The Difference Between a Flannel and a Plaid Top

The Difference Between a Flannel and a Plaid Top

Flannel and plaid both have a place in the fashion landscape, and you may hear the terms used interchangeably, but they’re not the same. If you’re trying to navigate the differences between plaid and flannel shirts, you’ve come to the right place. Along with an at-a-glance comparison to get the basics, you can also learn more about the history behind each type of top, plus fashion tips to make your wardrobe better than ever.

What Is the Most Important Difference Between Flannel and Plaid?

The difference between flannel and plaid comes down to fabric and design. Flannel is, by definition, a type of woven fabric. Plaid, on the other hand, is a pattern characterized by colored stripes that cross at right angles throughout the design.

History Behind Flannel

Flannel is a fabric that has a proud history. While it can be made from materials including wool or cotton, it also has several features that help make it unique. Flannel consists of a woven fabric with a napped surface on one or both sides. The napped fabric means that is raised or lightly sheared to provide more evenness. It is also available in various weights.

This favorite material has been around since at least the 17th century when the Welsh used it to stand up against the harsh winters. Originally, flannel fabric was quite coarse, but it has continued to evolve. Thanks to advances in manufacturing, technology, and more, today’s flannel fabrics are designed to be ultra-soft and wearable. Flannel’s role in fashion has also changed. Far from purely a utilitarian fabric, flannel now has become a stylish staple and used in a variety of ways in clothing and beyond.

The Story of Plaid

Plaid is believed to have appeared as early as the 1500s in Scotland. It was originally referred to as tartan. Thought to have emerged due to the dyes and materials that were available at the time, the alternating stripes, bands, or bars of color later held special significance. As time went on, variations grew to signify specific Scottish clans, military forces, or political affiliations. British and American manufacturers later began replicating the tartan designs.

Now known as plaid, the pattern grew to become extremely popular, experiencing a particular period of notoriety in the 1970s. The pattern has appeared on virtually everything from blazers to flannel pajamas and much more. Its unique style has been versatile and influential, making a mark on everything from every day work-attire to upscale trends to counter-culture fashion Does plaid have to be on an item of clothing? Not necessarily. Besides fashion, plaid can be found on home decor, paper goods, and much more.

Why Plaid and Flannel Shirts Are Often Used Interchangeably

You may have heard people mention flannel shirts and plaid shirts, and use these terms as though the were the same. Why is that? Plaid became a highly popular pattern for flannel shirts, so much so that these often became mentioned as one and the same. Now, when many people think of a flannel shirt, plaid is the pattern that most frequently comes to mind.

Can I Get a Flannel Shirt That’s Not Plaid?

In today’s market, the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!”. Plaid continues to be prominent among flannel shirts, beloved as a well-known and versatile design. You can find plaid in all sorts of color variations and stripes or bands of different widths and colors. However, you can also find flannel shirts in a range of styles, from stylish tunics to classic button-up shirts, in designs other than plaid as well. You can find geometric prints, tie-dye-inspired designs, novelty patterns, nature designs, single or multicolored stripes, Fairisle prints, and much more. Flannel is loved because of its softness, warmth, durability, and versatility, but you can find plenty of plaid patterns and beyond to put in your closet.

What About Plaid Shirts That Aren’t Made of Flannel?

Since plaid is referencing the design and flannel refers to the material, you can certainly get a plaid shirt that is not made of flannel. While you will find plaid in a multitude of colors and prints on flannel, you can also find it in other shirt materials. For example, you might find a plaid print on comfortable thermal shirts made of a cotton-and-synthetic blend that wicks away moisture and keeps you warm and stylish. You can find plaid prints on cozy French terry sweatshirts that will keep you as soft and warm as flannel. Plaid also makes its way onto men’s and women’s easy-care twill shirts made of sleek combed cotton fabrics. Find plaid on cotton sweaters, zip-up or quarter-zip pullovers, fleece jackets, cotton turtlenecks, cotton tunics, and even swim tops. Many of your favorite shirt styles are available in plaid designs.

Flannel and Plaid Are Both Winners

Though they are different, flannel and plaid are mainstays in the fashion landscape. Add a new plaid flannel to your collection, or find other new ways to incorporate flannel and plaid into your wardrobe today!


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