Flannel up this fall to hike, operate the tailgate grill, or rake some leaves. We’ve found the best classic wool, cotton, and technical flannel shirts for men.
Ask the GearJunkie staff what their favorite season is, and it would undeniably be flannel season — whether doing fall chores, warming up by the fire, or simply working from home. As hot days give way to cool mornings, we’re all looking forward to flanneling up.
Today’s flannel is a far cry from the Seattle grunge scene or Paul Bunyan’s tack shop. More technical, less scratchy, and all-around comfortable, there are endless options for purveyors of plaid. Here are our staff’s favorites for 2021.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Best Lightweight
- Best Heavyweight
- Best Office-Friendly
- Best Nontraditional
- Best Full-Featured
- Best Flannel for Cycling
- Best Shirt Jacket Flannels
- Best of the Rest
The Best Men’s Flannel Shirts of 2021
Best Overall Flannel Shirt: Pladra Elli Everyday Flannel
To win the honor of best overall flannel, the shirt needs to hit all the marks — great fit, comfort, durability, and flexible enough to wear from fall to spring. We want something we’d reach for when getting coffee in the morning or throw on to warm up next to the campfire. It should be durable enough for Saturday chores and look good while doing it. And if our loved ones want to steal it from our closet? It’s just another checkmark of approval.
After a year of testing, we’ve confidently thrown our vote behind Pladra’s Elli Everyday Flannel ($89). It’s a modern take on the classic brushed twill that feels soft, looks stylish, and holds up well after multiple wash cycles. And best of all, you can hang it in your closet for under $100.
The 100% organic Portuguese cotton is the best of the best and feels luxuriously soft against the skin. Pladra lists the shirt as midweight, but we found the fabric bridges between lightweight and midweight, giving it a wide temperature range from fall through spring.
The material is sewn together in a modern tailored fit with room to layer. If you own the Cascade, which we ranked as our choice for work last year, the fit is a little more relaxed.
Available in seven patterns, Pladra trims all its shirts with woodland print accents. With the cuffs rolled up, the Elli rarely goes unnoticed and is always a conversation starter.
Plus, Pladra’s shirts are made in America and are backed by a lifetime guarantee.
- Material: 100% cotton
- Fabric weight: 176 gsm
Best Budget Flannel: Duluth Trading Co. Free Swingin’ Flannel Relaxed Fit Shirt
Our best-priced flannel is also one of the best-fitting flannels on the list. This midweight shirt ($50) has gussets under the arms and pleats behind the shoulders, giving it fantastic mobility. There’s zero binding or pulling when reaching, lifting, raking — and yes, swingin’ tools.
The 100% cotton shirt comes prewashed and has a slight texture to it. It’s a work shirt, so we expect this kind of rigidity as a compromise for added durability. The cotton is brushed to give it a softer touch, but it’s never going to be velvety soft. And that’s unabashedly in Duluth’s DNA.
The Free Swingin’ Flannel typically runs $50, which in itself is a reasonable price for a hardy work shirt you can put some miles on. But it’s regularly on sale for less, making it an indisputable bargain. Get yours while they last!
Best Lightweight Flannel: Orvis Flat Creek Tech Flannel
Orvis isn’t all about the fish. They make a great lifestyle line of clothes that can transition from water to more everyday wear.
The Flat Creek Tech flannel ($98) is lightweight, durable flannel that’s fantastic for getting an early jump on flannel season. The chest pockets button shut and are sewn to match the shirt’s panel pattern. A deep third chest pocket vertically zips behind the left chest pocket and can hold a tin of flies. A sunglasses chamois is sewn into the right hem.
We’ve been wearing a version of this flannel for several years now. The seams, the nap, the fit — the shirt has held up very well. But we found the original shirt ran a little longer than other flannels.
This year, the Flat Creek fits spot on and has new MarinoWul+ material. It gives the shirt a slight stretch and soft feel, and it has better temperature-regulating qualities.
Even though last year’s Flat Creek Tech is available on sale now through Orvis for $59, we’d still recommend buying the latest iteration of the shirt. It’s better on nearly every level.
- Materials: Cotton, MarinoWul+, spandex
- Fabric weight: 154 gsm
Best Heavyweight Flannel: Fjallraven Canada Shirt
The origins of wool date back to Welsh sheepherders. These were men who worked in cold, wet, windy, and otherwise crappy conditions. They appreciated all the properties of wool — warm when wet, durable, and odor-killing — and created flannel to endure the harsh conditions.
If you think wool when you hear the word “flannel,” this Fjallraven’s Canada Shirt ($150) is for you. Made of 70% recycled wool (and 30% polyamide), this is a long-lasting classic. Considered a midweight flannel, you can easily wear this as a jacket in warmer weather or an insulating layer when the temps drop.
True to wool’s properties, the poly-wool blend provides good odor protection with the added durability of polyamide.
- Material: 70% wool, 30% polyamide
- Fabric weight: 340 gsm
Best Office-Friendly Flannel: Proper Cloth Beacon
Proper Cloth is a startup brand born out of New York’s Garment District. Embracing UX design theory, the crew at PC has built a small empire around high-quality, ready-to-wear shirts with a long list of custom-fit options.
Their flannels are more trim and tailored. Albeit relatively expensive, we think it’s reasonably priced for what you get. The Beacon flannel ($140) sources Egyptian cotton milled at the Canclini textile plant just outside of Lake Como, Italy. Brushing twills since 1925, Canclini weaves flannels as well as anyone. And the Beacon is hands down the softest flannel we’ve ever shouldered.
The Beacon uses a two-ply, 50s thread count. While it’s a fairly low thread count, the nap is exceptionally smooth, making this a great choice for cool summer mornings and early fall days when the temperatures can run crisp to warm.
Embracing a thread-to-point-of-sale system design approach, Proper Cloth makes the buying process easy. You can scroll through the tile of shirts, click, and buy your size online.
Want to mix it up? You can use its Design-a-Shirt tool and change your fabric, add some design flair, or even add your own body measurements for a fully customized shirt.
If you’re an off-the-shelf kind of guy, you probably don’t need to buy into the custom fit. But for those whose torso and arms fall just off the norm, the Beacon Flannel will be a fantastic upgrade in your wardrobe. The Beacon is available in 20 patterns and 10 solid options.
- Material: 100% Egyptian cotton
- Fabric weight: 170 gsm
Best Nontraditional Flannel: Faherty Legend Sweater Shirt
Faherty’s Legend Sweater ($178) is for the guy who swears he’d never wear flannel. A Turkish blend of three yarns, the material is woven to feel smooth against the skin and soft to the touch. The material is finished with a tailored fit that moves with your body in any activity.
Fitting more like a cardigan sweater, the midweight material is ideal worn alone for fall and spring. And it layers well under a jacket or thicker shacket in cooler winter. If you want something similar to wear by itself in winter, we’d recommend looking at California Cowboy’s High Sierra, which has a thick synthetic waffle liner for added warmth.
The Legend isn’t cheap. At $178, you’re committing a good chunk of change to a woven shirt. But it’s incredibly soft and plush, wearing more like your favorite sweater. We did find the Legend pills more than other flannels on the list. But the aged nap gives the shirt some charm.
Like 501’s to Levis, the Legend has become a staple at Faherty. With 11 color schemes to choose from, there’s something for everyone.
- Materials: 62% polyester, 33% viscose, 5% spandex
Best Full-Featured Flannel: California Cowboy High Sierra
There are more technical and durable options on this list, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a flannel comfier than California Cowboy’s High Sierra ($148). And there’s no way you’re going to find another flannel with as many hidden (and handy) doo-dads!
For starters, the High Sierra has a rear pocket perfect for holding a cold can or bottle, a loop to clip gloves onto, a sunglasses loop, and a zippered water-resistant stash pocket. Plus, every High Sierra ships with a beer koozie, bottle opener, and a stack of conversation-starter cards (because why not?).
The lined Portuguese flannel feels super plush and soft, though it provides less defense against sticks, burrs, or tree sap than some other options. But for cruising around town, sitting around a campfire, or enjoying an après day, the High Sierra might be the coziest and certainly the most fun flannel out there.
And if California Cowboy is new to you, check out the Cowboy’s truly conversational poolside robes.
- Flannel Outer: 100% cotton
- Thermal Lining: 50% cotton, 50% modal
Best Flannel for Cycling: Club Ride Shaka
The Club Ride Shaka Flannel ($89) is just the right blend of loose and fitted, giving a rider room to maneuver without flopping and flapping in the wind — or getting snagged on tree branches.
It’s a midweight performance material that has the look of a traditional cotton flannel, but its two-way stretch material wicks and dries like a proper athletic shirt, albeit a thicker one. Worn alone for cool days or layered over a thermal for cold rides, the mesh underarm panels prevent overheating while the main panels keep your core comfy.
Bonus points for looking perfectly at home off the bike, too, making it great for commuting or just riding around with friends.
Our tester is a muscular 6’2” and went with the XL to get enough room in the shoulders — the large was just a bit tight up top, which pulled the sleeves just a bit too short. But a skinnier 6’1″ rider fit the large just fine. So, yeah, these are definitely cut for athletes.
- Material: 97% polyester, 3% spandex
- Fabric weight: 155 gsm
Best Shirt Jacket Flannels
The past few years have marked a spike in flannel’s expansion beyond the shirt and almost into the jacket territory.
Meet the shirt jacket, also known as the “shacket,” an overshirt that has enough room to layer over a hoodie (or flannel) and yet is slim enough to wear under an overcoat. With nearly every flannel brand offering a version, here’s a quick look at what we like this year.
Best Shirt Jac: Patagonia Insulated Fjord Flannel Jacket
Patagonia knows how to nail iconic style, and its Fjord Flannel Jacket ($179) is no exception. A perennial customer favorite, the hearty Fjord Flannel was our best choice last year and remains our favorite this year.
The Insulated Fjord Flannel takes that same soft, lofty cotton and lines it with 60g insulation (the same weight of insulation found in Patagonia’s venerable Nano Puff). Worn by itself, the nylon quilt liner is super soft against the skin. But there’s plenty of room to slide it over another flannel or sweater.
The top straddles fluidly between jacket and shirt. True to size, it’s finished with a straight hem and a pair of insulated hand pockets. Two chest pockets and a button-down front keep it from drifting into full jacket mode. We like to use the Insulated Fjord for those late-September days before the rain when the weather starts to pivot from cool to cold.
While we can’t say who for sure who brought flannel to the States, we can definitively say Carhartt popularized it. Back in 1889, Hamilton Carhartt created his own textile plant dedicated to weaving flannel. Ever since, the nappy check has become synonymous with the American workforce.
This Shirt Jac Flannel ($70) isn’t brushed, so the outside feels more durable and hard-wearing. But the torso is lined with a cotton flannel, and the sleeves are quilted with a nylon, making it easy to slide your arms into. The pairing does a great job of trapping heat.
Wearing this top in the cold, there are virtually no breezy gaps. The jacket is tough and oversized to layer over a sweatshirt and drops below the hips, covering the butt even when sitting. The shirt and cuffs close with oversized snaps.
Like you’d expect with Carhartt, the shirt is stout and burly, made for hard use in the cold. For under $100, you can expect it to get years of use.
Wool Blend: TrackSmith New England Overshirt
If you like Rapha for cycling, you’ll love TrackSmith for running. There’s an unapologetic “ivory tower” vibe to their designs. While TrackSmith primarily makes high-end running apparel, the company also makes a few lifestyle pieces that bookend the run. And they carry what we love about the brand — simple and well-made with classic trim — into their off-track clothes.
Appropriately named the New England Overshirt ($198), this heavyweight shirt straddles the line between flannel and shacket. The two chest pockets are paired with two hand pockets that seamlessly disappear down the side of the shirt, nudging the slender overshirt toward a shacket.
The hand pockets are incorporated into a pair of internal pockets that are wide enough to store a device, gloves, or arm warmers. The shirt closes down the front with bold snaps.
Many pure wool (or overweight) flannels lack stretch and can feel restrictive. What we really like about this overshirt is its wool-cotton-nylon blend. The inside weaves smooth, synthetic fibers under a short, nappy wool-blend outside, giving the shirt both protection and some mechanical stretch.
While TrackSmith might have you believe that you’ll bring it out on runs, we find it more appropriate for fall’s post-workout coffee runs.
- Outer: 40% wool, 30% cotton, 15% nylon, 8% polyester, 7% other fibers
- Lining: 96% polyester, 6% spandex
- Fabric weight: 440 gsm
Cotton Jacket Shirt: Outerknown Blanket Shirt
Rugged, warm, soft, and judiciously thick. We’ve been shouldering Outerknown’s Blanket Shirt ($148) for years, and the fat cotton weft just keeps getting better with age. Throw it on when getting coffee, hitting the co-op, or splitting wood —Outerknown’s Blanket Shirt is a s’more-making, tailgating staple.
The 100% organic cotton is incredibly plush and beefy in the hand. It feels luxurious against the skin but has enough room to layer over a long-sleeve shirt. It’s hard-wearing and easy to take care of — just throw it in the wash and tumble dry low.
The Blanket Shirt comes in eight different stripe and plaid color schemes. So there’s something to meet everyone’s taste. All seams are flat-locked and triple-stitched, and the pocket pattern aligns with the torso panel.
Heavy-Duty Wool Shacket: C.C. Filson Mackinaw Cruiser
Seattle-based C.C. Filson has made heavy-duty clothing for work and hunting for over 100 years. The pièce de résistance in the company’s heavyweight shacket line is the Cruiser, with the 24-ounce buffalo plaid Mackinaw Wool Cruiser ($495) on top of the stack.
Styled after a bird hunting jacket, this is the heaviest shacket on the list. The fabric is fat in the hand and feels similar to what you might find in a Pendleton blanket. No surprise, the durable wool is sourced from Oregon’s Pendleton Woolen Mills.
The tight weave blocks wind and rain, which beads off the wool. If moisture penetrates the surface, the wool absorbs up to 30% of its own weight in water before feeling damp or clammy.
They grow them big out west. Filson sizes run a full size larger than average. We wear a medium in tops, and we always have to wear a small in Filson. But the size smaller wears true to size.
- Material: 100% virgin wool
Best of the Rest
The horizontal lines in Levitate Baja Flannel ($76) give a nod to the setting sun over a long day of adventure. It’s also a refreshing pattern in a sea of plaid.
While not as plush as a pure cotton flannel, the cotton-poly blend feels super soft and retains that good-as-new touch long after you buy it. We also found the poly blend to be more durable than a 100% cotton shirt. It doesn’t pill or wrinkle, and it bounces back quickly after packing up. Levitate backs all the high-wear spots with corduroy tape, adding even more durability to the shirt.
The relaxed-fit Baja doesn’t have a lot of stretch, so it isn’t our choice for activities that require a lot of range of motion. Instead, we like this midweight flannel for casual activities, travel, and post-workout fish taco runs.
- Materials: 60% organic cotton, 40% recycled polyester
- Fabric weight: 240 gsm
While most shirts button down or snap shut, a rare few close with a full-zipper front. And they tend to be some of our favorite shirt designs. They’re easy to close, have fewer parts to break, and have a clean finish that trends more overshirt that generally works well with flannels.
Mammut’s Tamaro ($95) is constructed from a durable midweight cotton fabric that sits at the far end of the flannel loft spectrum. The material has a velvety smooth feel to the touch. The durable face repels a light spray and deflects sharp rocks.
With the front zip, the shirt wants to trend more shacket. A few hand pockets would’ve sealed its place firmly as a lightweight shirt-jacket option. For the rest of us, it’s an easy-to-wear shop shirt.
- Material: 100% cotton
- Fabric weight: 194 gsm
There are a lot of great reasons to love this flannel. Engineered to be a cold-weather favorite, OR’s Feedback Flannel ($90) is a great option for fall or winter. For our tester, the polyester fabric is the perfect thickness, although it’s a bit wide in the shoulders.
The flannel is also easy to layer either with a jacket over or a shirt underneath, which we love. The attention to detail on this shirt with the hidden zip pocket on the torso is great, and the quick-drying feature means it can withstand light exercise. And thanks to its polyester material, it’ll dry much faster than cotton flannel.
- Material: Polyester
Old man Bauer created his original woolen flannel — quiet in the bush and warm when wet — for hunting in Washington state. The materials may have changed, but the flannel has been in Eddie Bauer’s lineup since the beginning.
Eddie Bauer’s Expedition Flannel ($80) is a lightweight synthetic flannel that’s brushed to feel smooth to the touch.
The fit is regular — it’s not tailored or baggy. Long tails help keep it tucked in the pants. A single pleat runs below the nape of the neck so you have a reasonable range of motion. The inside cuffs are reinforced with a strip of nylon for added durability and a touch of contrasting color.
The Expedition Flannel is always rotating through Eddie Bauer’s shop, so you can always find a new crop of colors. The shirt lists for $80, but the brand runs its entire site at 40-50% off just about every other month. And the brand has a lifetime guarantee, which makes the shirt an incredibly good value.