- There comes a time to let those summer pastels give way to fall hues, and an argument could be made that you've missed out on a central part of fall if you haven't worn a flannel at least once.
- Woolrich has been making excellent flannel for well over 100 years, and its flannel shirts are the best ones you can buy — hands down.
Love or hate flannels and shackets, their burlier cousins, all you want, but there's no denying the perfectly functional application of them all. Flannel comes in many fabrics and patterns, and while the mere mention of the word conjures imagery of plaid-clad grunge music icons — or maybe just Dad in his weekend getup — there's more to the illustrious cloth than meets the popularly-cultured eye.
For instance, flannel may be synonymous with plaid, but flannel is a cloth, and plaid is a pattern. And flannel is not exactly any one specific cloth, either. It's a general term for tightly woven fabric most commonly of either cotton or wool that is modestly milled and raised and sometimes brushed.
Thick or thin, flannel's greatest appeal might be that there's a flannel for all seasons, despite a predominance of fall tones where patterns are concerned.
It can be hefty and warm, light and airy, monochromatic, or fully rhapsodic in more colors than we'd dare count. If one thing is unquestionably definitive about flannel it's that it can, unconditionally, be worn and loved by all. Below, you'll find our most beloved flannel shirts.
Here are the best flannel shirt brands for men:
- Best flannel shirts overall: Woolrich
- Best classic flannel shirts: Pendleton
- Best budget flannel shirts: Uniqlo
- Best eco-friendly flannel shirts: United By Blue
- Best shackets: Outerknown
Updated on 9/21/20 by Amir Ismael: Updated links, added United By Blue as best eco-friendly option, and added notes for what else we've considered. We're currently testing new products from Orvis, Fjallraven, and United By Blue for the next update.
The best flannel shirts overall
Woolrich has been making flannel since 1850, which is nearly as long as the brand has been making clothes, and its flannel shirts are the best of the best.
Woolrich makes a sturdy flannel, but make no mistake: The shirts are as soft as can be before they ever see the inside of a washing machine. I have had several Woolrich shirts over the years, and if it were not for my younger brother stealing them to go around skateboard parks, I'm confident that they'd still be here today.
The Buffalo Check Wool Shirt was Woolrich's first flannel shirt, and it is still a favorite more than 100 years later. Made with 9.75-ounce wool that's blended with nylon, these flannel shirts are machine washable. The inner collar is lined with a poly-cotton blend, and the stitching is done with a double needle. Apart from these small modern innovations, this timeless shirt hasn't changed all that much.
The Trout Run Shirt is a newer addition that has a similar design with a chambray collar, but it's made with a thinner 4.75-ounce pebble-washed 100% cotton fabric. The shirt's materials should please purists, along with anyone else who likes a soft organic material.
Pros: Variety of patterns, fabrics, and blends, wide price range to accommodate all budgets
Cons: We'd love to see the Buffalo Check shirt made as it was over 100 years ago again
The best classic flannel shirts
Pendleton offers such a dizzying array of woolen and cotton flannel shirts, it might be hard to know where to start, but every piece is well made.
In 1863, Thomas Kay sailed down the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States, rode across what was then the Isthmus of Panama, and sailed up the Pacific Coast in search of a place to raise sheep and produce wool. He found it in Pendleton, Oregon, where he started his own mill in 1889. His legacy has remained there ever since, and Kay's family still owns and operates the brand along with its facilities and retail stores.
Still, it would be another 30 years before flannel would land on the fashion scene. In the meantime, flannel was a material for utility shirts worn by men who worked outdoors. It came in dull drab colors, and probably not much else. In 1929, Pendleton put out its first line of virgin wool sportswear, and the brand has been producing excellent flannel shirts ever since.
Pendleton has changed the way its flannel is made over the years, of course. First and foremost, the wool isn't harvested in the United States anymore, but the company does still weave material here. Now that flannel has come into popular fashion, you can find a strong array of hues to choose from. The fabrics used are also water-, odor-, and stain-resistant.
Our favorites are the Trail Shirt with suede elbow patches, which comes with a knit watch cap. It's an obvious but endearing nod back to the company's humbler beginnings. We also like the Lodge Shirt, which might also be called a work shirt or a "shacket."
Pros: Pure virgin wool in some shirts, 30+ patterns available in several weights and styles
Cons: Wool is of dubious origin
The best flannel shirts on a budget
Brushed on both sides, Uniqlo's flannel shirts are soft as anything, and half the price of most of our picks.
Based in Japan, Uniqlo has been making clothes since the 1940s, but it only began to reach US shores in 2005. Since then, its wares have become something of a chic-but-utilitarian staple in many wardrobes. And why not? It's affordable, well-made clothing that fits the bill for most.
Uniqlo is somewhat synonymous with the word "cheap" in Japan while, oddly enough in New York, you might even hear the adjective "cool" used to describe the company's line of modestly-priced, ergonomically-designed sportswear. Why? It's hard to say for sure, but a straightforward and simplistic (albeit scientific) design that leaves room for comfort doesn't hurt.
Uniqlo covers the gamut of plaid patterns with its flannel. The shirts also come mildly tailored, so while they may not be the trendiest take on flannel, they don't exactly look frumpy, either.
Pros: Affordable, versatile, 100% cotton
Cons: Stitching could be better
The best eco-friendly flannel shirts
United By Blue Responsible Flannels are sustainably made with organic cotton and recycled polyester from post-consumer and post-industrial plastic, plus corozo buttons carved from Tagua Palm nuts.
Living up to its name, the United By Blue Responsible Flannel is sustainably (and responsibly) made from a blend of organic cotton, recycled polyester created from post-consumer and post-industrial plastic, and 2% spandex for a comfortable amount of stretch.
The heavyweight fabric is complete with a double-brushed finish for a super-soft feel. It's so soft and premium, you'd have no idea it was made from recycled materials.
United By Blue will also remove one pound of waste from our planet's waterways for every product sold. To date, United By Blue has removed over 3.4 million pounds of trash.
Several members of the Insider Reviews team wore United By Blue Responsible Flannels regularly last fall and winter and found them to be exceptionally warm and soft. Read our full review of the United By Blue Responsible Flannel here.
Pros: Soft, responsibly made, lots of pattern options, your purchase helps clean up the environment
Cons: No options for solid colors
The best shackets
Outerknown's Blanket Shirts are some of the softest we've tried. They're also 100% organic down to the buttons.
Sustainability doesn't always have to come at a premium, but sometimes it's worth the splurge. These Blanket Shirts are Outerknown's iteration of a "work shirt" or "shacket," as you please, but they maintain their softness and don't pill like many other higher-end rivals.
There's nothing like getting out of the water on a brisk evening and tossing one of these on while I change out of a wetsuit. And, of course, I can stroll right back into town feeling fresh — and warm — as a daisy.
$148 is no pittance, but this isn't your fast-fashion, wear-for-one-season shirt, and you do get what you pay for with Outerknown. Bravo, Kelly Slater and John Moore, for making a line of conscientiously sourced-and-made clothes from start to finish. I'd say I'd keep buying these shirts for years to come, but because of the craftsmanship that goes into them, I know I'll do just fine with the two I've got for the foreseeable future.
Amir Ismael, our on-staff reporter and style guru, recently began wearing Outerknown's Blanket Shirts and offered similar praise:
"As thick and heavy as the Outerknown Blanket Shirt may be, it actually has great versatility throughout the seasons. It's good for late summer nights on cool and breezy beaches, layering in the fall and winter, or even leaving at your desk when it's cold in the office.
The relaxed fit makes it comfortable to wear, but if you want it to be more fitted, I'd recommend sizing down. I'm 5-foot-5 and about 135 pounds, and the size small was slightly oversized (I had to cuff the sleeves for a better fit)."
These shirts, like United By Blue and Toad & Co's flannels, are made with 100% organic cotton (which uses 90% less water than chemical-based methods), and use corozo nut rather than plastic for buttons.
Pros: Won't pill, warm, soft, wide variety of patterns and solids, 100% organic
Cons: A bit pricey
What else we've considered
Faherty: These work shirts, or "shackets," might not exactly classify as flannels, but we think they're close enough in terms of material at the very least. And if not, they're a worthy substitute for the rudimentary Buffalo Check that pervades most people's closets. Faherty also has a line of true flannels.
The shirts are soft, flattering, and can be worn out and about in a slightly more elevated fashion than a Baja poncho. If busy patterns or stripes aren't your things, Faherty's shirts come in monochromatic colors, too. We're still a fan of these shirts, but a good bit of use has lead to pilling, and while choosing to dry clean them would prevent this, we think that's a little too much work for flannel. If you're willing to toss them into the dry cleaning pile, though, we're all for Faherty's work shirts.
L.L.Bean: A tried and true classic, this brand's shirts are known by all and worn by many, but the cuts tend to be frumpy and we think you can get better, more sustainably-sourced fabric for less.
Patagonia: Patagonia makes outstanding flannel, and it's also almost wholly sustainable, but it's a little pricier, and there are less solid colors to choose from if you're not into plaid.
Toad&Co.: We chose United By Blue over Toad&Co. as the best sustainable flannel because they use equally responsible materials and manufacturing processes, but also have more of a fashion forward style. However, as our previous pick for best sustainable, Toad&Co. is still a very solid choice.
Insider Reviews senior reporter Owen Burke said, "I received a Flannagan flannel shirt from Toad&Co. a little under a year ago, and I wore it all fall, winter, and spring, until it was time to break out the linen shirts. It suffered through countless washes in both my cheap-as-hell, garment-shredding washer and drier (no, really, they've killed many a shirt), and as I wear it today, there's not a loose thread, button, or stitch upon it."
Check out our other men's style buying guides
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