It may come as a surprise to some but flannel is actually not a pattern, it’s a fabric. Like most other fabrics, pretty much any solid color or pattern can be created with a flannel weave — it really just depends on the yarns.
That said, there is no denying that plaid patterns are closely tied to flannel fabrics and we’re definitely okay with that. The original flannel fabrics were woven from sheep’s wool in Scotland and were often used for the famous tartan patterns found in Scottish kilts. Not surprisingly, this personality-heavy design direction stuck.
Unlike twill and other common fabrics, flannel also isn’t defined by its own weave. Instead flannel refers to the fabric that results from weaving loosely spun yarn into either a twill or plain weave.
The loosely spun yarn is key. By using a looser yarn than other fabrics, flannel fabrics have more air pockets in the fabric fibers; a technique which creates the insulating effect that flannels are known for.
Many flannels are brushed in either a single or double “nap.” This napping technique occurs after the fabric is woven and creates a very soft fabric — single or double napping simply refers to whether one or both sides were napped. By lightly brushing the fabric, manufacturers cause the loosely spun yarns to fray slightly and create more softness in the fabric.
So what is flannel? It’s a great fabric for cool days that offers extreme softness and warmth.
How to Wear Flannel
Flannel is one of the few shirt fabrics that truly fits within its own singular niche. It’s far from a highly versatile fabric but flannel has become iconic for what it’s good at: casual fall weather fashion.
The Right Look 1: The Hometown Hero
A classic flannel shirt, worn-in denim, and a swagger only a working man knows. This is the classic flannel shirt look. Pair your best fitting flannel and denim with work boots and a leather belt.
The Right Look 2: Day Session Layers
Flannel is the perfect fabric for cool weather layering. Match it with your favorite vintage tee and a light jacket to face the fall with style.