Flannel shirt image of a man cutting a log

The Flannel Shirt: Everything You Need to Know

Oh yes! You know it, we love it, and it’s finally here. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it is flannel season! It may be our most favorite season of the year, but the flannel shirts are indeed back in action (like they ever weren’t). The lines, the plaid, the colors, comfort, perfection for the season’s elements and temperature; we just love everything about it! It’s just such a timeless classic, and yes falls into our coveted plain and bland clothing category because the flannel shirt is amazing without making a scene. We love everything about it. We know you do too. We know so much so that we decided to dive into a bit of research about where exactly flannel shirts came from, and how they became such a loved addition to our closets today. A timeless masterpiece. If you are reading this and you sense a bit of bias, well, you’d be right. We love flannels and don’t care who knows. So, without further ado, let us dive right on in! Flannel history coming in hot!

The Early Days of the Flannel

Just like many necessities we use today, the flannel started a long time ago to help serve a very basic purpose in life. That purpose was, quite simply, to keep warm. The first flannels originated in the 17th century by the Welsh. Oh yes, you read that right. The flannel shirt was created by the Welsh. Flannel shirts actually replaced the Welsh’s wool garb. The climate in Northern Europe was a large factor in the creation of the first flannel shirts because of its cold and wet climate. The first flannel shirts were made of: worsted yarn, napped on one or two sides, and materials were derived straight from the backs of sheep. The earliest names from the French were flanelle, and the Germans called it a flanell. No matter what the shirts were called, they lasted the times, and quickly made their way to our hearts.

The flannel popularity grew, and spread like wildfire throughout the European countries. This was mainly due to its affordability and protection from colder climates. The flannel exploded into production in the 19th century due to changing productivity techniques and improving technology. Wool factories grew and mechanical carding was invented during the Industrial Revolution which further assisted in the production of flannel shirts. Soon in 1889 the flannel started to creep it’s way in to the United States.

Flannel Explosion

It wasn’t long before the flannel exploded onto the scene in the United States; and a lot of that was thanks to an American entrepreneur by the name of Hamilton Carhartt. Sound familiar? That’s because it should, and if it doesn’t, take some time to think about that and let Carhartt resonate in your mind for a time while you think about flannels. Carhartt wanted to improve that working class, man’s, uniform in the United States, and he set about to do just that with the flannel. He quickly opened a factory in Detroit, Michigan and started his process of making flannel shirts for the masses.

Flannels saw continued growth in America throughout the 19th century, and towards the end of that very century, were being used for a multitude of working class professions. The flannel even found its way clothing soldiers during the civil war; it had been chosen for it’s cheapness and durability. The flannel was also used to make one piece union suits, and were worn heavily by workers of the Western Railroad. It wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century that the flannel shirt started to finally capture it’s market, and start to gather its own associations.

During the start of the 20th century the flannel had started to become associated with the “rugged American man” as it was common seen as apparel that was worn by frontiersmen and construction workers. A early 20th century business driver came along which granted the flannel shirts even more fame; which had been brought about by a fiction character by the name of the Giant Paul Bunyan, who always wore a giant red flannel shirt. This fictional character was an inspiration for the working class of rugged Americans and helped to further the popularity of the flannel as it continued to spread like wildfire. The flannel was utilized for a second American war: World War I. The flannel was used to make fabrics, undershirts, belts, and patches. Even during World War II, the flannel was still being relied upon. This time, however, it had been utilized for lining inside of a Parsons M1941 field jacket. After the second World War, the flannel had started to show the world that it could be relied upon in other, less rugged, circumstances as well.

Yes, then comes the 1950’s. A prideful time of American, and global, innovation coming out of a war that shook the world. The flannel was ready to prove itself. The flannel office suit came into play and started of as a sophisticated grey show for the prideful businessman. The flannel had even started to make its way into Hollywood and books! The novel “The Man in the Grey Suit” and movie which was inspired by the book also shot off with actor Gregory Peck sporting a Fox Flannel suit. Further Disney released a film titled: “The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit” in 1968. The flannel gained further fame after being a staple for the actor Sean Connery wore them in the movie Goldfinger in 1964. Even in 1975 a cologne was made dubbed “Grey Flannel” by Geoffrey Beene. So, ladies and gentlemen, you can see the flannel craze isn’t just us… its everywhere and for good reason.

Flannels in the Present Day

Sadly, the flannel stepped out of the light for a while until the late 20th century rolled around, and with it, grunge music in the 90’s. This was a completely different image for the flannel shirt, than it had even retained in the past. Fast forward to present day, flannels are seen as an outdoorsy apparel associated with the fall season and are popular amongst men and women alike. The material of the flannel has changed with the times as well, transitioning from cotton, to even cheaper (more synthetic) materials, and a lighter cotton. They are a far cry from what they used to be, but are still extremely fashionable. Today, flannels and plaid are usually associated with each other, and have even made their way to major designer brands.

So, here we sit, writing another rather historic fashion blog about flannels. Maybe you are wearing one now, or thinking about buying one (which you certainly can here and we would really love if you did), or maybe you have one sitting in your closet and you were just curious as to where that flannel shirt came from. Regardless of your curiosities, that very flannel has come a long way from the 17th century into your closet today. We love it, you love it, everyone loves it… the flannel shirt. Show some respect to your elders and give your flannel a nice bath in the washing machine once you’re done reading this… or maybe take it out for a nice autumn walk while you watch the colorful fall foliage waft harmlessly to the ground.





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