What comes to mind when you think of flannel?

You might have immediately conjured up images of plaid. And lumberjacks. And pajamas. And maybe even some grungy 90’s band. But let’s stop there. Flannel is not plaid, and plaid is not flannel.

Well, not necessarily, at least.

There’s so much to understand about flannel beyond the plaid misconception. In addition to being comfortable and soft, flannel is unique in its ability to retain heat and wick away moisture, making it the perfect cold weather staple. Here’s everything you need to know about flannel and how to wear it.

What is Flannel?

This is flannel: 

Wear This: Flannel - Flannel Material

This is not flannel: 


You know how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? The same thinking goes for flannel and plaid, too. To begin, plaid is a pattern, whereas flannel is a fabric. So, you can have a flannel shirt with a plaid pattern on it, but plaid in and of itself doesn’t mean that the material is flannel. Though its origins aren’t entirely known, flannel most likely originated in Wales in the 16th century, and grew in popularity thanks to its affordability and capacity to retain heat. That, coupled with its durability, made flannel a go-to staple for work and hard labor. Flannel first appeared in the US in the late 1800s, where it was predominantly used to make long johns and bedding. In the 20th century, flannel, like denim, became a necessary work basic for men during the Great Depression. Flash-forward to the 1950s, where Paul Bunyan put this fabric on the map with his iconic red plaid flannel (which is presumptuously the origin of the plaid/flannel confusion). Finally, the 90s permanently cemented flannel into American history when Kurt Cobain championed the look. Today, flannel is still very much a part of modern style, and for good reason. It’s cheap, comfortable, weather-resistant, versatile, and durable. When worn properly, you really can’t go wrong with this style staple.

How to Style: Three Ways

Flannel can be dressed up or dressed own more easily than most people might think. And, because of its weight, it can just as easily be used as an outer layer as it can a shirt in itself. Here are three ways to incorporate flannel into your rotation.

1. Casual Flannel


Long-Sleeved Flannel Shirt, Patagonia | Selvedge Denim, Naked and Famous Denim | Chukka Boots, Ted Baker | Bracelet, Ties.com

This is probably the easiest and most common way to wear flannel. Pair a flannel button-up shirt with blue jeans and chukkas for a signature look that harkens back to simpler times. To really kick things up a notch, try to find a pair of raw denim for a ‘mid-century modern’ vibe.

2. Grungy/90’s Inspired


Long-Sleeved Flannel, J. Crew | Ramones Tee, Urban Outfitters | Black Denim, Topman | Boots, Aldo

We’re not experts in grunge. But to capture the essence of the 90s, try pairing a flannel shirt (unbuttoned) with a relaxed tee, slim denim, and Converse or boots.

3. Smart/Business Casual Flannel


Flannel Suit Jacket, J. Crew | Flannel Suit Pants, J. Crew | Double Monk Straps, Taft | Silk Tie, Ties.com | Dress Shirt, Express

Incorporating flannel into your business attire might seem odd at first, but it’s a great way of adding some much-needed texture and warmth (those office ACs can be brutal). Try a flannel suit on for size. Or, if that’s too much for you, a flannel button-up can look really cool paired with a sport coat and trousers. Stick to solids if you want to play it safe, or opt for a plaid variation to make a statement.

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