A Hume

A Hume
The Origins of Flannel

The Origins of Flannel

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What is Flannel and How to Wear It?

In its purest and original form flannel is a woollen cloth made from carded yarn. The process of carding involves combing the yarn with a fine metal brush and flannel is further brushed, on one or both sides, to create a fine fuzzy nap.


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In contrast, worsted flannels are made from woollen yarns that are combed to create long fibres running parallel in one direction but not carded or napped after weaving, the yarn is smooth and without the fine down of napped flannel yarn. Typically worsted yarns are used to create traditional cloths such as serge and gabardine.


The origins of flannel can be traced back to the 17th Century when it was primarily used to make tartans, blankets, underwear and sheets. The napping creates a supremely soft and warm cloth as still air is trapped between the raised nap of the fibres.


For this reason it became popular workwear in the US. All across the continent railroads were built, wells dug, gold mined, the West won, and latterly the cities of New York, Boston and Chicago raised by construction workers clad in plaid flannel shirts.


As well as being warm, the napping creates a soft, wonderfully luxurious quality that drapes beautifully and is perfect for tailoring jackets and trousers. In the mid-twentieth century flannel suits achieved iconic status as the mark of a well-dressed man.


Cary Grant, who still ranks on best-dressed men lists, was perhaps the most famed advocate of flannel. He liked his flannel:


“Not too light in color, not too dark…….of medium weight but not more than what is known as ten-ounce cloth.”


And so, soft charcoal grey flannel suits formed the mainstay of his wardrobe.


In an article he wrote for GQ he stated with characteristic élan, that:


“providing he is well-mannered, a young man wearing such a suit can confidently approach the other fellow’s girl, secure in knowing that his way of dress is no deterrent.”


Less controversially, he also advised buying an extra pair of trousers, to be worn to equally stylish effect with a sweater, or a sports jackets depending on the mood and the moment.


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This classic look works as well today as it did back then – though the contemporary styling possibilities are endless and varied. Dependent on taste flannel works wonders with tweed, denim, knitted waistcoats, cord sports jackets, satchels, layering, and on into an infinite world of flannel friendly looks.


Make 2014 the year you embrace flannel.


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