Plaid and flannel are not the same, please sit down if you need to.
Our latest flannel fabric history runs deeper than its lumberjack and grunge stereotypes. How’s your Welsh? Because flannel originated from 17th century Wales and comes from the Welsh word gwlanen, which means a soft woven material. Say it with us, gw-lan-nen.
Farmers, the Original Hipster
Like most things did back in the day, flannel came as a practical solution to serve a functional purpose. Farmers needed warm and light protective outerwear that they could still do manual labour in. So naturally farmers loved flannel shirts for how they provided protection from the elements. Flannel’s association with the working-class has become a part of the fabrics’ heritage following it all the way from 17th century Wales, to modern day.
Word Travels Fast
Due to its durability and warmth, flannel quickly became popular across Europe along with the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. The high demand for flannel led to more mills producing the fabric – however, there is one place that does shirts like no other, Italy. Italy has become a master in shirting and it’s for this very reason that we get our flannel made at one of the most cutting edge mills in the world. Our Italian mill uses top of the line technology from start to finish. This includes laser alignment precision to ensure that each pattern on our flannel shirts reflects the same placement on every single garment. No detail is left untouched.
Across the pond, flannel was picked up as a warm functional fabric to use during the American Civil War for soldiers’ undershirts and four-button coats. After the Civil War, the fabric was improved and later used in military uniforms during WWI and WWII.
Outside of the military, flannel had become a staple fabric for workmen. It was used to make one-piece union suits and work overalls for construction and railroad workers. The confusion around plaid and flannel came at the turn of the 20th century with the American caricature, Paul Bunyan and his staple red plaid flannel shirt. He became such an inspiration to Americans (especially the children of blue collar workers) that the words ‘plaid’ and ‘flannel’ became used interchangeably. Flannel is the soft warm material and plaid is a pattern that can be used on many different fabrics. However, it’s a popularly used as a pattern on flannel, so we get the confusion.
Style, Over Function
Flannel resurfaced in the early 1990s with grunge music and was famously worn by bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. The grunge period represented anti-conformity and challenged the system – it was an ideology and style that caught on quickly. However, today flannel is no longer strongly associated with its angsty ways and instead it’s seen as a wardrobe essential that applauds all aspects of its heritage.
fabrics / by Grana / 12.09.16