What Is Fleece: A Comprehensive Guide

Many associate fleece with a fabric that does not weigh you down, but does a great job at trapping breezy air in cold conditions. Fleece is mostly used in jackets for lightweight winter clothing. It acts as an extra protective layer in mildly or extremely cold climates. This comprehensive guide on fleece will unlock more information regarding fleece, its types, and benefits.

What is fleece?

Fleece is a synthetic, non-woven fabric made of mainly polyester or a blend of other fabrics such as cotton. It is a heat-trapping yet breathable, lightweight, comfortable fabric that is suitable for outdoor clothing. To understand better, take a look at the anatomy of fleece fabric meaning.

Originating from old English words such as flies or fleos, fleece is like any other word whose meaning is based on where they come from. Similarly, fleece means the wool coat of a sheep, fur, or sealskin.

It is used as lining material jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, shirts, and more. To combat cold weather, fleece has become a highly appreciated fabric over wool, due its availability and affordability. It is designed to feel fur-like, soft warm, and lightweight like wool, but has an unfinished texture.

Types of fleece

Depending on the softness, thickness, and materials used in the fabric, there are a myriad of fleece types and fabric combinations. But, we have discussed the common, yet most popular ones below.

First, we have categorized the types of fleece based on weight. Fleece is categorized by weight defined by how many grams of fleece constitute one square meter. Thus, it is measured in GSM or gram per square meter and categorized into three as the following:



Microfleece is the most lightweight and thinnest of the three types. They are worn as mid-layers under waterproof layers and over base layers. The fleece fabric by weight up to 200 GSM is considered a microfleece, allowing maximum flexibility for exercises without restricting movement. Thus, they are also used as the outer lining in apparel apt for sports or adventurous pursuits in mild conditions.

 It is ideal for weather conditions that are not too cold as they provide the highest breathability but the lowest level of insulation.You won’t find hood or multiple pockets done in Microfleece as it contradicts the idea of lightweight design.

Mid weight fleece

Mid weight fleece covers the mid range of weight between 200 GSM and 300 GSM. When the weather is chilly, and you can’t miss hikes or treks, this is the type of fleece that fits the bill. Mid weight fleece is warmer than Microfleece, and it has other properties apt for such weather conditions. It is comfortable, breathable and offers higher insulation than light weight fleece.

However, it offers less flexibility due its thickness. It can be worn everyday as an outer layer in cool conditions or as a mid layer between base layer and waterproof jacket when the temperature goes down. The high energy activities are not advisable with the latter pairing.

Heavy weight fleece

As the name suggests, heavyweight fleece has the most weight positioned on the spectrum at 300 GSM or more. It is definitely not flexible as the above two owing to its weight and thickness. It is a thermal fleece best suited for extreme cold conditions where physical activity is limited.

Nevertheless, it is also the warmest and most insulating of all three. It is great for pairing in the Arctic or polar conditions where maximum insulation or heat is required. It is not advisable to try exercising or intense physical activities in heavy weight fleece as it heats quickly. You can wear it solely as an outer layering in cold weather.

Textured fleece

Other types of fleece are based on the type of fabric, but similar to heavyweight fleece is textured fleece. It is softer in touch, comfier than regular fleece, and used for decorative purposes. As it shares the same weight as heavyweight fleece, it is ideal for cold weather conditions as an outer layer or mid layer. What differentiates it is the texture. It can be velvety or luxurious looking, and is the most appealing for patterned outer layering.

When it comes to fabric composition, there are plenty of options to choose from. But, we have discussed the prominent fleece fabrics based on organic or inorganic material.

Polyester fleece

Polyester fleece can be 100% polyester and is the most common in the market. Polyester is cheaper and affordable. It is an inorganic fabric made of plastic which is great for repelling moisture. Polyester fleece is plush on the inside and smooth on the outside. It has a shiny appearance on the smooth side.

Cotton fleece

Cotton fleece is an organic type of fleece, common in the market as number two. It is soft and usually used for making apparels for babies. It has a smoother outer surface and a plush inner side. Its other uses are in sweatpants, sweatshirts, and shirts.

Polar fleece

Polar fleece is thicker and more insulating than microfleece. It is warmer and thus used in blankets and jackets for colder regions. It is a synthetic fabric that imitates the properties of wool. It is highly breathable, softer in touch, and clearly less expensive than wool.

Lycra spandex fleece

Lycra spandex fleece constitutes mainly cotton and a small percentage of Lycra Spandex. This composition makes it stretchable. It is used as a performance fleece in junior’s or women’s garments.

French Terry fleece

French Terry fleece is thinner and sits flatter than most fleeces. Unlike other fleeces, it lacks the usual fluffiness and is unbrushed on both sides.

Sherpa fleece 

Sherpa fleece is made of 100% polyester. Used as a lining in garments to add more warmth, it is very fluffy, and mocks the wool fleece.


We have answered the most frequently asked questions about fleece including the warmth, water resistant properties, and others.

Is fleece warm?

The fleece traps your body heat and provides insulation from outer weather conditions. Depending on the weight, they can be warm and thick. As explained above, it is used as a mid layer and outer layer as well in colder conditions, but in extreme cold climates, it must be paired with other garments.

Is fleece waterproof?

The fleece wicks away moisture as it is wicking material. It locks the body heat but prevents the sweat from lingering and dampening the skin. Nonetheless, it is not waterproof. If exposed to rain, it must be dried carefully to avoid odor. It is also flammable, so be careful about what drying methods you use.

Is fleece vegan?

Fleece, as it is available in the market, the most common types are vegan as they are artificially designed to mock the wool properties. But, it may or may not be organic. The fleece is made of polyester which is made of plastic. Some fleeces are a blend of organic material such as cotton.

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