Flannel has a long and glorious history with appearances in many parts of the world going back many centuries and in that time it has gone from being just a simple fabric for keeping warm, to an essential fashion accessory adorning many a celebrity .
A fabric somewhat similar to flannel existed in Wales back in the 16th century and in fact flannel itself is thought to have originated in Wales in the early 17th century which would imply something of a connection between the two. Flannel or flanelle reached flagrantly fashionable France in the later part of the same century and continued to spread around Europe and further afield.
Flannel was initially made from wool and as such was excellent for colder climates at a time when gas-fired central heating hadn’t been invented yet (although those industrious Romans did make a good effort on the home heating front) and so naturally it quickly became a very popular fabric for all types of clothing as well as bedding.
In more modern times cotton has replaced wool for the most part in flannel fabrics and plaid became the most common pattern used with flannel shirts in particular. The word “plaid” itself actually originated with the gaelic word “plaide” which in fact means blanket and was often used in kilts. These days plaid shirts are commonly and somewhat affectionately associated with lumberjacks although they are popular as work clothing in many other fields. However they are not only used for work clothes and the “grunge” movement also further popularized plaid shirts as a trademark or even a fashion statement.
Of course while grunge is typically given a lot of credit for making plaid shirts cool (again) the reality is they were already widely available and worn around the world and very few wardrobes lacked at least one such garment. They have always been popular and in fact are still increasing in popularity year on year, in part because they always look good on pretty much anyone of any age in any situation – they are highly practical and comfortable and are imbued with a timeless factor that ensures they will always remain popular. Basically you just can’t go wrong with flannel shirts or even flannel sheets or any other use for the fabric.
It is safe to say that flannel will be with us for many years to come, in the form of shirts, trousers, jackets, bags, curtains, sheets and just about anything else it can be made into, so get it while it’s hot (which is always!).