Rarely has there been a garment so closely associated with the rock and roll lifestyle than the vintage flannel shirt. From dive bars to packed arenas, countless icons of rock have chosen this versatile, stylish shirt as their apparel of choice. Since you’ve found your way to SOJARA, you certainly may share with us an appreciation for this emblematic rock fashion. If you’ve yet to dive into vintage rock apparel, take a few moments to catch yourself up with our vintage flannel style guide and get ready to make a statement — and possibly turn some heads.
What Is Flannel?
First things first — what is flannel and why is it so engrained in rock culture? The word “flannel” actually refers to the fabric, not the plaid pattern. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but that’s simply because most flannel shirts tend to have a plaid print. Flannel has been around much longer than you probably realize - as early as the 1600s, in fact. It most found use as a fabric for sheets and other articles of clothing, including athletic apparel through the 1970s. Originally made primarily from wool, in the 20th century, blends of silk and cotton became more commonplace (not to mention softer.) For most of the 1900s, plaid flannel shirts were popular as warm workwear in the upper midwest United States, especially among logging communities. It wouldn’t be until the phenomenon known as “Grunge” that an entirely new generation found an effortlessly cool, iconic look in this traditionally working-class apparel — and the rest is history.
A Flannel For Every Occasion
With its roots in working-class communities, it’s easy to think that flannels are strictly a casual type of garment. However, it’s all about how you choose to wear a flannel and what you wear it with. With the right style choices, flannel can be just as at home at a rock show or a cocktail party. The versatility of flannel apparel is part of its natural appeal.
There’s casual and then there’s what you wear at home with nobody but the dog to witness you — knowing the difference is crucial to achieving a stylish casual look. Pair your flannel with your preferred fit of jeans, and you’ll be in the right neighborhood. If you’re going for classic grunge, try pairing your red flannel with black jeans to make a bold, edgy statement.
To keep the look consistent from top to bottom, your footwear choice is important. You can go full-bore grunge and opt for lace-up boots, or keep it simple with sneakers like Converse All-Stars or Vans (skateboard optional).
Layering with flannel is an easy way to change up your look, as well as be prepared for fluctuating temperatures. Wearing a flannel over your favorite tee is an excellent casual look, and it’s simple to remove the flannel and tie it around your waist if the weather warms up. There’s also no hard and fast rule about when or how to roll your flannel’s sleeves, so change it up to match the weather forecast.
Pick Your Poison - A Flannel Color Guide
Nowadays, flannels can come in just about any color of the rainbow. However, when you’re talking about vintage flannel shirts, the most common colors you’ll see are red, black, grey, and green. That said, here are some quick tips for getting the look you want from your color of choice.
The nice thing about vintage red flannels is that they’ve had a chance to fade a little bit, thereby avoiding the “grandma’s picnic tablecloth” look. Buffalo plaid is a common style of red flannel and paired with a black tee, skinny black jeans, and your favorite pair of boots, you’ll be ready to take on the world.
Darker plaid prints on flannel tend to convey a rougher around the edges vibe. Paired with black jeans, black sneakers, and Black Sabbath, and you’ll be set. For a less edgy variant, pick a more subtle plaid print, button it up, and wear some nice dark blue jeans.
Considered by many to be the “dressiest” flannel, predominantly grey flannels are a great option for a more polished, night on the town look. This is one of the few colors of flannel that work really well with less casual dress options like chinos and brogues, allowing you to ditch the sneakers every once in a while.
Admittedly, the green flannel is the most “lumberjacky” style in the world of flannel — but a lot of people dig this look. Green flannels work really well with bearded fellows who wish to embrace the Northwest vibe, just short of picking up an ax and chopping down a tree. Both ladies and gentlemen with pale skin tones also look fantastic in this cooler color of flannel.
What’s the Best Way to Wear a Flannel Shirt?
We’ve done our best to present what we consider to be solid tips for rocking vintage flannel, but what is a rock and roll lifestyle if not one where you choose what works best for you? You do you. That said, here are a few more tips for you to consider to round out your flannel look and find a style that is uniquely you:
- Classic colors are your friend, especially when it comes to the vintage look. Stick to red, black, green, white, brown, or grey.
- Pair your flannel with a tee, jeans, and boots for the quintessential casual look.
- When the weather warms up, roll up those sleeves to keep from roasting.
- Strike a balance between formal and casual by tucking in your flannel and pairing it with chinos, a belt, and derby shoes.