A flannel isn’t a pretty thing. It’s not even that exciting. It’s never started a conversation and it’s never going to be 007’s weapon of choice. A flannel is mundane really. Does anyone really even notice a flannel?
To be clear, I’m not talking about your over emotional mate who cries down the pub every Tuesday night because that used to be takeaway night with the ex. I’m talking about the flannel. That 10×10 inch bit of cloth that your Nan vehemently leaves over the bathroom taps and that you spent your childhood precariously avoiding. Flannels however, have been a key feature in the bathroom since their first appearance in Turkish bath houses 400 years ago. Their useful and essentialness proving a necessity in the family home. Still, a flannel is not exciting.
Until the 17th century that is. This is when the good old Welsh put in motion unbeknown to them, a fashion trend that would span over a nearly a century and elevate the flannel from a precarious face cloth to precious wardrobe essential. From Gregory Peck to Pearl Jam, everyone would have flannel in their wardrobe. Flannel found life with the most modest of beginnings, starting off as practical ware to protect the Welsh from their unrelenting winters. However, because of its affordability, durability and unrivaled warmth, it soon became ever popular across not only Europe, but the World. Particularly with the boom of the Industrial Revolution, workers and tradesmen united in cementing flannel as the backbone of the working mans uniform.
“A true staple of everyone’s wardrobe”
From there the only way was up for the flannel. It had had enough of cleaning faces abundant with acne, from sitting mournfully in the bath tub. By 1950 it had even had enough of warming lumberjacks and pacifying Welsh winters. It was time for flannel to make the only move it could. Into Fashion. First sported in the Golden Age in such films as ‘The Man with the Grey Flannel Suit’, then earning its way onto Sean Connery’s back in Goldfinger. Flannel was making its mark. Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, even Dior, used flannel in their ranges; both male and female. Flannel had come a long way from its humble origins. The 90’s then saw what is most commonly associated with flannel; the Grunge music scene. In the form of plaid flannel shirts, flannel demonstrated that its warm comforting grip on the world wasn’t over yet. Legends such as Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder effortlessly donned flannel, transforming it into the symbol of the iconoclastic teen. For over 400 hundred years flannel has evolved and continues to evolve. From the runways, the rockstars and the average Joe. Proving just like that 10×10 inch cloth in your bathroom, that it is an elemental purchase and is here to stay. A true staple of everyone’s wardrobe. Long live the flannel, because it will most definitely outlive you.