I’ve already pitched my flag in the sand as a guy who prefers denim and chambray to flannel when it comes to shirts, but that doesn’t mean that I have an aversion to the lumberjack associated material, quite the opposite in fact. For a long time I was an obsessive collector and wearer of checked and flannel shirts, I love flannel, I love checked shirts but they do have to be interesting as years of being so enraptured by this particular item have left me jaded to all but the exceptional.
I wore flannel shirts as a teenager in the hay day of the grunge scene, I wore flannel shirts through to my early 20’s as they became standard uniform for skateboarders, and when I began my obsession with quality Japanese attire I was joyful to see that checked shirts were also loved in this niche. I became jaded by flannel when I opened my wardrobe one day and could not focus my eyes due to the vast array of multi coloured, multi patterned Americana which greeted me. I blame myself, I went too far. The Japanese clothing scene had taught me that checked shirts and flannels could be worn all year round, I needed lightweight versions, medium weight versions and that most coveted item the heavyweight flannel and I hoarded them all into my wardrobe at the expense of denim, chambray, knitwear and sweatshirts…..what was I thinking?
As usually happens when someone with a compulsive obsessive personality like mine wakes up to their behaviour I quickly did a 180 degree and completely rid myself of all my flannel, an epic mistake only rivalled by previous fixation with flannel. I sold the lot and restocked with denim, chambray, hoodies, sweatshirts, linen and canvas and guess what happened then? I wanted my flannel back, but not as I had before, my excesses had given me perspective, sharpened my taste and made me realise what I actually liked and wanted rather than what my conditioned behaviour had convinced my subconscious that I needed.
Flannel is a working fabric made for comfort and warmth, the checked pattern adds a splash of colour and interest to a world that is often seen as bland and utilitarian. In many ways the checked flannel shirt is as Americana as blue jeans, which goes some way to explaining their popularity in the denim community, and much like jeans there is a certain amount of experience and confidence required to learn what works for you. The cut, colour combination, pattern and length are all key components when wondering if a flannel will work for you, so there are far more variables than with jeans. My mistake was buying anything that I thought looked cool (a pretty common mistake), just because it looks cool on the hanger does not mean it will look cool on you.
Through a process of elimination I have learned that darker colour combinations work for me, along with looser (work) cuts and shorter to mid length shirts make me look slimmer than longer shirts. This has lead me to re-invest in vintage flannel shirts by reputable American brands such as Frost Proof and 5 Brothers, their patterns are bold and very different from the majority of what you see in many brand line ups today, the cut works for me and the quality of the shirts (some of which are 45 years old) is superb. Increasingly Japanese brands are getting their inspiration from these types of shirts and I look forward to seeing more of their interpretations, Jelado are one of the first and best to do this and their flannels are currently their biggest selling item for this great reason.
The lesson here is that whatever your taste there is bound to be a flannel to match it, a cut to suit you and maybe even a vintage, American made shirt for that most valued and increasingly illusive thing……authenticity.