Classic moleskin is very dense, heavyweight cotton that got its start in English workingmen’s clothing but ended up favored by the gentry for rugged hunting and fishing attire. A very tightly woven twilled fabric that provides surprising protection against chilly winds, moleskin has a sheared nap on one side and is quite soft to the touch—as soft as a mole's fur, they say. Like the fabric, moleskin clothing is expensive when compared with other cottons. But a well-made moleskin garment can last a lifetime, which easily justifies the extra cost.
Dry clean pants, shirts, vests and other items made from cotton moleskin to best preserve the fabric’s original look and to avoid fabric shrinkage.
Maintain moleskin’s tight weave—and preserve its most valued qualities—by machine-washing it then line-drying, the approach favored by hunting and fishing traditionalists. Colors will gradually fade, and the result is a well-worn and weathered look. In fact, the unique patina of moleskin is one of its charms. The more it’s washed, the softer and suppler it gets; no amount of washing seems capable of wearing it out.
To wash cotton moleskin, first turn each clothing item inside out. Machine wash in cold water on your machine’s gentle cycle, then turn right-side out.
Line dry moleskin clothing, or dry indoors on a drying rack.
Iron moleskin only the wrong side of the fabric. Use a steam iron and an ironing cloth.
Buy moleskin items with a slightly loose fit if you plan to wash them. Unless the fabric was prewashed before being stitched into clothing, moleskin items will shrink 3 to 5 percent the first time they are washed.
Do not be fooled by polyester fabrics that are now commonly sold under the name moleskin, which is soft and washable but otherwise shares none of the other sterling characteristics of genuine cotton moleskin.