There are things we buy for others, and then those we buy for ourselves. Truly elegant objects, those that grow into old friends, occupy an intersection between the two. Denim like a second skin, boots for all manner of adventures, these are the garments that share our selves with the world while transcending mere matter to become extended family. A timeless flannel jacket that lasts forever is no different.
What is flannel?
The term ‘flannel’ is used generally for any loose-fitting shirt in a plaid pattern, but don’t be fooled. You’re savvier than that. ‘Flannel’ itself actually speaks to the garment’s material—it’s a type of cotton that’s been razed so it’s a little rougher than what we normally expect from t-shirts or underwear. Authentic flannel can also be made with wool.
While some accounts state the material originated with Welsh fishermen looking to withstand the elements, flannel has since permeated every corner of the collective consciousness. The term evokes campfire smoke and camping showers, handle barred hipsters, and Biggie all at once: “way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack, with the hat to match.”
Pragmatism and craftsmanship are here to stay. In a variety of weights and styles flannel is the perfect accent for all seasons, an object promising to last the test of time. You can build a relationship with your own flannel jacket by making smart choices on the front end tailored to your own needs. It’s worthwhile to invest in a flannel jacket that will outlast your next few Tinder flings. Here’s everything you need to know.
What to Consider when Buying Flannel
Because the word itself refers to fabric first and foremost, material is everything when choosing a long term flannel investment. “A 100 percent cotton flannel is going to feel different than a cotton-poly blend or a different synthetic material,” states Brooklyn-based Brian Davis, who runs Wooden Sleepers. “It might not seem like a difference but if you’re looking to have a flannel that becomes comfier and seems to fit better over time, you’re going to want to go cotton.”
Manufacturers are increasingly incorporating synthetic materials like polyester or acrylics into their flannel offerings. Time and again, true flannel fiends dodge such traps. Synthetic materials are unforgiving—they keep smell and deny shape. Instead, make sure you stick with something organic. Cotton, we have seen, always takes king, but wool can also do well in the winter months. Either way, when it comes to flannel, it’s really what’s inside that counts.
Perhaps because flannel is such a versatile item, the styles and fits and atmospheres offered across all the options provide a never ending stream of potential for the prospective buyer. Rapids are beautiful, but overwhelming. In this world, the most helpful act anyone can learn lies in the ability to discern what they truly want. So, take a moment to think about it.
Are you imagining cozy mornings taking your hound out for a trounce along the trail? Maybe you’re looking for something you can grab on the way to brunch when you notice the weekend air is a bit chillier than expected? Styled correctly, flannel can even make its way into your work life as a tasteful accent atop a button up or sophisticated sweater. One touch which will show you’re approachable, easy going, and, dare I say, cultured.
Before investing in a really good flannel piece, take some time to meditate on how this garment can serve you best. I promise that whichever piece you buy, it’ll be even happier when it knows how to serve you, knows it was procured with a special purpose. Anchored in this intention, you could even find your flannel jacket peeking its way into new avenues of your existence.
Every dollar spent is a vote. In this world, it’s impossible to be perfect, but we can be mindful. A garment’s impact stems from its materials. Fortunately, you’ll be happy to know that so long as you’re making the long term investment into the best quality cotton that can suit your needs and budget, you’re likely also doing your best to minimize your shopping’s impact. GreenMuze states that cotton is eco-friendly to produce, with a low carbon footprint. Patagonia explains that “Less than 1% of the cotton grown worldwide is organic,” but “growing cotton organically reduces emissions by 45% and water usage by 90% compared to conventionally grown cotton.”
Armed with your new knowledge and the moment you’ve devoted to contemplation, consider these well-loved options in your explorations:
Men’s Insulated Fjord Flannel Jacket
Fitted Elegance by Patagonia
The Men’s Insulated Fjord Flannel Jacket by iconic outdoor outfitter Patagonia is “an insulated, heavyweight 100% organic cotton flannel jacket that makes a great overshirt when temperatures drop.” In addition to its high quality, eco-friendly materials, Patagonia’s site also states this collared flannel jacket is fair trade sewn.
Patagonia’s take on the staple blends flannel’s undone energy with tailored structure and two sturdy, deep pockets. Available in a variety of colors, this flannel jacket plays well across your weekend hike, casual Friday, and even an especially cozy date night. Across its colorways, the Fjord Flannel Jacket holds a pillowy look, like wearing a smartly fitted but very inviting cloud. In the product reviews, verified buyer Scott raved that “This jacket is exactly what I was looking for. It is warm and yet not too heavy. It keeps the wind out and looks great. It’s easy to care for. I haven’t come across a better jacket. Good job Patagonia!”
Men’s AKHG Trapline Flannel Relaxed Fit Shirt Jac
Mountaineering Grit by Duluth Trading Co.
If you’re looking for something that can tumble with the roughest of them, then end your expedition with this Men’s AKHG Trapline Flannel Relaxed Fit Shirt Jac from Duluth Trading Co. The collared jacket, lovingly referred to across the community as a ‘shirt jac’ silhouette for its easy fit, comes in a fiery red and more muted grey. It’s built from “a more rugged kind of flannel for jobs that don’t have time to treat gear with kid gloves,” according to the big talk on Duluth Trading Co.’s website. While the four front pockets add an extra bit of personality, the total of nine pockets throughout this versatile garment promise maximum utility for the working individual with a lot on their plate.
This heavy hitting jacket might not make it to the most formal occasion, but with black jeans and a sophisticated shirt, the juxtaposition of styles could prove compelling enough to spark a conversation with interesting strangers on the street. Charisma does allegedly stem from dichotomies, after all.
Men’s Maplewood Hooded Flannel Shirt Jacket
The Swiss Army Knife Jac by Legendary Whitetails
The Men’s Maplewood Hooded Flannel Shirt Jacket marries a wider spectrum of materials to deliver a versatile shirt jac suited to any season. This classic shirt jac is available in an array of eye-catching colors that are a little more difficult to find when you increase in weight from a plaid flannel shirt to a hooded flannel jacket. It’s crafted from the masterful soft washed cotton yarn that Legendary Whitetails prides themselves on and features an interior satin lining that keeps it lightweight and enables a seamless dismount. Replete with pockets and a pencil slot, this hooded flannel jacket tops off the ensemble with an adjustable head covering when one gets too caught up in the thrill to check that day’s weather.
Buffalo Stag Overshirt
Timeless Lumberjack Vibes by Woolrich
In order to provide you with an informed round up of your flannel options, this list understands its fiduciary duty to pay tribute to a legend: Woolrich. This Pennsylvania-based company once held court over the flannel market. John Rich opened his business selling wool to the lumberjacks who lived in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. After camping grew popular in the 1970s, the company began to suffer as new competitors entered the ripe market. Woolrich, PA is still named for the company, even though they announced the closure of their last US plants in the town in November 2018.
This Buffalo Stag Overshirt showcases Woolrich’s work in the most famous of all flannel patterns, the buffalo check, that iconic red and black lumberjack Biggie once referenced in one of his most famous songs. Woolrich conjures creations to suit every matrix of needs, but this distinct garment pulls from the company’s tried and true archive, rendering their classic shape in a 400 weigh wool-blend flannel for your warmest option. “I have had one of these for nearly 30 years in a grey herringbone pattern,” states one review. “Over 30 years and it still looks great. How many articles of clothing last that long let alone look good. It is now in the hands of my 20 year old son and will continue to see action! It is not thin like a flannel. It is burly weight wool. Expensive? yes, but shirt-jacs don’t get any better than this.”
Pendleton Wool Plaid Shirt Field Jacket
One-Of-A-Kind Pendleton From The Rusty Zipper
If you’re like me, then you might like your favorite, longest lasting statement pieces to come equipped with weight and craftsmanship, and a little something extra. Sometimes it can be comforting to imagine what other journeys secondhand clothing has surmounted to make its way to you. When shopping for something so durable as flannel, don’t forget to consult your go-to vintage store! This Pendleton Wool Plaid Shirt Field Jacket from the 1980s is a one-time treasure available on The Rusty Zipper, one of the first online vintage hotspots to grace the web. At reasonable rates and assured eco-friendliness (since thrifting is really just recycling) you can bet that secondhand is, as always, a strong contender for the best route forward. After all, what better testament to a beloved flannel shirt jac’s greatest trait—longevity?