How to wear moleskin

Long-sleeve moleskin shirt in wine from Samuel Windsor

Soft and lightweight – what’s not to love about this stylish fabric?
Image: Long-sleeve moleskin shirt in wine from Samuel Windsor

Moleskin is a soft-textured fabric that feels like the smooth fur of a garden mole – if you were to stroke one – but with a lot less of the startled burrowing involved. A cotton fabric that’s smart and yet casual, warm and yet lightweight, moleskin is a curious cloth that offers plenty of dapper menswear options for shirts, jackets and pants.

What is moleskin?

Close up of blue moleskin pants fabric from Samuel Windsor

Moleskin is incredibly comfortable to wear
Image: Samuel Windsor

Moleskin is closely related to corduroy, in that both are ‘fustian’ fabrics. They’re manufactured using a process that weaves two layers of base cloth together, then slices them apart. Confused? Here’s the lowdown:

  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 backer and top layer exposed, which is brushed to create a soft ‘nap’ or texture.
  4. The feel of the finished product is dictated by the quality and thickness of the yarn used to make the weave. A denser weave creates a better fabric. A weave with fewer yarns can still be good quality, provided thick yarn is used.

When should you wear moleskin?

Country vest in dark olive moleskin from Samuel Windsor

A moleskin vest provides a stylish layer
Image: Country vest in dark olive moleskin from Samuel Windsor

Many folks associate moleskin with winter pants, and it is true that, with its warm luxuriant feel and densely piled texture, moleskin makes a perfect choice for fall and winter wear.

But to retire your moleskin to the closet as soon as the snow begins to thaw would see you miss a trick because of course, for every shear that leaves a long pile on the backing cloth, you’re also left with a short pile on the top layer. The result? Lightweight moleskin that’s perfect for spring and even summer wear in some of the cooler, more mountainous northern states.

How to wear moleskin

Long sleeve moleskin shirt in gunmetal from Samuel Windsor

Soft moleskin shirts are smart and versatile
Image: Long sleeve moleskin shirt in gunmetal from Samuel Windsor

Moleskin adds a tactile element to your ensemble making it perfect for any smart casual event – it lends a certain sumptuousness to proceedings. Think dinner dates, evenings at the theater and classical music concerts. It’s also great for when you want to inject a little romance into proceedings – the soft, approachable aspect of moleskin really comes to the fore here.

Perhaps you work in a people-facing profession? Moleskin is a firm favorite among school teachers, lecturers, doctors, counselors – in fact, anytime you want to create a look that makes you seem smart but non-threatening, moleskin is your go-to fabric.

Add a plain moleskin vest to your regular blazer, shirt and pants combo. This understated extra layer effortlessly raises your outfit to a whole new ball game.

Looking for a more casual layer? Tactile moleskin shirts are incredibly versatile. Worn open over a plain t-shirt they’re perfect for unpredictable spring and fall weather. Buttoned up, they look great with a pair of jeans or corduroy pants.

As for moleskin pants, choose a bold color and pair with a soft Tattersall shirt and a neutral sweater. The only rule is never to wear a moleskin shirt and pants – it’s either or, guys.

Which shoes should I wear with moleskin?

Navy summer weight moleskin pants from Samuel Windsor

Navy moleskin pants and brown leather brogues are a great combination
Image: Navy summer weight moleskin pants from Samuel Windsor

If you’re wearing moleskin, you’re looking for a shoe or boot that’s semi-formal without being too smart. That means bluchers and brogues. Fall, winter and spring moleskin pants look great with boots – suede, nubuck and leather boots are all good choices.

Because moleskin pants come in lots of bold colors, you can afford to choose a slightly more flamboyant shoe too. Why not try a split brogue in brown. This jazzy shoe offers a subtle modern take on the spectator brogue, using gloss and matt finish leathers to create a feeling of contrast.

Wear moleskin to communicate a softer, gentler you. And don’t forget – standard weight moleskin for fall and winter, lightweight moleskin for spring days and summer nights out!

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

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