Flannel vs. Plaid, what’s the difference?

Is there a difference between plaid and flannel?

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Is there a difference between plaid and flannel? Let’s settle this debate once and for all.
Among the most common fashion blunder is failing to recognize the distinction between plaid and flannel. Being the plaid lovers we all are, I think we ought to equip ourselves with the knowledge of the difference between flannel vs. plaid. To avoid any further mistakes, let’s differentiate flannel vs. plaid to trace back where this mistake could have possibly come from when flannel was invented, and the best time to wear flannel.

What is Flannel?

Don’t know what to call the material you’re wearing? Don’t know whether to use flannel or plaid?
Let’s cut to the chase: Flannel is the material/a cloth and plaid is among the many design patterns you can make with flannel. Let me offer you a very simple equation:
Flannel = Material.
Plaid = Pattern.

Repeat: What is flannel? Material. What is plaid? Pattern. Always remember this equation.

What’s flannel made of?

Naturally occurring materials such as cotton, wool, and vegetable fiber are usually what’s flannel made of.
Let’s have a trip down memory lane, shall we? Where did the flannel come from, anyway?
History of Flannel: When was Flannel Invented?
The 1600s. While the roots of the word flannel remain unclear, flannel was becoming a well-known material for clothing in the 1600s. The Welsh were among the first ones to seem to have created a broader application for this material. One of the most important forms of flannel is its use as a blanket for sheep.
The 1700s. The flannel plaid eventually made its way into society as an article of clothing. After 100 years from its assumed invention, the highland Scots used this as a material for their kilts. These kilts carried their family’s tartan or identity. If in the middle ages, the Scots used crests, in the 1700s, the different tartans became a clan’s symbol of identification.
The 1800s. When the Industrial Revolution happened in the United States during the mid-1800s, it saw the rise of the extensive use of this cloth. Flannel made of cotton or wool were huge for workers working on railroads, probably because of the warmth and the durability of this material.
The 1900s. America is big on flannel. In 1939, residents of Michigan established a holiday with the name of Red Flannel Day. It all happened due to heavy snow and freezing temperatures. The flannel became the people’s hero that gave them warmth at one of the coldest times ever recorded. Michigan residents still celebrate this festival until now. What a way to celebrate the functionality of the flannel, am I right?

When were flannel popular? Who wears flannel? Why is there confusion?

In pop culture, usage of plaid flannel became popular to teens in the late 80s to the early 90s all thanks to American icons like Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana. Plaid flannel was among the popular types of clothing people who liked rock music wore, aside from black, of course!
Aside from the men and working class, the plaid flannel also became popular with women! The Dukes of Hazzard’s lead, Daisy Duke (played by Catherine Bach) infamously wore the checkered plaid during the series’ run from 1979 to 1985. Later, the beautiful Claire Danes made plaid flannel her trademark in the series called, My So Called Life.
I guess the popularity of flannel can be attributed mainly to the vibe it gives off to the wearer. A person who wears flannel gives off very industrious and persevering personality as well as, someone who is laid-back and relaxed. We can attribute it to the roots of this material having sprung from the Industrial Revolution and then appearing in popular culture.
That said, I think we can mainly contribute the mistake of calling the flannel as plaid or plaid as flannel just by looking at the long history of these two.
If you look at plaid, it is made up of numerous threads intersecting each other. These colorful threads are woven together tightly, it can only be made through the process of creating a durable fabric such as flannel. Flannel and plaid go so well together, they make a great combination, right?
Again, since flannel is the fabric/material that the plaid is made of, there can be non-plaid flannel or a non-flannel plaid. The most important thing to remember is our equation earlier:
Flannel = Material, Plaid = Pattern.

Why wear flannel?

If you ask me the question “Why wear flannel?” I would enthusiastically answer back, “Why not?!
I wear cotton flannel because of its functionality. Upon knowing how rich the history of this fabric is, it makes me want to stock up on more cotton flannel for when the flannel season comes.
Flannel is a symbol of a country’s culture and Michigan, a state in America. I think there’s more to flannel than just being a winter season staple (which is when the flannel season is).
The best time to wear flannel? I say, every day!

I hope this guide has helped in clearing the air about the difference in plaid and flannel once and for all. If you suddenly become confused between flannel or plaid, remember our equation. You heard it right here, folks! Help another plaid lover by sharing this post to them!

1 Comment
  1. Jerrell says

    Flannel= Material, Plaid= Pattern. Ha ha Always remember this.

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