The lumberjack favourite, this soft yet rugged and warm material is usually saved for checked casual shirts. But now flannel has made its way into the world of tailoring too – and despite its brushed appearance, the suits are sharp. Here’s your need-to-know on flannel and why you want a suit made out of it this season.
It’s a fabric that goes through a brushing process to remove any lint and fibres, creating an incredibly soft finish. This brushed effect is why, when you run your hands over a flannel shirt or pair of pyjama bottoms, it has a fuzzed feel. It’s also why flannel is so warm because the down-like surface traps air.
Flannel can be made from wool, cotton or other man-made fibres like polyester. Despite a thick appearance, if it’s made from wool or cotton, it will be naturally breathable as well as warm. Its ‘furry’ finish doesn’t really reflect light so it’s got a contemporary matte finish and it also looks thick, giving it a ruggedness that errs on the casual side of smart.
Let’s start with its grassroots. Flannel is thought to originate in sixteenth-century Wales when it was used for its warmth. Jump forward a few hundred years to the Industrial Revolution and men across the pond were wearing it to keep warm while building the railways. And if it’s warm enough for those guys, you can count on it to keep the chill out during your (presumably) less strenuous day-to-day. But that’s not all.
As a strong material, flannel takes well to being cut into a suit because it holds its shape. It’s also lightweight and malleable, not to mention soft, making it one of the more comfortable options. That’s a big plus point if you’ll be wearing it for hours on end at work or a wedding.
But the main reason it’s used today is style. As men are after more laidback looks, even in tailoring, casual materials like flannel are back on the tailoring table.
Flannel suits come in all kinds of colours, patterns and fits, so you’ll easily find one that suits your style. But if you’re buying flannel, it’s likely you’re after one thing in particular: comfort.
If that’s the case, look for flannel made in world-renowned mills like Vitale Barberis Canonico, which produces material from incredibly fine super 120s wool fibres that deliver superior softness. You might also prefer an unstructured suit – ours have a more relaxed fit with no shoulder pads and a lightweight half lining.