Flannel shirts – you can use them for more than tactical flannel (though tactical flannel looks gooodonya). Read on for more.
But first, let’s have a round of applause for @chill_sgt_luke, @sansottastrong, and @urbex_gta, who unintentionally made the cover photo for this article look so awesome.
Believe it or not, there was a time when people wore flannel shirts or warmth. And while that hasn’t actually changed, you might think it has. Those same people wore flannel because it was flannel – not plaid. People today often confuse the flannel shirt with the style of plaid. Though the aesthetics can be similar, fabric properties (and comfort) is not.
Mind you; we aren’t saying that plaid is a bad style. We’re advising you that real flannel isn’t always plaid and plaid patterns aren’t always flannel. Now you know. Now when you walk yourself into Old Navy for their so-called “flannel sale” you’ll be able to tell if it actually is a flannel sale. Otherwise, you risk selecting a plaid shirt made with synthetic fabrics that have no real warmth (and a decidedly different feel)
Long story short, if it isn’t warm, it isn’t real flannel.
We’ve compiled a list of good flannel shirts and compiled some flannel lore. This selection came from an informal, remarkably unscientific poll of several contributors and friends. Your preference may vary. Personal taste and intended use will factor in!
If you want to one of ’em great. Do us a solid and use our links. If you don’t, don’t. No drama. No matter what, though, let us know your opinion on the subject of flannel shirts in the comment below. You see, the title is a kind of a polite fiction. There are only 8 shirts listed below. We’ll add 11 more once you tell us what they should be.
Now, without further ado (and in no particular order), here are our top 8 flannel shirts.
Don’t care. Take me to the flannel lore.
Best Flannel Shirts
1. Dixxon Flannel Company: Pier 39 Lined Flannel Jacket
(Or pretty much any Dixxon flannel, really.)
• Exterior slash pocket, duel internal pockets, and hidden behind tag stash
• Custom interior diamond stitched and embellished
• Durability and comfort
• Double closure system for high speed assurance, Snap/Zip combo
2. TDI (Tactical Distributors Inc.): TD Tombstone Flannel.
• Offered in 5 oz or 9 oz weight
• Two oversized chest pockets
• Long sleeve with button cuffs
• Machine washable
• Made in the USA
3. Varusteleka: Särmä Wool Flannel Shirt
• A clean, thick flannel shirt
• 70/30 % recycled wool/polyester
• Fabric made in Italy, shirt made in Estonia
4. All Skill No Luck: Ntchwaidumela “Combat Flannel“
• Contoured fit supreme comfort and softness
• No exposed buttons
• Breast pockets tilted inboard with a slit to hold sunglasses
• Shoulder pockets tilted inboard
• Adjustable positions for cuff thickness
• 2 space pen pocket at forearm
• 100% cotton
5. Vans: Hixon Heavyweight Flannel Shirt
• 100% Cotton
• Unbrushed flannel shirt jacket with long sleeves
• A yarn dye
• A dropped tail hem
• On-seam pockets
6. Eddie Bauer: Catalyst Flannel Shirt (Big and Tall)
• 95% polyester/5% cashmere
• Machine wash cold delicate with like colors. Do not bleach or use fabric softeners. Tumble dry low. Remove promptly. Cool iron as desired.
7. 5.11 Tactical Sidewinder Flannel Shirt
• Ready Pocket on chest for storing documents or a phone
• Enhanced sidearm concealment/compatible with 5.11 Holster Shirt
• Patch chest pockets with snap closure
• Main Body: 100% polyester yarn-dyed flannel, 6.43 oz. brushed finish
• Contrast: 91% polyester / 9% spandex bi-stretch double weave, 6.44 oz.
• UPF Rating: 50+7
8. Toad & Co.: Indigo Flannel
• Wash-and-wear easy care
• Button placket
• Double patched—on chest pockets
• Bias—cut back yoke
• Slim fit
• 29.5″ length
• 100% Organic Cotton
8 down, 11 to go – tell us what you want us to add in the comments below.
And now…some flannel lore!
History of the Flannel Shirt
In order for you to truly appreciate a good flannel shirt, it’s important to understand the history—we’re kidding, you’d probably appreciate it just the same, but isn’t history fun?! Flannel wasn’t what it looks like today. In fact, flannel didn’t always come in the plaid design we all know today. Flannel also wasn’t made of a bunch of synthetic blends— did you know they can make flannel with coke bottles?— Instead, flannel was strictly about warmth and comfort. You didn’t see a bunch of people running around in plaid shirts because it “looked cool” (or tacticool, though it certainly is).
Instead, you probably saw a bunch of people wearing gray, fuzzy-looking outfits (coveralls, long underwear, casual wear, even suits). And where did this flannel come from you ask? Sheep. You see, flannel originated in Welsh, where the sheep were abundant. And what do people do when they have a lot of something? They use it. And that is exactly what the people of Welsh did. They took the wool from sheep, did a bunch of stuff to make sure the knots and kinks came out, threw it together and made a warm flannel outfit, shirt, coat, suit just for their people.
Heavy Flannel Shirts
Today, flannel shirts come in mostly plaid, and it feels like most plaid, flannel advertised shirts are a little on the thin side. However, if you’re getting flannel, it should be warm. Some companies offer varying weights of flannel (as you can see from the specs in the examples above) so you can decide on a more lightweight flannel, say for fall or a more heavyweight flannel for the frigid winter months.
Believe it or not, flannel suits were and are a thing. And if you have this desire to look fashionable for the office while keeping warm during the walk to your car to the building, a flannel suit is the way to go — maybe that’s just us, but we doubt it. Alas, you won’t be finding a flannel, plaid patterned suit in any of the major stores that we’ve seen. Flannel suits started out gray, and (fortunately?) never transitioned to the plaid flannel we know today—but who knows, the way styles are changing, it may only be a matter of time. And anyway, some of our crew would absolutely rock a lumberjack looking all flannel suit.
Flannel in the Workforce
Flannel shirts started their journey in the military. They used to be issued out to service members, who would, in turn, wear them under their uniforms so they could keep warm during the cold temperatures. It’s said, however, that the men would actually wear them while off-duty as well because they were just that comfortable. It wasn’t until the 90s where flannel became more than a working man’s choice of attire—refer yourself to the flannel suit section above.
Somewhere in history, flannel became a style. How it ended up making its way to the good ol’ US of A, no one is too sure, But when it got here, just like Americans, we waited until music icons like Nirvana (Kurt Cobain more specifically) wore his comfortable looking flannel on the big stage. Of course, easily influenced, the flannel fashion industry really took off, as everyone wanted to copy their favorite band. In all honesty, we’re glad it became a thing—who doesn’t like warm/comfortable flannel? Before that even happened, Hamilton Carhartt—the famous Carhartt brand we know today—is to thank for at least making it popular enough for an artist like Cobain to wear it in the first place.
Women’s Flannel Shirts
Women’s’ flannel shirts were not always a thing—you might understand why since flannel was produced in the 17th century. You see, there was a time when women weren’t in the workforce quite like they are today, so flannel suits were made for men. Women weren’t serving in the military, so long flannel underwear was also made for me. It actually took quite a while for this “style” to get to women. Once the big guys—Tommy Hilfiger, Dior, and Ralph Lauren—took on flannel, they were able to produce it in a way that fit women, and an entirely new market opened up.
Vintage Flannel Shirts
Ah vintage, the word used to describe something old coming back to new, or something like that. Or maybe just the word to make you feel old, we’d prefer to say seasoned. Sadly, when things become vintage, name brand vendors take a hold of it, spruce it up a bit and sell it back to the consumer for a lot more than it took to make it. That’s pretty much what seems to be happening to flannel. If you’ve ever taken a quick peek at real flannel, name-brand companies (you’re buying the name and the vintage title) you’ll find flannel shirts for well over $200. What’s the difference? First, they’re made with real 100% sheep’s wool and then, of course, they’re also vintage. You might think to yourself, I’m better off learning to make my own flannel shirts. Maybe this is true, but probably not, because we all know you can’t sew—except maybe that button that fell off your uniform pants 15 years ago.
Cheap Flannel Shirts
Where you find vintage, you’ll also find cheap, “non-vintage” versions. But, that typically looks like a synthetic blend. Mostly, you’ll find your flannel shirts these days to be made of cotton. Now, we’re no scientist here, but cotton isn’t wool—although it is still warm. Because cotton is cheaper than wool, a lot of manufacturers use it instead, so they can turn a bigger profit. Now, we aren’t saying cotton is bad, it’s just not original. If you want original, you’re going to pay more—refer to the section about vintage above.
More to follow in the days to come!
Check more flannel shirt reviews.