What Are Moleskin Pants?

By: Amber Roberts

Moleskin, not to be confused with the Italian paper and journal manufacturer ‘Moleskine,’ is a durable, densely woven material made of pure cotton. Similar to corduroy and velvet, a high-quality yarn is tightly woven to create the hardy textile. While corduroy is trimmed to create ribs, moleskin is sheared close over the whole of one side for a suede-like feel. The rich nap of the soft-brushed fabric hints at luxury, though the tough material began as rugged working wear.

The History of Moleskin

  • Moleskin cloth was developed during medieval times, favored for its durability and warmth.
  • During the 1800s, steelworkers relied on moleskin aprons and pants for protection from molten metal.
  • 19th-century farmers and laborers wore pants and jackets made from the long-lasting, wind- and-water-resistant cloth.
  • Moleskin trousers began to shift toward casual wear, becoming popular with estate owners and sportsmen, but maintained their industrial reputation.
  • From the 1960s to 1990s, the West German Army used an unshorn version of the textile.
  • In 1976, Orvis introduced moleskin pants—dubbed ‘ratcatchers’—to the USA.

What are the benefits of moleskin pants?

Moleskin pants perform wonderfully in the field—the dense textile protects against snags from brambles and briars, and the wind-resistant nap weathers a variety of outdoor conditions. Teflon® or other coatings may be added to extend water-repelling properties, but the hefty fabric blocks moisture naturally. They are built to protect against the elements on any outing, and can endure season after season of hard use.

Versatile moleskin pants aren’t just for the outdoors. A soft pile creates an easy, comfortable piece that feels broken in from the first wear. Trousers made of moleskin add sophistication to any wardrobe and transition from office to dinner party with ease.

When do you wear moleskin clothing?

Moleskin clothing, most commonly pants and jackets, is ideal for the sportsman’s lifestyle. Leather-tough, yet incredibly comfortable, moleskin trousers are a popular pick for hunting, fishing, or hiking. While traditionally worn in cooler weather—moleskin’s tight weave retains warmth—the cotton fabric is also breathable, making it a suitable choice for summer as well.

Moleskin trousers are also sought after as casual and business casual attire, though they are not as relaxed as jeans. The subtle texture and elegant finish of the crisp-looking material make moleskin pants ideal for informal occasions. They pair handsomely with a knit sweater or jacket suited to the season. A heavier fabric like tweed or wool is a smart choice on brisk days. For summertime wear, choose a lightweight knit cardigan or jacket in a complementary color.

How do you wash moleskin pants?

Garments made with moleskin are generally easy to clean but will include instructions that recommend either dry cleaning or washing inside-out on a gentle cycle. Line drying is recommended. And, as with all cotton clothing, colors will fade with each wash, creating a comfortable, broken-in look.

Moleskin pants are a worthy piece to add to your closet. You can’t beat the versatility, and the velvety-soft hand adds a luxe feel to any outfit. As much at home in the field or on the trail as they are in the office, there’s no better reason to add a pair (or three) to your wardrobe.

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