How to Wear a Flannel Shirt Style Tips for Flannels (Beyond Plaid)

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The flannel shirt, just like denim jeans, is something thats worn by all different kinds of people going for all different kinds of aesthetics. And while there are different ways to wear a flannel, were going to discuss how to incorporate them into the classic mens style pantheon.

True, flannels can be worn as part of a grunge aesthetic, a goth aesthetic, a hipster aesthetic, and so on, but thats outside of the scope of what we cover here at the Gentlemans Gazette. If youd like to know how best to wear a flannel in those circumstances, you might want to look elsewherebut for a classic menswear take, weve got you covered.

What Is Flannel?

Before we get into any specific looks, we need to cover exactly what a flannel shirt is. When you hear the term flannel shirt, it probably conjures images of a button-up shirt in a plaid or tartan pattern, probably with features like a button-down collar, button cuffs, and maybe some pockets. And while a pattern, particularly a check pattern like tartan, can be an important component of many flannels, the only thing that really qualifies a shirt as a flannel is the fabric its made from. So what is flannel then?

Originally, the term flannel exclusively applied to a fabric that was made from carded wool. But suffice to say that carded fabrics are brushed and retain both long and short fibers giving them a softer feel. This is in contrast to combed fabrics which are tightly woven together and discard the short staple fibers. Theyre going to be smoother and more formal, overall, and worsted wool would be an example of this type of fabric. These days, flannel shirts can be made from many other fabrics aside from wool such as cotton or even synthetics but theyre often still carded to retain that soft & cozy texture that flannel shirts are famous for. And flannel shirts today can come in various weights and degrees of fineness so youve got a multitude of options when incorporating them into your outfits.

Beautiful flannel fabric for fall
Beautiful flannel fabric for fall

How Do You Find A Classic Flannel Shirt?

So while any shirt thats made from flannel can necessarily be referred to as such, there are still many people who would consider the tartan pattern to be an almost mandatory component. With that understanding out of the way then, lets say that youre in the market to buy some flannel shirts to incorporate into your classic menswear wardrobe, what should you be looking for?

Well, firstly, wed recommend that you find shirts that are made from actual flannel, either in wool or in cotton. Wed stay away from these synthetic fibers as they arent going to give you the same texture and feel and theyll often be in more contemporary designs that wont match well with the aesthetic youre going for.

Secondly, try to find flannels that are built and structured more like traditional dress shirts. In other words, one of the biggest things youre going to be looking for here is length. If youre observing advertisements for flannels that are worn untucked by all the models, chances are theyre probably going to be too short to be tucked in anyway and this isnt exactly the look that youre going for. They should have enough length that you can tuck them in comfortably and theyll look more put together that way. Its also important to choose your pattern carefully.

flannel tartan shirt
flannel tartan shirt

You should probably be going for medium to small scale check patterns or tartans, in particular. These medium to small patterns will tone down the boldness of the shirt itself and therefore, make it more versatile. You should probably avoid striped patterns or patchwork checks because these are going to be louder and bolder and therefore, not as versatile and you could opt for a solid flannel to be maximally versatile in pairing with different garments. And just as you should be choosing your patterns carefully, so too should you give a careful eye to color.

Often, patterns that feature three or more colors are actually going to be less bold than patterns that only feature two colors because these two color patterns will often try to incorporate high contrast, something that is necessarily bolder. Wed suggest that you try to steer clear of high contrast patterns and colors such as black and white together. Opposite colors on the color wheel like green and purple in bold and bright shades or something very dark like navy blue against something very bright like yellow. Essentially, analogous colors or muted and neutral hues are going to be your best choice here.

Finally, avoid overly casual details like flapped pockets, snaps, or contrast stitching. This is just going to make your flannel look more like work wear than something that can truly be incorporated into the classic mens style cannon.

Stylish Ways of Wearing a Flannel Shirt


Keep in mind that by and large, the nature of flannel shirts is a slightly more bold look. Using the techniques we outlined above, you can tamp down some of that boldness a bit and thus make the flannels more versatile. Be aware though, that youre not going to wear flannels in very formal outfits as theres going to be a fundamental clash of formality there, more on this later. So assuming youd like to wear a flannel while avoiding looking like a lumberjack, hipster, or skater, here are our tips on how to do it.

Overall, our biggest suggestion is to try to dress your flannels up just a little bit. Dont misunderstand here since we did just mention the fundamental clash of formalities if you were to try to wear a flannel with a business suit. Dont do something like that but keep the flannel more in the realm of the smart casual dress code in how you layer and pair it and you should be good to go.

Sports Jacket & Knitwear

Speaking of layering, other garments that can be worn on top of a flannel shirt are things like a sports jacket in a more casual weave, pattern, or color or knitwear like sweaters. You could also incorporate some accessories, maybe perhaps a knit tie, but not anything too formal like a smooth silk tie because that clash of formalities will again come into play. And since the patterns of flannels are typically larger and a bit bolder than most other garments, you should keep your patterns to a minimum in the jackets or sweaters that youre layering on top of them. Of course, if youre wearing a solid colored flannel shirt, youve got a bit more liberty in how you incorporate patterns but overall, just make sure that things are working harmoniously and if you are wearing multiple patterns, theyre incorporated at slightly different scales that look pleasing to the eye.

J. Press Chinos
J. Press Chinos


As far as pants are concerned, youve got a number of options here. You can pair flannels with anything from denim to corduroys to odd trousers. Bolder flannels would best be paired with denim, of course. More conservative ones would go best with slacks and those in the middle could be worn with corduroys, khakis or chinos. Feel free to experiment with your different flannels to see what works best.

Suede Loafer
Suede Loafer


When it comes to footwear, with flannel, you can lean a bit more to the casual side. Try something like a loafer, especially in suede. If you want to incorporate a bit more texture, you could also wear flannels with different kinds of boots such as the chukka boot, chelsea boot or the leather boots.


In essence then, while we recommend that you look for flannels that incorporate a bit more of a conservative dress shirt like styling, you still shouldnt treat a flannel exactly like a conventional dress shirt. Dont pair it with a worsted wool business suit and a silk tie as that clash of formalities will be too great. Your flannel shirt should be more on the conservative side but if you pair it more with garments that go well in the smart casual dress code, that will be your best bet. Essentially here, you should let the flannel shine for what it is, a great smart casual garment thats worn especially well in fall but also in other seasons as well.

Do you know other classic ways of wearing flannel? Share them with us in the comments section!

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