Velvet: All About the Most Versatile Fabric of a Man’s Wardrobe

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Warm and durable over the centuries, velvet has been used for kings and workers, students and artists, and as few fabrics can do, it can claim some periods with great popularity and for some others, equally neglect.

As it was most adored in the 60’s and 70’s, now in the Autumn / Winter 2017-2018 season, velvet appear again in the gentleman’s wardrobe.

With the seasonal trends, memories of our childhood uniforms and all the rest that velvet can carry along with it, what do you really know about this versatile material?

Velvet’s History

Starting from its origins, the forerunner of velvet is fustian, a heavy and durable fabric, named after al-Fustat Egyptian town on the banks of the Nile, dating back to the second century BC. At this time, it became the most important place for the production of velvet.

In Italy velvet made its first appearance towards the 13th century. Starting from Palermo (for Arab import) and Venice (due to its continuous contacts with the East).

In Florence however, the velvet production took place from the second century AD and by the early decades of 1400’s, Florentine velvets were exported to London, Constantinople and various European countries.

The “Modern” Velvet

According to the English company Brooks Brothers, the cotton velvet, closest to what we now know as the modern concept, was invented in Manchester during the 18th Century. Shown for the first time in 1774 with the term corduroy (which precisely read, velvet corduroy) on the Maryland Gazette, where the fabric was imported from in United Kingdom.

The Gigi Cotton Corduroy Jacket © Eredi Chiarini

The Technical Definition of Velvet

When it comes to the technical definition of the fabric, velvet is a “Fabric with hair. Technically, two types of velvet are distinguished: warp velvet, with the hair formed by the warp and the second, textured velvet, with the hair formed by the weave”. -Treccani.

On the market we find many variants of this fabric, from the result of different workmanship, we are able to make different types of velvet garments.

Here is a small glossary to distinguish between the various types of velvet:

Smooth velvet

Smooth velvet, also known as panné or crushed, it is mainly characterized by a very dense, straight shaved hair.

Embossed velvet

On the contrary, the embossed velvet is distinguished by a series of small threaded rings protruding from the plot.

Corduroy

Another variant of the fabric that can be obtained through the process of weaving, brushing, waxing or calendering.
Defined by the name itself, this ribbed velvet has embossed cords which are very resistant to smooth velvet.
In particular for corduroys, there are many varieties: from the fine, medium, and wide, from 500 to 2000 lines.

Cotton Corduroy

A characteristic cotton velvet that is accommodating to both the wide and narrow corduroy. The jacket of the Autumn / Winter 2017-2018 collection of the Italian brand, The Gigi is made with this particular velvet. The preciousness of cotton velvet is no doubt from the glossy appearance: at first glance it can be mistaken as silk.

Wale

The size of the cord is indicated by the number of rows of velvet per inch, which is called “wale”. Ranging between 1.5 and 21. The lower the number, the greater width of the cord, for example, 11-wale corduroy is an average thin ribbed standard. -Source Wikipedia

Printed Corduroy

A type of smooth velvet on which, with particular techniques, are able to apply specific prints or designs.

Corduroy Trousers of the Autumn / Winter Season 2017-2018

The type of velvet preferred by the brands to make trousers for men is the cotton corduroy and the printed corduroy. An interesting example of this application is the collection of slim fit pants by Incotex from the Autumn / Winter 2017-2018, available at our boutique in a variety of shades.