What is Sharkskin Fabric?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Sharkskin fabric has long been considered a highly desirable material that works well for all sorts of applications, some of them practical and some purely cosmetic. Known for having a smooth finish and unique weave, this fabric may be used for everything from sporting and marine equipment to clothing and accessories.

Sharkskin fabric is a woven smooth wool from which suits are often made.
Sharkskin fabric is a woven smooth wool from which suits are often made.

In most cases, sharkskin can be defined as a woven blend of smooth wool. More correctly, it is a smooth worsted fabric that often has a soft texture and a two-toned woven appearance to the worsted fabric. Usually, this two tone appearance is achieved by employing what is referred to as a basketweave, and can use both white and colored fibers. This creates a pattern where the different colored threads run diagonal to each other.

Sharkskin fabric is commonly used as a liner in wetsuits.
Sharkskin fabric is commonly used as a liner in wetsuits.

Typically, this material is made with the use of rayon or acetate, or as a blend of the two. Because both fabric options already have a relatively smooth texture, the combination results in the finish that sharkskin fabric is known for. Also, this creates a fabric option that can be laundered at home with the greatest of ease.

Sharkskin fabric definitely has a place around the home. When it comes to house linens, it is especially popular when it comes to curtains and other forms of window treatments. The material does not wrinkle easily and will hang very well, which makes the curtains low maintenance and ideal for anyone that wants a nice look to the windows without a lot of upkeep. It also works well for tablecloths, napkins and overlays for end tables as well.

When it comes to clothing, sharkskin fabric is popular for both men’s and women’s worsted suits. Light winter jackets and coats for men are also often made with this material. Sportswear for women is another common application of this fabric, since the material is lightweight and launders so easily.

One lesser known use of sharkskin fabric is as a liner in diving suits and wetsuits in general. The smooth texture of the material feels good against the skin and also has a tendency to stay in place as the suit is put on or taken off. The liner also does not slip during wear, which means the diver will feel much more comfortable than with some other types of liners.

Sharkskin fabric is commonly used to make sportswear for women.
Sharkskin fabric is commonly used to make sportswear for women.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Sharkskin was a fabric that was very popular in the 60's, but it was not durable and did not clean well. It was normally shiny, probably acetate or rayon. I don't know what they are calling sharkskin these days, but it was not wool! I suggest that nearest things to it would be a shantung silk.


Sharkskin is actually a wool and mohair blend. Calvin Klein made a beautiful wool/mohair suit about six years ago that I had purchased for Saks Fifth Ave. Very few suits are made with natural fibers. The cheaply made garments are made with acetate/polyester/rayon. If you want to invest in the right fabric that will "lay" right/fit right, don't invest in the imitation. You're just giving money away.


some of my favorite shark combinations are red and black, gold and turquoise, and black and green ~ absolutely NO WHITE included.


Some decades ago, I bought in Aden a cloth called so and got it stitched in Bombay into a white dinner jacket. This appliance does not appear in those blogs.


Silly question, but why is sharkskin fabric called sharkskin fabric?

What characteristics does it have that make it particularly like a sharkskin? Is it just a color thing, or is there another rationale behind the choice of name?


This may be my inner nerd speaking out, but I think it's really funny that sharkskin fabric is smooth when a shark's actual skin, when rubbed the wrong way, is very rough and sharp.


One of the most common non-clothing uses of sharkskin fabric is in bimini tops -- they make all kinds of things; marine bimini tops, sunbrella bimini tops, everything.

The fabric is supposed to be really good for that kind of thing, because it's light, yet it can protect you from the sun really well.


This is really useful info - but can I buy Sharksin fabric in Australia? I've seen websites selling men's sharkskin suits tailoring services using sharkskin, but I want to buy the fabric to have some women's pants made to match a black sharkskin blazer. Does anyone know where I might fond the fabric on its own?

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