Pull on your moleskins

by Scribble Monboddo

Moleskins, of course, are lightly textured hard-wearing trousers beloved of vintage outdoorsmen like Bruce Chatwin, which is possibly why he nicknamed the similarly bound notebooks he used to buy in Paris with such a soubriquet. That added E near the end was probably a laboured Francophone pun, but a different spelling is enough to make a brand - and so it became.

Chatwin himself sadly succumbed to HIV in 1989, but in his rather short life reinvigorated the travel writing genre so far that he is still credited as an influence on other travel writers including, topically enough, Rory Stewart. His own 'moleskines' are now ensconced in the Bodleian, and when a reader who noticed a mention of them in one of his published works also happened to work for an Italian paper company, a marketing opportunity was soon spotted.

As a marketing machine, Moleskine is certainly pretty phenomenal. They're even contemplating opening their own cafés for owners to pose in while writing the next genre-defining travelogue (or, well, whatever). But is the product any good?

Well, the humans behind Nero's Notes are brave souls and have sent samples to self-confessed fountain pen addicts. On that score, there is no point trying to sweeten the pill; as Amanda has already reported in some detail and your humble correspondent is sadly unable to deny, a Moleskine will absolutely not make sweet music with your nib. So, having got that admission out of the way, here's why you might just be interested nevertheless.

Despite the Parisian origin story, the reborn Moleskine is a product of an Italian company who make most of their products in an ostensibly people's republic which probably needs no further advertisement here. The neat pocket-size (9 x 14 cm) Cahiers, though, are made in Vietnam, with irresistibly impressive attention to detail.

Available in a range of cover hues including 'Myrtle Green' - as GI as it could possibly be, frankly - these sturdy little notebooks have robust sewn bindings, a handy pocket in the rear cover for tickets and the like, and about half the pages are perforated for easy detachment in order to compose epic billets-doux in recently mastered exotic languages, crucial international peace missives or, more likely, quick notes for the dashboard about how the parking meter is out of order. They can handle some rough treatment, though, that's for sure.

What to write on them with, though? Well, obviously, pencil. This paper may be a bit feeble for fountain pens but it is pretty much perfect for graphite. It's been tested with several pencils, from ultra-soft to well-hard, and it behaves impeccably with all of them. If you're a bit of a sketcher, or perhaps just prefer graphite to ink, this is a really great little notebook.