While it may seem straightforward, flannels, like most garments, have their own set of use cases and styling do’s and don’ts. In this article, we’ll explore what a flannel shirt is, delve into its rich history, and provide some styling tips to ensure you’re making the most of this much-loved menswear icon.

What is Flannel?

The flannel shirt traces back centuries, with its origins rooted in the rugged landscapes of Scotland. Originally crafted from wool to withstand the harsh weather of the Scottish Highlands, flannel fabric was prized for its warmth and durability. Over time, flannel shirts became synonymous with blue-collar workers, from miners to loggers, who relied on the fabric’s resilience during long days of labor.

In the mid-20th century, flannel shirts experienced a cultural resurgence, transitioning from workwear staple to ubiquitous icon. From Hollywood stars sporting flannel-clad ensembles to musicians embracing the garment as a symbol of authenticity, flannel shirts became ingrained in popular culture, and they’ve held that mantle with a lumberjack’s grip ever since.

Model rolling up the sleeves of his flannel shirt

How To Wear A Flannel

While the button-down silhouette and collar lend flannel shirts more versatility than other workwear, they have their limitations. For instance, black-tie events and most business occasions are too formal for the flannel’s burly, often patterned appearance. That being said, there are still a ton of ways to rock a flannel. Let’s get into it.

1. Mind Your Colors

As with any outfit, it pays to be mindful of your color palette. Choosing a bright or loudly colored flannel could make it harder to incorporate into your existing wardrobe, so we recommend starting with more neutral colors and earth tones. As your flannel collection grows, you can add more adventurous options to the roster.

2. Avoid Clashing Patterns

Tracing back the Scottish roots of the design, plaid patterns have become synonymous with flannel shirting from the start. Heck, some folks even call plaid “flannel”. While it’s true that you can find plenty of solid color flannel options out there, if you go with the classic patterned option, it’s worth considering how that pattern plays with the rest of your outfit.

In most cases, this means letting the plaid pattern of your flannel act as the centerpiece of your outfit by pairing it with neutral or solid color garments. For instance, if you’ve got a colorful plaid flannel on, you could pair it with a simple white tee and blue jeans or a black shirt and black jeans.

Model wearing The Ledge Flannel with chinos and a denim jacket

3. Get The Proper Fit

While how a flannel should fit is often a matter of personal preference, if you’re unsure, go with what’s timeless. That means shoulder seams that hit at your natural shoulder, a hem that breaks just below your waist, and a cut that’s fitted in the chest while allowing room for light layers. That being said, if you live or work in cold conditions and need a bunch of insulating layers, go ahead and size up. This is workwear, and at the end of the day, utility is king.

4. Quality Over Quantity

This is a point we’ll be shouting from the rooftops to our final breath. For your sake and the sake of the environment, always buy quality over quantity. Fast fashion companies try to draw us in with low prices and trendy assortments, but in a season or two, those trends will have gone the way of the dodo bird, and those cheaply made garments will be headed to the landfill. In the case of flannels, opt for 100% wool or cotton pieces with a timeless design and long-lasting craftsmanship. Unlike cheaper options, these flannels will soften and wear in over time, getting better with each passing season.

Styling Your Flannel

1. Casual, Buttoned-Up

For a timeless, casual look that favors simplicity, pair a buttoned-up flannel with your favorite pair of jeans and either boots or sneakers. This one is perfect for everything from a night out with friends to a morning coffee run, and it’s 100% trend-proof.

Model wearing a buttoned up flannel shirt with jeans

2. Casual, Unbuttoned

Depending on the season, this look will start with throwing your flannel over a thermal, plain t-shirt or tank. Since the flannel is left unbuttoned, this look is a great way to break up an outfit and showcase a quality leather belt. We like to pair this look up with jeans or chinos and (especially if you’re rolling up those sleeves) a classic timepiece.

3. The Rugged Workwear Look

For an outfit that harkens back to the workwear roots of the flannel, layer it over a henley and add either a denim trucker jacket or canvas work jacket for added warmth. Complete the look with a pair of work pants and sturdy boots for a practical outfit that’ll tackle any task and look damn fine doing it.

4. The Old-School Tuck

This one gives us 90’s Home Improvement nostalgia, (if you’re too young to remember that show, just trust us here.) Layer your flannel over a tee shirt or tank and tuck it into some well-fitting jeans (extra points for a light wash.) The tuck will break up your outfit at your natural waist, elongating your legs, making you look taller, and showing off your choice of belt. Pair this outfit with leather boots and a vintage watch to complete the look.

Model wearing a flannel shirt tucked into jeans

5. Elevated Casual

Elevate your casual attire by layering your flannel shirt under a bomber jacket or French chore coat and pairing it with slim chinos. Finish off the look with sneakers or desert boots for a refined yet relaxed ensemble suitable for weekend outings or casual gatherings.

Our Take On The Flannel Shirt

Our recipe for the perfect flannel starts with tailoring. Over a decade ago, we were a small bespoke shirting operation working out of a garage in San Francisco. All these years later, the chest-based, tailored fit we developed for those custom clients remains a pivotal piece of our DNA.

Next up, materials. In the case of flannels like The Ledge Shirt, we start with 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton and weave it into burly brushed twills, double-cloths, and plain weave fabrics in a variety of timeless colors and patterns.

The third ingredient in our flannel recipe is craftsmanship. To us, the true beauty of any garment is in the way it ages with you and becomes your own. That’s why all the gear we make is built For The Long Haul. From double-needle seams to lock stitched buttons to clean finishing, we sweat every single detail to ensure your flannel stays in your wardrobe and out of the landfill for years to come.

Check out some of our favorite flannels for the season and gear up to get out there.

Shop Flannel Shirts

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