Flannel vs. Plaid

Flannel vs. Plaid

The days are getting shorter, there’s a nip of cold in the air, and our favorite farmer’s market is filling up with apples, pumpkins and squashes. In short, it’s fall, which means here at Lands’ End it’s time for us to fulfill our annual duty to set some things straight about fall and winter clothing. Men’s winter coats and parkas aren’t the same thing; you can totally wear men’s winter boots on casual Fridays; and, most importantly, plaid and flannel are not the same thing.

We hear it a lot. Folks say “flannel” when they’re talking about any plaid shirt, and also assume that flannel shirts are all plaid. This simply isn’t the case. It’s more of a Venn diagram – remember those? We’re talking two overlapping circles here, one for men’s plaids, and the other for men’s flannel shirts. Sure, there’s plenty of overlap, but there’s a lot that only falls under one category or the other.

Maybe it’s best thought of as a syllogism: Not all plaids are flannels. Not all flannels are plaids. Flannels and plaids must be totally different kinds of things.

What we need to keep in mind here is that plaid refers to a pattern, while flannel refers to a kind of fabric. One is aesthetic, while the other is material. Well, materials have aesthetic properties, but regardless plaid is more of an aesthetic concern and flannel is a material concern. You can have flannels that are plaid, for sure, but plenty of flannels aren’t plaid – they’re solid, or even striped. Plaids, on the other hand, can be made of flannel, oxford cloth, poplin – any woven fabric, really.

Flannels are plain woven fabrics mostly made from cotton (and sometimes wool). Lands’ End flannels are brushed on both sides to be super soft and are just the right weight for layering or wearing alone. Flannels are known for their fuzzy and warm insulating abilities. The fuzziness – or, as folks in the industry call it, the “nap” – comes from the brushing process, and those fuzzy fibers make you feel extra cozy.

There’s clearly a lot of overlap, but also a lot of distinction here. Just keep in mind: when someone says “flannel” and they’re clearly not wearing anything that looks warm and fuzzy, they’re probably not wearing a flannel. But hey, you don’t have to be that guy who calls them out on it. Just say, “Hey, that’s a cool plaid. I like it!” to give a subtle hint. If that doesn’t work, maybe resort to the Venn diagram approach. Tell them about our syllogism. We all learn differently, after all, and not everyone gets it the first time they hear something. That’s what we’re here for.


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