Here in the northern hemisphere we are firmly on the downward path to winter, it’s getting darker in the mornings when we get up for work and the nights are taking on the kind of pitch black reserved for the colder months and I love it. Winter is great, it improves my wardrobe choice exponentially and allows me to wear things which I have been staring at wistfully since the previous March including that most favoured of garments in my eyes, the winter flannel. My winter flannel of choice last year was a green buffalo checked heavyweight flannel by Iron Heart, but much as I loved it there was a problem (though not with the shirt), it was a western cut with snap fastenings and as I tend to put a few pounds on in winter the result was not flattering. So it was sold and this winter requires a new heavy flannel and I was very happy to see that this year Iron Heart had brought back an old classic, the purple buffalo check heavy flannel, and better than this it was available as a work shirt. With the choice so seemingly obvious it’s now time to take a close look at the shirt which will bear much responsibility for my warmth over the next 3 – 4 months, to find out why (in my opinion), Iron Heart are the pinnacle in heavy flannel shirts.
Members of the Iron Heart forum and fans of the brand will tell you that the release of the winter flannels is always a cause of much excitement. They are eagerly anticipated and tend to sell out fast, with good reason, no body does a warmer more comfortable winter flannel than Iron Heart. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the brand, they never overcomplicate and you can pretty much rely on the fact that what you get from them will be bomb proof. Should the earth ever be shrouded in a nuclear winter the only things left alive will be cockroaches and people wearing Iron Heart, and it is precisely this armour like carapace which makes their winter flannels so special. I have heard them described as akin to wearing a carpet, and there is certainly an element of rigidity to them when new, but the warmth and almost total wind resistance they provide is totally unparalleled in shirts by any other brand.
The purple heavyweight buffalo check flannel, more snappily known as the IHSH-102 in Iron Heart nomenclature, is a continuation of the glorious tradition of super warm, tightly woven, gloriously comfortable flannels. It is quite stiff and on first wear really doesn’t feel like flannel at all, I am reminded of the carpet comment as there is definitely an element of that about it. This is most definitely the bastard child of a winter shirt, and body armour…in a good way. Something which Iron Heart have going for them, probably more so than any other denim and work wear brand, is that you don’t so much wear their clothes as you become encased in them, in an envelope of comfort, quality and safety. Simply by holding this shirt in your hands you know that your money has been well spent as Iron Heart do not cut corners, the ludicrously thick flannel is held together at the seams by twin rows of incredibly neat polycotton stitching, the buttons feel like they are held on with still wire rather than thread and the chain stitch run offs speak to the shirts detailing and work wear past.
What makes not only the heavyweight flannels, but Iron Heart shirts in general so special and successful is that they are perhaps the only Japanese manufacturer who really understands western sizing. I have been involved in many conversations with other denim enthusiasts where we have reached agreement that Iron Heart clothes simply fit better than just about anyone else’s, even western based brands, so good is the fit of the majority of everything which they produce that when something does inevitably go astray (as happens to all manufacturers) it is a huge deal to their customers, akin to a late train in Japan, it is simply regarded as something so rare that it’s actual existence is an abomination. This shirt is certainly no exception, the fit is perfect in every sense of the word with absolutely zero cause for complaint.
I have heard good things said about heavy flannels by Flathead, but their shirts are cut so slim as to rule out most of their western custom, I have heard good things about heavy flannels by Strike Gold but they can’t come close to matching the almost total wind resistance of an Iron Heart flannel. As an alternative to sweatshirts and hoodies though winter there is nothing quite so comforting and versatile as a winter flannel. Simply put, if you want to buy the best winter flannel available anywhere, by anyone, this is it right here and I would place a bet with anyone that the upcoming IHSH-107 winter flannel will be just as good.