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. 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 and was originally a type of woven fabric made from carded wool or worsted wool.
Today, flannel is most familiar as a brushed fabric rendered in cotton, but 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.
Good flannel shirts are thicker than the usual oxford or broadcloth button-up and get better with age. They're meaty 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. Whatever your flannel reasoning is, if you're looking for a reliable one to keep you through fall, winter and beyond, these are the best you can get.
Outerknown Transitional Flannel
Best Overall Flannel Shirt
Outerknown's Transitional Flannel uses a grip of plaids in and a few solid colorways, each with eco-friendly heavy organic cotton. They're sturdy but as soft and come with a natural corozo nut buttons, dual flap chest pockets and a classic fit.
Iron Heart Ultra Heavy Flannel Work Shirt
Best High-End Flannel Shirt
If you're the kind to go big or stay your ass at home, Iron Heart's line of behemoth flannels are for you. They're made using a rare cotton found in the Andes mountains which sounds fancy as hell — because it is. Known as aspero cotton, this type of cotton grows on trees and cannot be farmed or mass produced, making it one of the most natural cottons in the world. It's harvested for its unparalleled fineness and softness and Iron Heart uses enough of it to make a flannel fabric that's literally twice as heavy as other flannels on this list. That fabric is then brushed once on the outside for warmth and then double brushed on the inside because it's all about you. They're made in Japan with double-needle construction, dual pockets and a price tag that's also about double the cost of some of the pricier options on this list.
L.L. Bean Scotch Plaid Flannel Shirt
Best Affordable Flannel Shirt
You can't get better flannel for less. You can't even get a better flannel for double the price. L.L. Bean's Scotch Plaid flannels are an industry standard, using a Portuguese mid-weight all-cotton flannel that's brushed a healthy eight times for marshmallow softness. Long-staple cotton adds to its durability and just gets better with age. And, the line of Scotch plaids are yarn-dyed to match the historical Scottish tartans. Add to that unbreakable buttons, a box pleat and several different fits and you've got the best flannel shirt you can buy for the money.
Everlane Brushed Flannel Shirt
Brushed for coziness, Everlane's flannel shirt takes after classic work shirt designs with an added twist of a button down collar. The mid-weight cotton fabric is ideal for fall and spring and the dual flap pockets ensure your doodads will stay on your person.
J.Crew Midweight Flannel Shirt
A best-seller for a reason, J.Crew's Midweight Flannel Shirt hits the mark in every respect. The fabric is made of a tasty three-season-weight cotton that's brushed on both sides for an unctuous hand feel. The shirt features dual buttoned patch pockets and a pleated yoke for range of motion. It comes in a wide range of patterns and colorways as well as three different fits, so there's sure to be a shirt that speaks to you on a personal level.
Portuguese Flannel Button Down Shirt
Is it any surprise that a brand that's been crafting flannel shirts for multi-generational factory 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.
Alex Mill Flannel Chore Shirt
Corozo nut buttons, gusseted side seams, bartacked reinforcements and a noticeably weighty cotton flannel makes Alex Mill's flannel shirt a consistent contender in the space. The fit is dialed in for 2020 (aka, it's neither a tent nor saran wrap) and the details are classic. They come in a range of patterns and colorways, each of which is substantially beefy and full of character. Just take this one, with indigo-dyed yarns which will fade beautifully if you care enough to wear it in for the long haul.
Pendleton Board Shirt
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.
Corridor Fuzzy Olive Flannel
Heavily brushed for softness and warmth, Corridor's luscious flannel shirt is what would happen if you took a pair of scissors and thread to your cabin blanket. Winter is this shirt's favorite season, layered over a toasty thermal and under puffy jacket. But it's also great for fall as an overshirt.
Wax London Whiting Shirt
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.