While they are about as Canadian as it comes, the flannel shirt has dominated the North American fashion scene for decades. Whether it’s David Beckham in Paris or Ryan Gosling in NYC, flannel shirts can be worn in a variety of ways that can look both stylish and laissez-faire at the same time, a look which has become increasingly popular in the past decade.
What is Flannel?
Flannel itself is fabric, made of wool or cotton that is slightly milled and then raised to create a soft but rugged flannel that was designed to last for a long period. While not of the same quality as the ultra-soft and equally as expensive cotton and wools that you might find used in a suit, flannel can be incredibly versatile and comfortable.
It was famous throughout history for its use by farmers and the working class who favored it because of its affordability, longevity and the warmth that it could provide when working outdoors. However, in popular culture flannel is most known as the fabric and style of clothing that is often associated with Canadian lumberjacks.
For the same reason, they were seen wearing thick flannel shirts in the cold Canadian winters to ensure that they could stay warm and also to protect their skin from the wood. As with many fabrics and styles, in recent years there has been an adoption of clothing that was previously associated with the working class.
Plain or Check
While the Canadian lumberjack shirt that we can all imagine is patterned with a signature red and black check pattern, the vast majority of flannel shirts are plain. Both varieties can look fantastic if styled correctly, but the check pattern is more casual while a simple flannel shirt is a touch more professional and might be more suited to a professional look.
Depending on the type of look that you are trying to create and therefore the clothes that you will wear with the shirt, both a plain or check flannel could look great. In general, if you want a rugged appearance, pick yourself out a check version that you can easily wear over a t-shirt. While if you might consider wearing it buttoned up with jeans, get a plain flannel that could be more versatile and can easily be dressed up or down.
When to Wear a Flannel Shirt
As a stylish gentleman, it’s important to recognize when and where to wear your different garments. While you might have an affinity for suits or khaki shorts, both are not going to be appropriate at the same events and venues. The same is true for the flannel shirt, which while stylish, versatile and comfortable, should not be worn day-in and day-out.
By definition and its associated history, the flannel shirt is an extremely casual piece that can be worn up, but which can never be evenly vaguely smart. Instead, a flannel shirt will look great by the lake, on the farm or even at casual events in the city.
The key to pulling off a flannel shirt is to pair it with slightly smarter clothes unless you’re going for a very casual or rugged look, such that your entire outfit doesn’t look too relaxed. By doing this, you can achieve a balanced style that can be worn to a great number of events.
Flannel shirts are made in more colors than you could ever imagine and with different sizes of check patterns also available; you have a huge selection to choose from. There are a few staple colors and styles that we will discuss below, but as long as you can match it with the rest of your outfit, any color or style of the flannel shirt can work given that it’s a casual piece.
Red and Black Check
Classic, timeless and maybe even a little ironic. The red and black check flannel shirt has become ubiquitous at this point, which makes it the ideal first shirt for any man looking to start wearing flannel. It’s hard to go wrong with it because of its famous pattern and for this reason, it can easily be worn by itself, around your waist or over the top of a plain t-shirt.
One of the best ways that you can wear a red and black check flannel is by focussing very heavily on the black and opting for a rugged rock and roll style. Red is such a vibrant and rare color that it needs to be the only ‘color’ in your outfit, which is why wearing it over a black t-shirt, with black jeans and black boots can look fantastic.
Green and Blue Check
While nowhere near as common as its red counterpart, green and blue check flannel shirts have become increasingly popular, especially among younger men. What they offer is a less striking option, which could easily be paired with blue jeans and sneakers for a relaxed look. The beauty of the green and blue check is that it blurs together and therefore isn’t as vivid as most check shirts are, making it easier to wear to a greater number of events.
Beige and tan have made a comeback over the past couple of decades, especially when it’s combined with slightly darker colors as most beige check shirts are. The perfect way to pair this color is with a pair of black or blue jeans, which can add more color to the outfit. Similarly, because beige is relatively dull, you can still wear a pair of vibrant shoes or undershirt, unlike with a red and black checked flannel.
Check tends to get all of the love because of its classic appearance which at this point has been interchangeable with the word flannel itself. However, plain flannel can look great too, if not better in some cases. Plain always tends to be more formal and therefore while a check shirt might never reach smart casual, a plain shirt can more easily be dressed up.
What Should You Wear with a Flannel Shirt
Whether your flannel shirt is checked or plain, you shouldn’t make the mistake of forgetting that it’s about as casual a piece of clothing as you can get. As a result, you can only try to dress it up ever so slightly before going overboard and looking ridiculous.
Instead, embrace casual. Black jeans, in particular, can look great with flannel because they have a similar rock and roll vibe which can combine with boots to give you the ultimate rough and read appearance. On the other hand, flannel makes the perfect lightweight jacket for wearing over a t-shirt, and this versatility is what has made it so popular.
In the vast majority of cases, flannel looks best with dark jeans. The reason for this is because flannel draws attention by itself and lighter pants do the same, with creates a weird competition where your eyes don’t know where to focus.
A flannel shirt is a focal piece, and therefore you can afford to wear relatively simple and hidden clothes with it like black jeans, plain t-shirts and even dark work boots without worrying about how it will look.