What is moleskin fabric?


Though the name suggests it, moleskin isn’t made of mole skin.
Image source: Shutterstock

A practical and versatile alternative to chinos or jeans, moleskin is a fabric with a history as rich as the colours its available in. We may know it as moleskin, but this is simply a nod to the soft texture of this cotton-based fabric – no moles are harmed in the production of this material.

Moleskin fabric is made from cotton, which is sheared to create a smooth textured surface that feels like the skin of the soil loving mole. Soft and hard wearing, it is a popular alternative to fabrics like wool or linen.

All will be revealed as we take a trip into the makeup, style and history of moleskin.

How is moleskin made?

cotton field

Moleskin is a cotton based fabric.
Image source: Shutterstock

Closely related to corduroy, both are ‘fustian’ fabrics, which are manufactured using processes that expose the internal weave between two layers.

    1. Two layers of heavy cotton are woven together, a ‘backer’ and a ‘top layer’, with a tight weave.
    2. The top layer of the fabric is then ‘shorn’ away, in a similar fashion to the shearing of sheep. The closer the shearing is to the ‘backer’, the softer the moleskin.
    3. This leaves the weave between the two layers of cotton exposed, which is brushed to create a soft ‘nap’ or texture.
    4. The soft, velvety texture is likened to the skin of a mole, which is how the fabric gets its name.
    5. The finished product is dictated by the quality and thickness of the yarn used to make the weave. The density of these weaves and a higher quantity of yarns creates a better fabric. A weave with fewer yarns can still be good quality, provided thick yarn is used.

Why should you wear moleskin?

colours of moleskin

Moleskin trousers are comfortable, durable and stylish. 
Featured product: Samuel Windsor Moleskin Trousers

Moleskin trousers are great for the winter, as they retain heat well. The high cotton content means that they are also very breathable so can be worn in the summer too.

The thicker makeup of moleskin makes it very durable and hardwearing; perfect for the ups and downs of our busy lives. Scrolled or jean hems at the bottom of a moleskin trouser will make them less susceptible to scuffing and tearing.

How to wear moleskin

man on a bridge

Moleskins are the perfect choice for smart-casual occasions.
Featured product: Moleskin trousers in Port

The main use for moleskin is making trousers and jackets. Smart casual attire can be made more daring a moleskin jacket in colours such as olive or tan. For a more subtle approach, try grey or navy, which are suitable for any season.

For a slightly more casual outfit, wear a tattersall shirt tucked into moleskin jeans and top with a contrasting belt. Just like the jackets, moleskin trousers can be found in an array of bright colours, so pick a bold hue and really make a statement.

Matching moleskin with its distant cousin corduroy, is a popular option. Try wearing your moleskin trousers with a corduroy jacket. Indeed Bedford cord, which doesn’t have the signature ridges of regular corduroy, has much in common with moleskin. Bedford cord is durable, and has the same soft feel as moleskin, but isn’t quite as thick.

A brief history of moleskin

Moleskin was traditionally manufactured in Lancashire, where the cotton trade boomed. It became popular for labourers and agricultural workers due to it’s comfort and durability. It was soon adopted by the landed gentry for hunting and shooting gear on account of its wind-resistant qualities.

The West German Army wore moleskin uniforms, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Unlike traditional moleskin, it wasn’t sheared, giving it a flat outer. Nowadays the German Army use a polyester blend for added water resistance.

Do you have a soft spot for moleskin? Let us know in the comments below. 

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  1. Have just received a pr of claret colour. They feel lovely and thick and will suit me fine when the weather turns cold.
    The same colour as my grandfathers army trousers…but don’t have the gold stripe down the outer edges!. He was killed WW1 22/3/1918 when a German gas shell landed on the ammunition cart he and his horse was attached to. I visited his grave in Brie France for the 1st time last Sept.

  2. Pingback: Moleskin: A Unique Fur Once Favoured by British High Society

  3. More a question than a comment. In 1980 I had a German army moleskin shirt. It was exceptionally soft and hard wearing. A couple of years ago I bought another, the date on the label 1990. It was sold as moleskin but although a good shirt is not anywhere near as soft. It is poly cotton. I assume that the original shirts were all cotton, hence true moleskin??

  4. Would really like a moleskin suit ….2 or 3 piece. Would be rather nice in dark blue or black.Perhaps you’re already making one but I haven’t come across it ?

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