of curiosity, I weighed my Polo Ralph Lauren trousers, which are the same size and have the same inseam, and weigh 805g. That’s about 28 and a half oz. It also has the same wale, which means the same size of ridge as the Fort Belvedere one, and it’s a little higher quality in feel than the LL Bean pair of pants. But it is a noticeably stiffer feel, not as luxurious, not as heavy as the Fort Belvedere one.

Durability

I think the pants I had the longest are the Polo Ralph Lauren ones. They’ve definitely shown some wear, especially in the crotch area for me because I have big thighs. But also in other areas of the pants.

The LL Bean ones are relatively new, so I haven’t seen them wear out at all yet. But, I’m pretty certain they will wear out at a much earlier point in time. First of all, because it’s a lighter-weight fabric and, at $70, you cannot make a fabric with a super high double rub count that is comfortable to wear in a pair of trousers.

The Fort Belvedere ones I’ve worn for a year. I’ve washed them many, many times to see how they behave and perform, and I haven’t seen any signs of aging yet. I can probably wear them for ten years, maybe 12 years or 15 years. So, I still have a lot of time ahead of me to test to see when they finally wear out.

Something you typically also see in a fabric with a lower density of warp threads is that they will bunch out in areas and won’t keep their shape as well as a higher-end fabric will. Of course, that’s all a theory, and we can only see how they truly hold up in years to come.

Because manufacturers don’t want to wait for 15 years and wear trousers until they understand how long fabric will actually last, there is something called a “double rub test.” It’s also known as the “Wyzenbeek Abrasion Test,” and it’s really popular in the upholstery industry.

  • Super heavy-duty (15,000 or above double rubs) – This would be used in high-traffic areas such as restaurants or maybe airports. That one is also suitable for having kids and dogs and animals that are really hard on fabric.
  • Medium-duty (9,000 to 15,000 double rubs) – This would be good for, let’s say, living room furniture.
  • Light-duty (3,000 to 9,000 double rubs) – This is better for occasional furniture
  • Under 3,000 double rubs – This is typically an inferior fabric.
Wyzenbeck Abrasion Test
Wyzenbeck Abrasion Test

The 825g fabric that we tested had 40,000 double rubs, so it’s extremely durable, and you could call them “forever pants.” The fabric at 705g that’s used for the Fort Belvedere pants still has a rating of 20,000 double rubs, which is above the heavy-duty categorization. So, this is also a pair of pants that will last you a very, very long time. It won’t be as long as the 825g pants, but it’s a lot more comfortable to wear.

Sadly, the LL Bean pants don’t mention anything about the double rub rating, but I would guess it’s more in the 3,000 to 5,000 range.

Wale Size

If you look at the LL Bean cords and the Fort Belvedere cords, you can see there’s a difference in the size of the cord, which is called “wale.”

Wale

Fabric Cord

Ridge or Wale

A four-wale cord means there are four cord ridges per inch or 2.54cm. Typically, for menswear pants, you’ll find anything from an 8-wale cord to maybe a 12-wale cord, or sometimes, 14, 16, or more. Once you go to a four-wale cord, you get a look resembling a grandma’s sofa.

The eight-wale cord is the most popular wale size for classic menswear. If you look, the Polo Ralph Lauren corduroys are an eight-wale cord; the Fort Belvedere pants are an 8-wale cord; and only the LL Bean ones are a little slimmer. The LL Bean pants have an 11-wale cord.

Color Options

One big difference between the cheaper corduroy and the more expensive corduroy is the color options that you get. On the LL Bean website, they have four colors: one being asphalt, which is a gray; then a dark charcoal, which looks almost black; a khaki color; and a sepia color, which is kind of a mid-brown.

Fort Belvedere, on the other hand, comes in 14 different colors. So, no matter if you want something classic in a brown family, something more in the blue family, or unusual things like yellow, red, green, or blue, we have it.

Fort Belvedere corduroy pants come in 14 colors!
Fort Belvedere corduroy pants come in 14 colors!

There are different ways to color garments. First of all, you could dye the fiber. This is typically done if you want a mottled color effect. Then, you could dye the yarn; then, you can dye the fabric; and then, you can dye the entire garment. Typically, in a garment that is fiber dyed, you do that because you have multiple different colors in the fiber, then you twist the yarn, and you get this nice melange effect. That is typically the most expensive. However, if you want consistency in a solid color, it is often yarn-dyed or fabric-dyed. Of course, from a production point of view, just having one yarn color, making the same stuff, and then coloring it in different colors is much more cost-efficient.

How to Use the Color Wheel to Assemble Superior Outfits

Fortunately, the dying chemicals and technology are so advanced these days that you probably don’t have to worry about the color rubbing off or being inconsistent over time.

If you look at the LL Bean pair and the Fort Belvedere pair side by side—and you can even throw in the Polo pair—you can definitely see that the Fort Belvedere colors are the most vivid and rich.

Fit & Features

Another big difference between a more expensive pair of corduroys and cheaper corduroys is typically the fit and the features. These days, most pants come in a medium to low rise, and they’re based on standard patterns. When you go with more expensive brands, you typically get more thought-through patterns with more special features and a fit that is probably different.

Some corduroy pants cost more because of the fit, and other thoughtful details
Some corduroy pants cost more because of the fit, and other thoughtful details.

Over the years, I’ve tested many corduroys, and my big challenge was that my thighs were often too big for the pants, therefore making them not really comfortable. If I found something that was big enough in the thigh, it was too wide in the hem, and, overall, the proportions were off.

The LL Bean pants have what I would call a “midrise,” higher than what you would get from a fashion brand like H&M, but the cut is somewhat unflattering. It’s a straight leg. It does fit me off-the-rack, which is nice, but the hem, it’s all a bit uninspiring. It’s advertised as “Stretch Country Corduroy,” and because of that, it has like an elastic waistband, which reminds me more of grandpa clothes. Also, I can tell that there’s definitely some vanity sizing going on because this feels quite roomy. I’d say I can take them in at least by 1 and ½ inches.

My Polo Ralph Lauren pants have a pleated front because that was the only way for me to actually fit into them. Their flat-front options just never fit me, so I had to go with that option. Generally, though, I think corduroy works better with a flat front because of the vertical ridges.

The rise is a little lower than the LL Bean pants, and it’s a little tighter in the thigh. I had them hemmed with turn-ups or cuffs because it adds a bit more weight, and I think it works well with corduroy fabrics. If you wanted cuffs, you can just get the LL Bean ones in a longer size, and you can still have the cuffs made at your alterations tailor.

I also tried many other brands, such as Cordings, which come in a nice color variety and have decent fabric, but their cut just never works for me. I mean, if I wear these pants, I look like a pressed sausage. Also, I felt the hem was too wide and, by default, they came with a button fly you could upgrade to a zip fly for an additional upcharge. But, overall, those pants just never worked for me and were not even remotely to be flattering.

So, the Fort Belvedere corduroys are different in a number of ways. First of all, they are the highest rise of all of them that I’ve ever tried. Why? Well, during the Golden Era of Menswear in the 1930s, men always wore high-waisted pants. They were more comfortable; they sit on your natural waist, and elongate your leg line, and they allow for a nicer drape of the fabric. Because it sits in the waist, you also don’t have to deal with your pants sliding down all day.

If you look at the Fort Belvedere size chart, you will see that at the lower end, the hem size doesn’t get smaller because, if you do that and you wear the pants at a size 28 or a size 30, your socks will stick to your legs, and you will constantly find yourself having to pull your pants down. That’s not just annoying but also looks bad.

FB high rise corduroy pants

High-Waisted Pants

Roomy for Bigger Thighs

The Fort Belvedere ones feel roomy in the thigh, they’re very comfortable, but they don’t look baggy. That’s because they’re tapered down towards the hem in a very elegant way. Basically, for most brands, they start with a base size, and from there, they scale up and scale down, meaning as your waist gets a little bigger, your hem gets a little bigger, your knee, your thigh, and so forth; however, that’s not what’s necessarily most flattering for people.

Also, at Fort Belvedere, you can see that the leg opening, at size 36, is the same as size 38, 40, or 42 because, at some point in time, it doesn’t make sense to make the leg opening wider. The same is true for the rise. There is a point where the rise simply gets too high, and it kind of overlaps your rib cage, which is not what you want.

If you want lower-rise trousers, I think Polo Ralph Lauren and Cordings are what you want. If you want a slightly higher-rise trousers, LL Bean is better. If you want a true high-rise trousers, Fort Belvedere is definitely the pair of corduroys to get. Also, if you have bigger thighs or you’ve had issues with fitting in your pants, the Fort Belvedere sizes are designed to be full in their cut. However, of course, if you’re a size 28 or 30 waist, you will not have really big thighs.

So, the pattern was scaled down more because we also wanted to account for slimmer people with thinner legs for our Fort Belvedere trouser models.

Should You Wear High-Waisted Pants?

Backings

At different price ranges, you typically also find different backings, which refers to what’s the inside of the corduroy trouser. That’s important because the corduroy fabric is directly in touch with your skin, and you want it to be comfortable. All the trousers here—LL Bean, Cordings, Fort Belvedere, and Polo—have the more elevated backing with the ridges and a twill weave.

Corduroy backing may look the same but softness differs
Corduroy backing may look the same, but softness differs.

In terms of softness, I personally prefer a really soft feel. I would rank them as: the Polo is the stiffest, followed by the LL Bean, and then Cordings and Fort Belvedere are at similar levels and are the softest.

Details

When it comes to details, there’s typically a clear difference between cheaper trousers and more high-end trousers.

On a cheaper end, you get very standard features. The belt loops are more of an afterthought. There’s just a simple button on the front that’s very functional. There’s a zip fly, but there’s no attention to detail or anything that says this is a special pair of pants because it isn’t.

LL Bean Pants

LL BEAN PANTS

Lacking Details

If you look at the LL Bean pants, there’s a simple button. There’s no double button, no French bearer. There’s nothing that covers anything up, the belt loops are not anything special. They have this weird grandpa-style elastic waistband, which is not something I like, but it’s typical for this price range.

The Polo pants are a slight upgrade. They have a French bearer. They have pleats in the front to get the extra room that I needed, but otherwise, they’re also not very exciting or special. 

The Cordings have an elastic waistband with buttons, which, again, I’m not a super fan of. By default, they have the button fly, but you can also upgrade to the zip fly. If you do that, that adds $29 to the cost, and once you do it, you can’t return them anymore. 

The Fort Belvedere pants have jetted pockets that are set at a very different angle than the LL Beans ones. It also has a nice little ticket pocket with a flap that is buttoned. The waistband is a little larger and features two closing buttons. Also, there’s an overlap. It’s more inspired by classic dress trousers. The idea was that you could wear a classic dress belt but also a more rugged casual belt that was a little bigger, and it would fit with the belt loops.

The loops themselves are also a little finer than what you, for example, see on LL Bean. It’s more evocative of higher quality trousers that you’ll get from a tailor. You also look on the inside, and you see a lot of of differences in the details.

The LL Bean one, for example, has no room to expand the pants. You can just make them smaller, not bigger. There’s no information on the composition of the interior waistband and pocket lining.

On the Polo Ralph Lauren pants, there are some fabric reserves. The edges of the fabric are nicely taped, but there is also no information on the material of the inside of the waistband or the pocket lining.

On the Fort Belvedere pants, you can see that they are clearly labeled and even all the lining materials are made of 100% cotton. They also have a specific crotch lining, which is made of acetate that helps to prevent any chafing or wearing out of the fabric in the thigh area, which is usually a high rub area.

Fort Belvedere also has, by far, the largest fabric reserve. So, you can really alter these pants to your heart’s content. Moreover, there’s a little loop in the Fort Belvedere pants, so it allows you to hang them, for example, if you’re at the gym or somewhere. So you don’t have to fold and crease the pants, but it can hang nicely and you have better-looking pants when you leave again.

Fort Belvedere pants have a little loop detail, so you can hang them without creasing!
Fort Belvedere pants have a little loop detail, so you can hang them without creasing!

Also, if you look at the buttons at the LL Bean price level, you get a cheaper, more plastic horn imitation button. Polo Ralph Lauren has their own branded buttons. Cordings has plastic buttons in the color of the fabric, and Fort Belvedere has higher quality corozo or horn buttons. Most of the time, they’re in matching colors, but sometimes, like on the red pants, they’re in contrasting colors.

Also, as can be seen in the descriptions, Fort Belvedere provides a lot more information about the pants, the details, and why it was designed that way than other retailers do.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, there’s a clear difference between cheaper pants and more expensive pants.

To me, personally, the biggest reason to go with Fort Belvedere pants is because of the size. I’m biased, of course, because I designed those pants, and I wanted something that was different was out there on the market. I’ve always enjoyed wearing high-rise trousers with a full cut, but I didn’t want a pair of pants that looked like an original 1930s pair of pants that a reenactor would wear.

Fort Belvedere corduroys are classic yet modern

Fort Belvedere

A Modern Classic

This is a pair of pants that modern men can wear in this day and age. They can feel comfortable. They don’t have to worry that the pants will wear out. There are thoughtful details in there that look cool, like the little ticket pocket with a flap, but there are also things like a little loop or an extra fabric reserve, so if you gain a few pounds, you can still wear these pants. Paying more provides you with a bit of fabric with a more well-designed pattern.

It took us about two years to design these corduroys, but I believe that we’ve created a really great pair of pants that will stand the test of time.

Outfit Rundown

Today, I’m wearing a very casual combination consisting of a long-sleeved polo shirt by Spier & Mackay in petrol blue. I’m wearing a pair of corduroys from Fort Belvedere. It’s the model Stancliffe. I’m combining them with a pair of brown and bright blue socks—also from Fort Belvedere—to pick up the color of the cognac pants and the polo shirt. 

On my feet, I have a pair of Tricker’s triple-sole boots that are full-brogued and a traditional British country boot. I’m combining it with a leather belt in a tan color by Fort Belvedere, which is part of the system, so you can exchange the buckles. I’m wearing a lapis lazuli pinky ring with some diamonds in yellow gold. That matches the yellow-gold buckle of my belt.

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