What are moleskin pants?

Updated February 21, 2017

Moleskin trousers are made for men, women or children from a sturdy cotton fabric with a distinctive smooth pile surface. It feels velvety but wears well, making it useful for work and outdoor clothing. Although durable, moleskin trousers are comfortable from the time they are new.


Moleskin fabric was created in 17th century England by weaving cotton wefts, or nap, onto a linen warp, or underlying vertical-and-horizontal grid. Its fabric relatives include corduroy and velveteen. Popular with hunters, moleskin trousers quickly were named for the fabric: “moleskins.” British mills, among others, still produce all-cotton moleskin fabric for fabrication into trousers, tops and hats.

Other Names

A fabric woven as moleskin, but from synthetic materials, also is called moleskin. The term “suedecloth” sometimes replaces or augments “moleskin” as a fabric or clothing descriptor. Generally, suedecloth refers to moleskin of synthetic composition.


Moleskin trousers drape beautifully and move attractively. They present an unstructured, as opposed to a crisply pressed look. If the fabric is called cotton moleskin or English moleskin, it will last a long time. Choose trousers constructed with heavy-duty seams and closures.


Because of the pile, moleskin trousers combine with smooth or silky fabrics, including patterns. Moleskins also look well with sweaters and blazers. As they wear, moleskin trousers acquire an attractive weathered look.


Cotton moleskin is machine washable in cool water and may be pressed with a cool iron from the wrong side. Trousers also may be dry cleaned. To avoid shrinkage, it is best to line-dry cotton moleskin trousers. Synthetic moleskin trousers must be laundered appropriately for their fabric content.

Fun Fact

Moleskin is used for welding trousers, jackets and coveralls.

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Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at or at