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Fall 21 trend: The ubiquitous flannel shirt

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

May 14, 2021


Image Credit: Celine FW21

The ubiquitous flannel shirt looks set to be a star item for fall wardrobes, a unisex style with a cachet that rarely fails.

From Isabel Marant to Marc Jacobs, flannel shirts are a core utility garment, with new details and sustainable updates to make it relevant for the Fall 21 season.

A key item in any workwear range plan, comfort clothes and all things retro remain closet staples post-pandemic. Detailing such as contrast stitching, chest pockets – traditionally flap or buttoned – and even side pockets to make it a shirt jacket, highlight the versatility aspects of this all-rounder.

Worn oversized, flannel shirts work well over knitwear or nonchalantly paired with a t-shirt and classic denim. Ultimately it is the check of the fabric that defines the aesthetic.

Traditionally known as the lumberjack shirt, flannel is multifunctional, offering warmth, comfort and a high dose of fashion gravitas.

According to the Dictionary of Fashion and Fashion Designers, flannel fabric was originally made from either carded wool or worsted yarn. Carding is a process that breaks up the wool fibers so they lay more or less parallel to one another.

Modern-day flannels are usually made with cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers.

Flannel can be traced back to 17th century Wales, where farmers wore flannel shirts to protect themselves from the elements. This tradition would continue for other blue-collar workers as the prevalence of flannel grew. The word “flannel” most likely comes from the Welsh word gwlanen, meaning “woolen article.”

While the 1990s grunge scene may forever be associated with flannel shirts, think Seattle bands and Marc Jacobs’ infamous Perry Ellis collection, an article in the New York Times as far back as 2015 summed up its lasting value: “The universal appeal of something as familiar as a flannel shirt boils down to the quality of its fabric, commonly made of woven wool. Like a pair of favorite jeans, a plaid flannel can withstand years of wear and tear.”

Despite the UK origins of flannel, American designers may have mastered the rugged and cozy look as adopted by hip hop artists, California surfers and even Wyoming-based ranchers.

U.S. textile manufacturers took to domestically handcrafting the shirts, made from yarn-dyed fabrics woven on a loom or weaving machine to get the famous checks. The softness is achieved through a process called napping. The cool factor, however, depends on the wearer.