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.
Additional contribution by Evan Malachosky
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, one chest pocket and a classic fit.
Made in India from 100-percent cotton yard-dye waffle madras, Corridor's Flannel is soft but much heavier. It's nearly a shacket (shirt-jacket), if you will. Plus, it's hue, dubbed Thrush, encapsulates the changing season quite well.
This is an affordable brushed flannel from Madewell, crafted from cotton certified by the brand's Do Well arm, which certifies raw materials with non-profit farming org Better Cotton.
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.
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.
Love the feeling of flannel but hate the shape of a traditional shirt? Meet John Elliott's Sly Straight Hem Flannel, which meets wearers in the middle. It has a streetwear-influenced straight bottom, a less bold, more beachy print, and a natural pilled, kind of heathered texture.
The Yosemite Buffalo Check Shirt from Taylor Stitch combines heavyweight chamois shirting, "unbreakable" Japanese urea buttons, and two front flap pockets, of which one has a tiny pencil slot.
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.
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.
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.
Made by the New England Shirt Co. for American Trench using deadstock, 100-percent virgin wool woven by Woolrich Woolen Mills (in Woolrich, PA), these are super-nice shirts at an incredible, steal of a price. They're fitted but still leave rooming for layering.
Yes, Todd Snyder makes flannel, and, yes, of course, they're good. Each one has a super-soft hand feel, a fitted, tailored body, and a rich yet unique pattern.
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.)
I consider Reese Cooper a streetwear designer. But, he makes clothing with a "classic American brand" level of quality in mind. He's also clearly referencing products from a few of them. See: this hefty flannel. His isn't ground-breaking, but it is both beautifully done and done here in the US.
Here's one of those timeless American brands I was talking about: RRL, the real luxury limb (get it, arm?) of Ralph Lauren. The soft cotton hand feel matched with this countryside-looking color = an A+ flannel.