There has recently been a resurgence amongst some of my circle in workwear; the hardwearing utility garments sported by generations of French roadsweepers and Ealing comedy warehousemen. While utility wear is not exactly my style. There is a good reason that these garments endure and stand the test of time… Moleskin Pants.
No, not the hides of short-sighted garden pests, but the densely woven, cotton fabric, shorn to a fine nap.
What is Moleskin?
Moleskin is a ‘fustian’; a group of fabrics with a nap, like velvet and corduroy, who have their origins in medieval Europe. The dense weave of the cloth, with the brushed surface, made moleskin a favourite for hunting breeches. Being pretty windproof and thornproof.
In France, moleskin jackets and pants were dyed different colors to denote trades. Indigo ‘bleu de travail’ was to denote manual labourers, black to denote carpenters, brown for metalworkers. While in Germany moleskin was dyed olive for army use.
By Victorian times, with great quantities of the cloth woven in Yorkshire, most English workmen would have sported moleskin in some form – jackets, vests or pants.
No moles are harmed in the making of our pants
A few years ago, we stocked Moleskin Pants only in loden green or stone, stalwart trews of the countryman or gamekeeper.
However, in the intervening years a huge resurgence in the popularity of fustians has seen us expand our range from pants, to narrower-legged jeans, waistcoats and jackets. Not only have we developed a variety of garments but the colors of our pants reflect our new found confidence in the brighter shades, mulberry red and purple. Flat-fronted and flattering, Peter Christian moleskins are a long way from their origins as navvy’s strides.