Why are flannels so popular? With just a slight touch of the fabric, you can probably glean a pretty good idea of precisely what makes it so amazing. The material is prized for many things: its warmth, its durability, its soft touch, its sturdiness, and its sheer coziness. The fact that it offers all of these traits in one—and happens to look pretty great at the same time—is a testament to its longevity and, yes, its awesomeness.
Flannel shirts earned their credibility centuries ago. The fabric has been around since at least the 17th century when it was introduced as an alternative to thicker, often scratchier wool. Flannel was smoother, simpler to make, and provided excellent coverage against the cold. It was no wonder it grew in popularity over the decades. Those humble beginnings go a long way in explaining exactly why flannel shirts are such a big deal even today. Here are five big reasons to make them an integral part of your cold-weather wardrobe.
You don’t make it this far in the fashion world without a certain degree of flexibility. Flannel is more than just easy to wear—it also has an innate ability to fit in well in various environments. Wear your flannel to the football game to cheer on your kid, to the pumpkin patch for the annual fall family photo shoot, and to your favorite cafe to grab brunch with your girlfriends.
That kind of versatility also lends itself well to the many outfits you can build around it. On an extra-cold day, layer it over a turtleneck, slip into a pair of straight-leg jeans and finish with a pair of hiking boots for a robust yet comfy look that will help you stave off the chill in the air. When it’s a little less brisk, wear it open over a light tank top and finish with leggings or jeggings and your favorite suede ballet flats. You can even belt it over a dress and add a pair of tights for a refreshed take on the cold-weather style. You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to make it a key part of your wardrobe at this time of year.
Of course, what everyone wants when it’s cold outside is a warm and cozy shirt they can wear throughout both fall and winter. Flannel definitely checks that box—it’s a medium-weight material constructed of heavy-duty cotton. That distinctively fuzzy finish sets it apart, especially when it’s brushed on both sides for a smoother touch. That extra detail is key because it lends the fabric a more comfortable feel as it glides against your skin.
It’s that cozy quality that makes it so perfect to wear when it’s brisk outside. The fact that it’s as warm as it is but still manages to be relatively light is to its credit. You won’t feel weighed down or overwhelmed by your flannel fabric. Whether it’s with a pair of skinny jeans or corduroy pants, you’ll love the way flannel adds intensely soft and warm comfort to your outfit.
Wool looks fabulous, but it takes some time, energy, and commitment to maintain. By contrast, flannel is decidedly less labor-intensive. The best flannel shirts actually get a little bit softer the more you wear and wash them. That’s just another great excuse to throw yours on as much as possible! But you’ll also love how well it holds up over time—and just how little attention you need to give it in the long run.
Regular machine washing will keep it pristine, and you can trust that it will never lose its softness or integrity in that time. Flannel also stays just as smooth as it did on day one, so you don’t have to worry about ironing it. Colors remain crisp and true, while the material itself retains that wonderfully soft, slightly fuzzy quality that makes it so touchable. These same qualities even apply to flannel sheets! The material is strong and resilient, and it holds up beautifully no matter how much you use it.
It’s worth repeating: Flannel shirts layer like a dream. Both women’s and men’s flannel shirts are standouts from that perspective. It’s rare for a material this warm and toasty to wear well under or above other pieces. Yet the flannel shirt is the type of hero piece that every wardrobe benefits from for that very reason.
During spring, wear it over a light women’s tank top. On cooler spring days, a long-sleeve top is a smart substitute. As temperatures cool, you’ll find more and more reasons to wear your flannel shirt—either on its own, over a shirt, or beneath a jacket as winter inches ever closer. Winter is, of course, a great time to cozy up to your shirt. Throw on a substantial coat on the coldest days of the year to keep warm through it all.
What are flannel shirts, exactly? Once upon a time, you may have asked yourself that question without realizing that they were the plaid shirts you saw just about everywhere you turned. There’s a good reason that it showed up everywhere—it’s just that classic! Not only that, but it’s something men, women, and kids alike love.
The timeless material lends itself well to comfortable shirts that look great with anything and everything. The old-world appeal of the look is undeniable, and there’s something comforting about knowing you’ve got something so plush in your closet. Whether you opt for a traditional button-front style or a flannel tunic top, expect great things from the shirt that proved itself to be a wardrobe essential centuries ago.