Inject some edge into your autumn style with this grunge staple
Over the last couple years, you may have heard the term ‘lumbersexual’. It’s yet another way to categorize the different aspects of masculinity. Like the metrosexual and spornosexual, lumbersuxals are in a masculinity class all their own. But instead of a strong penchant for personal grooming or an obsession with pushing weight, lumbersexuals are preoccupied with the outdoors. They’re not necessarily true outdoorsmen. The men who fit into this category are more defined by their aesthetic than their weekend activities. They aren’t spending fall mornings chopping wood in the backyard. But their curated Instagram feeds would lead you to believe otherwise.
The lumbersexual man has some distinct characteristics. His face is buried beneath a fully grown beard. And we’re not talking about the neatly groomed facial hair you see moving up and down Hollywood’s red carpets. This beard isn’t as well kempt. It looks clean but it’s natural. This guy hasn’t been in a barber’s chair in over a year, and he’s proud of it. He may even have a moustache. He favors dark, straight leg denim and pairs them with duck boots or hiking boots. But it’s his shirt of choice that might be his most noticeable characteristic. That’s flannel. The more traditional red and black checked variety.
This guy has a look, and it wouldn’t be half as effective without flannel. Flannel has influenced the style of woodsy guys and grunge guys for decades. Depending on the context, it can take on a whole different meaning. And these days, the shirts are a staple in streetwear, making waves from Australia all the way to New York City. But what is it about flannel? Or more important, how do you pull it off?
A Brief History of Flannel
The earliest incarnations of flannel first appeared in 17th Century Wales. Then, the shirts were a favorite of farmers. But it wasn’t a rustic style move. They used the thick button-downs to protect themselves from the fury of Mother Nature. Back then, flannel shirts were made of wool or worsted yarn that was carded. Carding was a process used to break up wool fibers. The Welsh word gwlanen means “woolen article”. Not only did the Welsh people discover the many benefits of the shirt; they were also the first to coin the term.
In the U.S. the popularity of flannel is often attributed to Carhartt. The working man’s brand has been around since 1889. It was founded by Hamilton Carhartt. His mission was to create quality clothing for the working class. His flannel was originally created for railroad workers.
Over time, the flannel shirt remained a staple of working class men. When the grunge movement sprung up during the nineties, the counterculture embraced flannel as a means of fighting against popular fashion. Though fashion critics argue that the grunge version of flannel was a lite application, it’s still synonymous with the period of sartorial rebellion. To date, to stay in step with the counterculture movement, hipsters everywhere have embraced the style as a symbol of nonchalance. The simplistic utilitarian vibe of the shirts is meant to tell the world that style isn’t important. But the move itself is one concerned with aesthetic and comfort.
Perhaps that’s why the shirt has resonated so much with fans of streetwear. Streetwear was also born out of a need for a counterculture. With ties to surf and skate culture, it’s easy to see how flannel translated so well from the grunge era to modern day street style. But now the shirt has more significance. It isn’t assumed that flannel wearers don’t care about their look. In fact, it communicates quite the opposite. They’re now paying tribute to the rebellion of the past while also showing off cool ways to stay comfy and warm.
Even with lumbersexuals, the shirt still shows a stylistic awareness of what’s happening in fashion and how to fit into a specific look or masculine subculture.
Flannel Is Not Plaid
This is confusing. Quite often, people refer to plaid shirts as flannel shirts and vice versa. That’s because plaid looks great with flannel. But they are not one in the same.
Flannel is a fabric. The modern version is made from a combination of cotton and wool or synthetics. Plaid is a pattern with origins that trace back to Scotland. Tartan plaid is quite often used on flannel fabric. It’s rare to see tartan on other materials, and it’s rare to find flannel with other patterns. The two are synonymous. Therefore, it’s hard for the average fashion fan to know the difference.
While most people wouldn’t call you out if you got it wrong, it’s still important to know.
How To Wear It: Casual vs. Refined
Now that you know more about flannel than you probably ever anticipated, you’re probably wondering how to pull it off the right way. The most important thing is to incorporate flannel into your looks in a way that feels authentic. You might think the lumbersexual look is cool, and that’s great. But don’t seek out flannel with the sole purpose of mimicking the look unless you can really pull it off. And to really pull it off, you need to be a rugged, working class kind of dude. Otherwise, you’ll come off like an attention-seeking hipster. And the whole point of dressing like a hipster is to look like you’re not trying.
Though flannel is a thicker material, it’s still a casual shirt. So needless to say, you won’t be wearing one to a black tie event, a job interview, or an important business meeting. This isn’t a versatile shirt. Remember, flannel shirts were born out of utilitarian need. Their purpose was more centered around functionality, not style. So if you’re going to wear one, know that you’re almost always going to do so in a more casual environment.
That being said, there are two main aesthetics where the flannel shirt is appropriate. You can pull it off in a smart way. When we say smart, we’re not implying that you lack intelligence. We mean smart in the British way-a more refined, elevated, classic sense of style. Smart looks are often dressier ones. But since flannel is so casual, making it look more elevated is about pairing it back to other items that enhance its overall contribution to your outfit. Dark indigo denim is a great way to achieve this. Skip the rips and tears, and avoid the overdone washes. Though current trends in denim would suggest otherwise, you need to keep things toned down to wear your flannel like a gentleman. Instead of boots, grab a pair of chocolate or burgundy tassel loafers. Add a little bit of personal style to your flannel shirt by flipping up the collar and layering a t-shirt underneath. The look evokes Buddy Holly and 50s-era style icons. It’s sleek and simple but never sloppy.
If a smart look isn’t your thing, keep it casual. The same type of denim applies here but change up some other details to make it more accessible. Low-top sneakers keep your look grounded in more relaxed territory. A strong two-inch cuff on your jeans adds a playful touch. And top off the plaid shirt with a varsity jacket or a hoodie. Your look says that you like comfort but you still care about your overall presentation.
Aesthetic is one thing. But there are actually a multitude of ways you can alter your flannel look for best results.
We touched on this in the casual version of your flannel look. Flannel doesn’t have to be the star of the show. It can merely be a supporting player that helps bring an entire look to center stage. Play with proportion and length by layering a shorter jacket over your shirt. Or take the shirt down a few notches and wrap it around your waist. Use it as an accent or a strong way to break up a monochrome look. As shown in our lookbook, we used the Plaid Collared Button Down Shirt with Printed Numbers as both a focal piece and an accent around the waist.
Lighter Is Okay
You may not be a working class kind of guy. If you’re not, then you don’t need a shirt that’s going to protect you from the elements. If you work in an office every day, no flannel is going to protect you from the wrath of your boss. Go lighter instead. A 100% cotton flannel, like our Button Down Plaid Flannel Shirt, is more breathable. You can evoke true lumbersexual style without melting.
Mix It Up
The most identifiable flannel design is that of red and black tartan. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only version that exists. Play around with the options a bit and choose different colors. Our Button Down Plaid Flannel Shirt comes in Blackwhite as well as Redwhite. Both are fresh takes on the classic, masculine staple.
Stand Out From The Crowd
Plaid and flannel are close buddies but they’re not inseparable. It’s okay to wear flannel options that are solid or incorporate non-traditional patterns. Be bold if you want to take on the trend without looking like you’re doing so.
Take A Page From the Ladies
The ladies have been indulging in flannel looks too. They’ve been wearing them oversized, accessorizing them with scarves and beanies, mixing them with other patterns, and rocking them underneath vests and sweaters. While guys typically like to do their own things, the most stylish women out there are showing us just how exciting flannel really is. It’s time to take some notes.
Just Wear Plaid
You might live in a balmy climate where it never really gets cold enough to comfortably rock flannel, and that’s okay. As we mentioned earlier, most people confuse flannel and plaid. That means you can still effectively take part in the look without pulling out all the stops. Our Short Sleeve Button Down Plaid Shirt gives you the best of both worlds: that signature tartan pattern with breathability. We also feature several other Plaid Button Down Shirts in short sleeve styles with non-traditional patterns.
Wear Flannel In Other Pieces
That’s right. Flannel doesn’t just have to show up in your shirt. There are full ranges of flannel products out there that defy convention. Flannel baseball caps, flannel scarves, flannel pocket squares, flannel slippers, and flannel pajamas are just a few of the many seasonal items that are offered in the thicker fabric. After all, wearing flannel is about staying warm. Who says that only your torso deserves to be warm?
It’s important to note that flannel isn’t a one-trick pony. It’s far more than just an ironic touchpoint for the hipster elite. Before it became a symbol of rebellion and then became a symbol of nonchalant protest, it was a reflection of the working class. For everyday people, flannel wasn’t a fashion statement. It was a job aid; a way to keep their bodies warm while they worked essential jobs that kept their families fed and their towns in business. Back before hipster culture and grunge, flannel was still a symbol. But it wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t handpicked to send a message out to the world. It was the garment of choice to fend off the harm caused by Mother Nature.
In modern day streetwear, flannel is a masculine way to stay warm and inject some edge into your look. More than any ripped jeans or old band t-shirts or Chelsea boots can, flannel shirts evoke the spirit of another time while also upping your style ante. They can be worn alone, layered with other pieces, or reduced to a simple accent. Either way, their presence is always felt without being overpowering. Just be sure to incorporate them into your looks in a way that’s true to you. Flannel can be the answer to freshening up your fall wardrobe. But it doesn’t have to flip your style upside down.