With the arrival of a new year comes the perfect excuse for a new and updated wardrobe for the season ahead, and one stand-out trend that we can’t ignore for 2022 is men’s moleskins.
Made from a hard-wearing, dense cotton fabric carefully shorn to create the ultimate pair of men’s trousers or another comfortable garment, moleskins might have disappeared into the background in recent years, but now they’re experiencing a renaissance. These utility garments are known as ‘moleskins’ and were sported by countless generations of Ealing comedy warehousemen and French road sweepers – but these days, they are quite the fashion statement.
Comfortable men’s moleskins have long been viewed as the ideal workwear in Europe, and especially France – just as denim and canvas are the typical choices for workwear in the United States. Suitable for a sportsman’s lifestyle, the material is comfortable yet leather-tough, and a well-cut pair of moleskins is an investment garment that will last you for many years to come. So, if you’re sick of fast fashion and made it your new year’s resolution to invest in some quality luxury pieces in 2022, then look no further.
Moleskins are popular choices for a range of outdoor pursuits, so if you’re a fan of hiking, hunting, or fishing, then they offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy such activities in style. The tight weave of men’s moleskins is adept at retaining warmth and they are traditionally worn and preferred in cooler weather – making them the ideal choice for these last months of winter.
Moleskin is not, in actual fact, made from moleskin; the trousers are made of heavy, carefully woven cotton. The name ‘moleskin’ was coined because the fabric has a soft, brushed hand that bears close similarities with the beautiful skin of the small, velvety-furred burrowing subterranean mammal – so if you’re against buying materials derived from animals, then you can rest easy.
What is moleskin made of?
Moleskins are fustian – i.e., a tight-knit group of fabrics with slight naps – like corduroy and velvet. The brushed surface and dense weave of the material is thorn-proof and windproof, making it a favourite for making hunting breaches in medieval Europe.
Moleskins: The history
No one knows the exact origin of moleskins, but fustian fabrics such as the one used to create moleskin has a long history.
Historians believe this type of fabric is named after the city of Fustat in Cairo, Egypt, where it was produced in large quantities – but in medieval times, fustian referred to sturdy woven clothing created with a linen warp and cotton weft. Over time, the word evolved and now describes a much broader category of woven fabrics, which include those produced from linen and wool.
By the 19th century – i.e., during the 1860s, to be exact – this family of fabric had also begun to encompass heavy weft or cut weft cloths.
A significant part of the cloth-manufacturing processes of early fustian fabrics is the incredible number of hours it takes to produce a single yard of the material. Before the advent of mechanised looms, one fustian fabric weaver produced only a single yard of the material within 12 hours, but that’s not even where the labour ends. It was also common to carry out additional cutting and brushing procedures to develop extraordinary characteristics within the fabric, with the premium moleskin fabric we see today resulting from these varying finishing implementations.
The finished moleskin is brushed and sheared right on the weft-face to create a uniform nap. This results in a soft handle and supple appearance with an astonishing likeness to a mole’s fur – thus going on to earn the fabric its signature name.
Distinct varieties of moleskin – i.e., Swansdown, Imperial, O’Neil, and Patent – have emerged over the years, and are some of those we know and love today.
The benefits of wearing men’s moleskins
Moleskin clothing is breathable, making it an excellent choice for both winter and summer – although it is particularly cosy at this time of year.
Men’s moleskin trousers are also heavily sought-after as business casual and casual attire, despite offering a reasonably smart appearance when compared to jeans. The crisp-looking cotton fabric’s elegant finish and soft, subtle texture make men’s moleskin trousers perfect for informal events.
The garments pair remarkably well with a jacket or knit sweater that is well-suited for the prevailing season. On chilly days, a wise choice would be wool or tweed, or any other heavier fabric – but for spring and summer, lightweight jackets or knit cardigans in complementary colours work well.
How should you care for moleskins?
Moleskin garments are easy to clean, but be sure to take note of the instructions for care to make sure you’re looking after them in a way that will preserve them for the long-term. Usually, this means washing them inside-out on a gentle cycle or dry cleaning, then line drying.
As with every cotton garment, the colour of moleskins fades with every wash – but they age well, and this broken-in, highly comfortable look is all part of the material’s appeal.
Also be aware that men’s moleskin trousers will always need ironing because they are prone to creasing.
The bottom line
Moleskin is a rugged and thick fabric that is breathable and stands up well to chill and harsh winds, making it an excellent choice for this time of year. Windproof and with a highly dense weave, a moleskin garment promises to keep you warmer than denim ever could – so if you’re looking for a new-season update for your wardrobe that will last you for years to come, then look no further.