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In Search of the Wide Wale

Updated: Feb 8, 2022



Doesn't it feel like it is almost impossible to find a pair of wide wale cords these days? It feels like you have to embark on a grand search, just to find a decent pair of wide wale cords. It wasn't always like this, I swear. I remember going to Kohl's in the 1990s and finding wide wale cords. It felt like you could buy them everywhere or anywhere. They weren't some hard to find pant.


These days, if you wear a pair of wide wale (8-wale in this case) around any guy who knows his clothes, you are bound to get a compliment about your cords. Just the other day, I was in a menswear store, and the owner almost immediately upon seeing me complimented me in warm surprise on my yellow wide wale cords. They are rare today. Wearing wide wale in any color is going to get you attention.


Again, it wasn't always like this. I distinctly remember being a kid in the 1990s and buying cords for school at stores like Kohl's or even a store like Meijer (midwest reference). You go to Goodwill these days and you will find old pairs of cords, left over from this era. They are wide wale made by a brand that is nothing special, an economy, cheap brand. Now, they are practically luxury.


This evolution and change reminds me of the change that happened with the unlined OCBD, full collar. It used to be ubiquitous. You didn't have to search out unlined collars. Decades ago, it was common place. Unlined collars on OCBDs could be bought at JC Penneys for a steal. But, slowly it faded and it became a niche piece of clothing, which then really translated into "luxury" for many and now you have to be Sherlock Holmes in order to find one and almost always end up paying much more than our grandfathers paid. The wide wale cords follow this same sort of evolution, I think. It just happened a bit later.


It is unfortunate this is the case. But, it is. We can't do anything about it, we can just scarf up the wide wale when we find them at an even close to affordable price and try to keep them nice for as long as possible. I love all cords. I have some fine wale with pleats and cuffs which are very beautiful. But wide wale is the real rare prize today. There is something about them, it's not just nostalgia. It is just such a perfect, warm, comfortable, luxurious winter look with so much texture. There is practically no other pant that we wear which has the same degree of texture as a wide wale cord. I suppose coming in a distant second would be seersucker, but after that it drops off and is all flat.


An awesome, comfortable, classic and delightful winter garment, the fading of the wide wale cord is a sad event, and it occurred for seemingly no good reason. Of course I am sure this fading of the wide wale has to do with the move toward even more casual clothing in our society. The cord is already a casual pant, but compared to the sweat pant or the jean, it is formal. There is no reason for the wide wale not to make a comeback. I would certainly welcome it, maybe they would end up being easier on the wallet.


In the photo about, I have pair of 8-wale violet cords and a reddish brown leather belt paired with a classic white OCBD and a vintage 1990s Polo Ralph Lauren pink tie adorned with a unique bird motif. Perfect for a cold, bright winter day.

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