Home Lifestyle From Comfort To Style: Unraveling the History of Flannel

From Comfort To Style: Unraveling the History of Flannel

Photo by Rina Haimson.

How Flannel Has Changed From Work Clothes To A Fashion Statement

By Rina Haimson

SILVER SPRING, Md.– Flannel always tends to appear as the weather gets colder, but this soft fabric has a rich history that is rarely studied.

Flannel was traditionally made from either carded wool or worsted yarn, which made them extremely soft to the touch. Today, however, most are made from cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers– a more cost effective measure but one that leaves the resulting material not quite as warm.

During the 16th-19th centuries, flannel was worn mainly by workers in Wales and other such countries in order to keep them warm, and nobody except for blue-collar workers would have even considered it to wear.

Soon, flannel would make its way to America, and was used in both shirts and long underwear by railroad workers seeking warmth.

As the 20th century dawns, hard workers are celebrated widely, and the flannel shirt increasingly becomes a symbol of masculinity. As this century continues, however, flannel begins to be associated with alternative fashion, and worn more as a statement.

With grunge becoming a popular genre of music and clothing, flannels began to become edgier, and a way to seem different. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain wore them consistently, bringing flannels back into the public’s eye as much more than work clothes.

Grunge stayed popular through the late 80s and early 90s, but soon began to decline due to the bands breaking up and fashion moving on. However, flannels endured into the 2000s as a throwback worn mostly by men, but by an increasing number of women as well.

Today, flannel is worn by multitudes of people, of both genders, and has become almost a signifier of fall. Additionally, it is practically a symbol for many groups, from hipsters to lesbians, and is fondly regarded by many people.   

Whether worn for warmth or expression, the flannel has become a staple for outfits all over America.


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