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Ready yourself for the crisp weather around the corner.
You can’t spell flannel without fall and now is prime time for the classic shirt to come out of the woodwork and into the crisp air. Like beanies and duck boots, it’s a style staple of the season, but it also works well at the end of summer, too, a la Brad Pitt. You’d do well to have a few tasty tartans in your closet. But not all plaid shirts are flannel shirts.
The term has been used interchangeably to refer to plaid at large, though flannel is a specific type of fabric independent of the pattern overlayed on top of it. It’s believed that flannel stems from Welsh origins (as far back as 400 years ago) and was originally a type of woven fabric made from carded or worsted wool, which is essentially wool that’s been prepped for weaving.
Today, flannel is most familiar as a brushed fabric rendered in cotton, but it can be made with wool as well as man-made materials, like polyester and acrylic. The brushed quality is what gives flannel fabric its softness and warmth, making it a common fabric for chillier months. It’s seen in blankets, pajamas and especially shirts, often in some type of plaid, though it can be made in solid colors.
You can learn more about the history of flannel here.
Good flannel shirts are thicker than the usual oxford or broadcloth button-up and get better with age. They’re hefty enough to pair with a thermal shirt but soft enough to wear on their own. They’re also more versatile than a typical button-up and can do double duty as an overshirt or a shirt-shirt.
Cheap flannel is easy to rip. As such, invest in a shirt that’s both made from better fabric and put together in a more polished way, meaning the stitches will stay together, not fray or fall apart. $100 or more is a fair price to pay for a shirt that’ll last — and you’ll want it to.
The Yosemite Buffalo Check Shirt from Taylor Stitch combines heavyweight chamois shirting, tonal nut buttons and two front flap pockets. It’s heavyweight without being suffocating, and you feel like you have plenty of room without carrying excess fabric.
Filson has been in the outdoor gear game for over 100 years. As such, you’d expect the brand to make a heavyweight flannel. And they do, in a few colors to boot. Each one is made from tightly-woven, brushed-cotton twill with pleated rear shoulders for better mobility and two front gusset pockets. It’s a hell of a shirt no matter how you wear it (or use it).
Available in over a dozen patterns, RedHead’s long-sleeve flannel shirt, for the price, can’t be beat — even by H&M or Zara. It’s made from 100 percent cotton, but it doesn’t shrink. Plus, the collar buttons down for a tidier appearance. Best of all, the fabric doesn’t pill, a problem most cheap shirts encounter.
Outerknown’s Blanket Shirt may not look like your traditional flannel — it has a curved hem, two pockets and an inner liner — but it’s super soft, like a blanket (hence the name). It works well as an overshirt or its own top layer, whether over an undershirt or with nothing underneath (if you dare).
Sure, Everlane’s The Brushed Flannel Shirt is missing the prerequisite of patterning, but everything else is here: the material, which brings softness and sturdiness, and the shape.
Finished in a colorway called Salmon Pink, Warehouse & Co. Lot.3104’s Japan-made flannel shirts are a faithful reproduction of pre-’50s era shirts. The brand also reproduces buttons from the era and matches them with their chosen colorways. If you’re looking for an investment piece that’ll get better with age, go with this option.
Alright, alright — I know. It’s $445. Iron Heart’s Ultra Heavy Flannel Check Western Shirt is made from a rare, un-farmed cotton from the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Called Aspero cotton, it’s naturally harvested there in limited quantities. That makes this shirt rare, too, but also impressively soft and heavy.
Also a storied outdoors brand, Woolrich makes a number of fashionable flannel shirts with historical shirtmaking references aplenty. Just look at the asymmetrical pockets, for example, a design choice that reflects an era when pockets had true purpose.
L.L. Bean’s men’s catalog boasts several different iterations of the Traditional Flannel Shirt: some with flap pockets, some with unstructured collars, some with liners. This is the most basic one of the bunch, but done really well. (And it’s only $50.)
Big, big yarns are what gives Wax London’s standout flannels their charm. It’s as if you nicked your granddad’s old flannel and took a magnifying glass to the yarns. Each one is made in Portugal using archival flannel fabrics that are as bold as they are heavy.
Pendleton’s Board Shirt has been favored by the Beach Boys and hailed as one of the best flannel shirts on the market for over for decades. It’s remained unchanged since the ’60s, with its two-pocket design, square hem and loop collar styling. The fabric uses virgin wool milled and woven in Pendleton’s famed Oregon-based mill. It’s water-, odor-, and stain-resistant and machine-washable so you don’t have to be precious on laundry day. If you’re not keen on the camp collar design, you can opt for the Lodge Shirt which sports a single pocket and classic button-up placket.
Itching for a flannel workshirt? Trust the master of Americana, Ralph Lauren. His label’s Classic-Fit Plaid Flannel Workshirt comes in several colors — like classic Buffalo Check or this pattern, which is dubbed Off White/Navy Multi. There are flecks of green and yellow in there, too, though.
Upstart New York brand Wythe’s Flannel Workshirt skews a little western, but it works — literally. The shirt itself is fashionable yet functional, making for one you’ll really want to wear everyday.
Yes, L.L. Bean made this list twice, but only because of Todd Snyder. The designer’s collaborative L.L. Bean collection featured a number of flannel shirts, each in patterns unique to Snyder, not L.L. Bean. Plus, they stretch, too, making them an easy add to most modern wardrobes.
Is it any surprise that a brand that’s been crafting flannel shirts through multiple generations is a great option? I mean, the brand has flannel in the name. Portuguese Flannel makes a ton of variations its bread-and-butter shirts every season, each made by highly-skilled craftspeople using exclusive fabrics made in-house.
Pladra makes a number of mid- and heavyweight flannel shirts, each with their own custom interior liners. They’re patterned, just like the shirt itself, but with nature scenes and graphic designs, not plaid. Plus, they’re fairly priced and come in sizes small through XXL Tall.