Flannels: Fashion or Function


She said,

The day has come for my sundresses and jean shorts to be tucked away into the back of my Sacred Heart housing sized closet. My fuzzy socks, pants and gloves have all been re-welcomed into my daily wardrobe. However, this also means its time for me to dust off my collection of warm weather appropriate flannels to christen the fall season.

Anthony, my trusty sidekick, discusses how flannels were popularized long before trends and fashion statements picked up their aesthetic. Their creation is credited to functionality over fashion. They are purposely formed with a warm woven structure, to trap in heat and soothe a chilled body temperature.

As a perpetually cold person, I anxiously await flannel season. The warm summer months serve as a countdown to the appropriate time of the year when I can pull out my beloved flannel.

Yet, in recent times, flannels have been suffering an identity crisis and this is something that I find as my duty to clarify.

A flannel is a type of fabric. It refers to the make up and build of the cotton, wool, yarn or synthetic fiber structure. That being said, flannels are not defined by their patterned characteristics.

It breaks my cold heart when people are under the misconception that any fabric printed with a plaid finish is classified as a flannel. This is just the naive speaking of a clearly uneducated human being.

The mister to my right seems to have little understanding of this as he frequently refers to his flannels as plaid. To clarify, I am not saying that true flannels are not plaid. In fact, a majority of them are, which is where the confusion began. Yet, I am bringing to light the qualities and characteristics of a true flannel.

In my personal opinion, fashion has created utter mayhem regarding the identity of a true flannel. Thanks to media and trends, flannels are now often referred to as anything that has a plaid pattern.

As a result, people are now finding themselves tossing on a “flannel” during all months. This is completely demolishing flannel season.  If we do away with the great season, then we will lose the value of the warm and comfort that flannels bring us during the time we need them most.

The concept is simple. If we ate candy canes during any month of the year, then their presence during the Christmas season would feel a little less special. Thus, by wearing flannels year round, we lose their seasonal footprint. Their identity and their warmth is undermined and under appreciated.

As I constantly refer to the plaid adaptations of identity frustrated flannels, it is important to rebuttal, specifically, the short sleeve flannel. My statement stands, that if it is made of a flannel regulated fabric then it is indeed a flannel.

However, traditionally flannels were designed for lumberjacks and men working outdoors. When was the last time you wore short sleeves to keep you warm? Flannel fabric traps in heat, but short sleeves hinder this purposeful quality.

Flannel season is something that needs to be cherished. If we allow trends to take over and plaid to brand an identity, then the beginning winter months will just feel  a little bit colder, and the flannel warmth will not be as strong.

He said,

It’s that time of the year again. Leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and people are starting to wear thick, long sleeve plaid flannels again.

Some people would associate flannels with grunge rock and the 1990s. However, flannel was around long before Kurt Cobain smelled teen spirit.   

The original functions of flannel were warmth, durability, comfort and practicality. Thus, the cheap fabric was ideal for the American workingmen during the late 19th century.

However, it wasn’t until the mid 1900s that the iconic plaid flannel came into style. The start of the plaid flannel could be accredited to America’s captivation of folklore character Paul Bunyan.

Bunyan is a giant lumberjack that cleared forests in all of North America and got into other adventures. Bunyan’s toughness and sheer strength made him a symbol of pure 100 percent manliness.

Statues of Bunyan in his original, red plaid shirt could be seen all over America. As a result, the popularity of these shirts skyrocketed.

Bunyan’s tall tales influenced and inspired workmen. Anyone who wanted to portray themselves as a tough manly man would wear a plaid flannel.  

After these plaid flannels rocked the country, they disappeared from the spotlight for a couple decades. They were now being mainly used by workingmen.

The plaid flannel reemerged again during the 1990s with a vengeance during the emerging scene of grunge rock.

Bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots strayed into the spotlight sporting messy plaid flannels.

What was once a symbol for the American workingman became a symbol for an anti-conformity zeitgeist. Ironically, they all started wearing the same type of plaid flannels to show they don’t conform. I digress.

Plaid flannels seemed to die out toward the new millennium, but have been reborn since. Today, you can see people sporting many plaid flannel articles of clothing and accessories.

Probably the biggest reason why people wear flannels today is because of how comfortable they are. There’s nothing like just throwing on a flannel and running to your morning class.

Even for going out, a flannel provides comfortability and good fashion sense, the best of both worlds.  

Today, plaid flannels aren’t just for the winter. Companies like L.L Bean, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and even Louis Vuitton have realized how popular flannels are and started producing their own products using plaid flannel.

Now you can get short sleeve flannels to stay cool during the warmer days while still achieving an intense state of comfort. There are even flannel hats and pants for people who are daring enough.

The evolution and revamping of flannel just goes to show how adaptable the material is. This also proves that plaid flannels will be around long after our generation is gone.   

My closet is filled with plaid flannels for any time of the year in case you haven’t seen, or if you were wondering.

To argue against something that is so comfortable and fashionable should be considered a crime against humanity. Anyone who actually attempts to degrade the epitome of fashion that is the plaid flannel must have some deranged mind.       


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