Europeans called it flannelette. The French coined it Flanelle. And the Germans? They removed that extra “e” but kept the extra l for “Flannell.”
But us Americans? We just call it “flannel.”
From the 1970s through today, American flannel has been seen on everyone from awkward tourists to lumberjacks to hipsters to celebrities to hot tech guys and even high-brow designers with a penchant for the plaid stuff.
So what is flannel, and how is it different from plaid? Flannel and plaid are often used interchangeably, only because flannel shirts — referring to the soft woven cotton used to make the shirt that is “flannel” — are designed using the now quintessential red and black plaid print.
But flannel is not plaid, and plaid is not flannel — rather, they are like a set of twin brothers who may not be the same person, but dangit you can’t help but mix ‘em up because they just share so much in common.
Lets break it down.
Who wears flannel? Flannel is great for the cold, and a heavy flannel material button-up shirt can double as a jacket, too. Because flannel is an easy-to-wash fabric, everyone from red necks to lumberjacks to the guys from Tool Time invest in flannel to rotate through their working wardrobe.
But flannel isn’t just for the cold or hard working — every scenester from the grunge scene to the skater scene to the hipster scene to the tech scene wears flannel for the pure fun of it.
Who wears plaid? The print that popularized flannel shirts for the masses originates from the Tartan plaid prints of the Scottish Highlanders. Plaid was used to distinguish between family clans.
Today, plaid isn’t just for the flannel-wearing, but the fashion-loving. Plaid is a lot like the female affinity for animal print — girls can buy it in every fashion form from shoes to lingerie to accessories to general apparel like skirts, dresses, shirts and jackets. Guys, on the other hand, tend to stick to casual plaid flannel or more formal button-up shirts.
Why do people wear flannel and plaid? I can’t psycho fashion analyze why flannel, plaid and flannel-plaid combos are so popular. But what I can conclude is that the print’s infinite variations mean it can be produced for every style demographic. That’s why you can buy plaid shirts everywhere from the thrift store to Urban Outfitters to Ralph Lauren to Vivienne Westwood. In other words, plaid is the populist print for the masses.
And thanks to flannel’s fashion functionality and adoption by alternative kids throughout the past 30 years, flannel continues to reinvent itself without so much as an advertisement.
It’s preppy. It’s pretty. It’s practical. Androgynous, awesome, alternative. Whatever you wanna call it — you know you wanna wear it.
And now- a brief history on the modern state of plaid and flannel, from the 70s to today.
3. With designers like Ralph Lauren picking up on the popularity of plaid and flannel for the preppy masses, the influence trickles down to low-end, mass produced brands and inevitably, low-fashion tourists.
THE EARLY 1990s
THE MID 1990s
THE LATE 1990s
THE EARLY to MID 2000s
4. The internet blows up, tech guys have no time to shop and too much money to even care about what they look like. Hot Silicon Valley boys buy plaid shirts in bulk from americaneagle.com
– SAMMY DAVIS
Sammy Davis spends her days doing what any thrift nut loves most: blogging about her totally vintage life on her site, Sammy Davis Vintage, and shooting videos that inspire you to pursue your passions on her YouTube channel.