Suit up this fall to hike, operate the tailgate grill, or wield an ax for firewood. A flannel shirt on your back is the official uniform of the outdoors and autumn’s wardrobe workhorse.
Today’s flannel is a far cry from the mean streets circa ’90s Seattle or Paul Bunyan’s tack shop. More tech, less scratchy, and all-around comfortable, there are endless options for purveyors of plaid. We took a spin through the aisles to see what’s in style this season.
Made In USA – Stormy Kromer Flannel Shirt ($99)
You can get a cheaper cotton flannel. But this one is made in the USA, cut and sewn domestically. The 100-percent cotton flannel is a classic for cool days when moisture isn’t a concern. Go to the BBQ in full American fall fashion in what Stormy Kromer calls its “softest, beefiest T-shirt.” Stormy Kromer, based in Michigan’s U.P., dubs this model simply as its Flannel Shirt.
100 Percent Organic – Outerknown Transitional Flannel ($125)
Professional surfer Kelly Slater manages to mix high fashion, ultimate comfort, and sustainability with his brand Outerknown. And the Transitional Flannel is no exception. Made of 100 percent organic cotton, this thing is buttery soft and surprisingly tough. From cold nights gathered around the beach bonfire to dinner out on the town, this eco-conscious flannel’s got you covered.
Lightweight Tech Flannel – Flylow Handlebar Tech Flannel ($90)
The Handlebar Tech Flannel is lighter than many listed here, and a reasonable choice for those sunny fall days that border on t-shirt weather. The brand calls it a “temperature-regulating midlayer in disguise,” and the description is apt. The polyester shirt dries quickly and breathes well for hiking, biking, or working hard in fall weather.
Synthetic Stretch – Mountain Hardwear Stretchstone Flannel ($85)
Made with five percent stretchy elastane (and 95 percent fast-drying polyester), this high-tech flannel looks old school but allows for great mobility. A nice mid-weight shirt, it’ll keep you cool on chilly days but wicks moisture if you work up a sweat. We’ve had this shirt for several months, and it still looks almost new despite a fair bit of abuse.
Burly, Cozy Flannel – Duluth Trading ‘Burlyweight’ Free Swingin’ Flannel ($55)
Duluth Trading Company knows its flannels. And among the brand’s several models for men and women, the Burlyweight stands out as one of the most beloved flannels in North America. The 100 percent cotton flannel has deep back pleats and armpit gussets for ease of reaching and swinging. Big pockets and buttons round out this Paul Bunyan of shirts that boasts 755 reviews and a nearly perfect 4.8-star rating.
Classic Wool Flannel – Pendelton Fitted Board Shirt ($125)
Flannel can come in and out of style, but it doesn’t get much more consistent than Oregon’s classic Pendleton woolens. Tapered through the chest for a slightly more modern aesthetic, this shirt is a long-standing fan favorite and best seller. Wear it to work or wear it for chores, the Board Shirt rides the line and is a perfect candidate for burgeoning lumbersexuals in the city and beyond.
New Take On Old Flannel – Ibex Taos Plaid Shirt ($195)
To give it a little stretch, Ibex updated the classic look and feel of the flannel by weaving in nylon with a 20.5-micron merino wool strand. Dual chest pockets and a snap front are closed with iconic Ibex pewter buttons. The result is the Taos, a handsome, mid-weight shirt that doesn’t make you look like you’ve got a blue ox in the back 40.
Cotton-Wool Blend – Fjallraven Övik Flannel Shirt ($100)
It’s a flannel at heart, but the Ovik seamlessly doubles as a dress shirt. The buttons on the collar allow for secure tie placement, yet the rugged cotton/wool blend makes it a solid choice for relaxing by the fire on a cold night. If you’re a mountain man with businessman obligations, this shirt is the one for you.
Dress Shirt Flannel – Wool & Prince Button-Down ($128)
Flannel is no longer synonymous with plaid, and it doesn’t have to be an after-hours affair. Wool & Prince makes it easy to suit up for work with its line of wool dress shirts. For fall, we liked the look of the button-down black twill shirt (above). The ultra-fine, 18.5-micron merino did its wool magic regulating to keep us cool in the heat of the day but warm at night.
Made For Biking – Club Ride Jack Flannel ($89)
Ride in flannel? The sportiest shirt in our line-up, Club Ride’s Jack Flannel is sewn from a breathable, woven fabric that wicks moisture and dries quickly. It comes kitted with reflective tape and a zipper chest and rear pocket with a media port to route in pedal-pumping tunes. Mesh swatches are sewn under the arms to dump BTUs once you heat up. We’ve been pulling double duty in the Jack at work and on rides in the Idaho foothills and found it a capable shirt.
PART II: Heavy-Hitting Flannels
This year marked a spike in flannel’s expansion beyond the shirt and almost into the jacket territory. Some call these pieces “shackets.” We heard and observed three general trends this fall: the thicker shirt-jacket (or jacket-shirt), the reversible flannel, and the lined flannel. With nearly every flannel retailer offering a version, here’s a quick look at three pieces we liked.
Classic Flannel Jacket – Filson Jac-Shirt ($245)
Filson knows a thing or two about heavyweight garments. The company has been at it since 1897, outfitting miners and gold-rushers in classic waxed cotton, Tin Cloth, and Mackinaw wool. Staying true to its roots, this year Filson brought heavy materials to an oversized piece, the Jac-Shirt. Its roomy cut lets you layer it over vests and undershirts.
Hooded Shirt Jacket – Kavu Hawthorne Shacket ($75)
This one goes out to all the hoodie lovers. Now you can wear a flannel without sacrificing the convenient head warmth a hood provides. The Hawthorne features a front zipper and lower pockets, making it ideal for both aprés ski lounging and running errands.
Quilted Merino Jacket – Icebreaker MerinoLOFT Helix ($250)
My first flannel was a nylon-lined wool shirt from Sears that I wore adventuring in my backyard as a kid. Icebreaker’s MerinoLOFT Helix is a throwback to the old faithful reversible. With a boxy fit, the jacket can be worn quilted-side-out to block the wind, or flannel-side-out to add some color to your outfit. Lined with a merino fill for insulation, it’s the goldilocks jacket — not too warm, not too cold — just right for shoulder seasons.
High-Tech Flannel Jacket – Outdoor Research Sherman ($130)
Outdoor Research is known for pushing the relationship of structure and function. Its Sherman jacket is no different. Mixing high-tech materials like high-loft fleece with a weather-resistant synthetic shell gives this vintage-look flannel a technical edge. With four pockets (two on the chest and two hand pockets), it is more jacket than shirt and the heaviest in the lineup. But it’s still priced right with good looks.