Flannel up this fall to hike, operate the tailgate grill, or wield an axe for firewood. We’ve found the best classic wool, cotton, and technical flannel shirts for men.
Ask the GearJunkie staff what their favorite season is, and it would undeniably be flannel season — whether we’re raking leaves, warming up by the fire, or simply working from home. As hot days give way to cool mornings, we’re all looking forward to flanneling up.
Today’s flannel is a far cry from the Seattle grunge scene or Paul Bunyan’s tack shop. More technical, less scratchy, and all-around comfortable, there are endless options for purveyors of plaid. Here are our staff’s favorites for fall 2020.
Best Flannel Shirts for Men
Best Overall Flannel Shirt: Outerknown Rambler
To win the honor of best overall flannel, this one to hit all the marks. We looked for a great fit and high-level comfort. We wanted something we’d reach for when getting coffee in the morning or throw on to warm up next to the campfire. It should be durable enough for Saturday chores and look good while doing it. And if our loved ones want to steal it from our closet? It’s just another checkmark of approval.
With that, we give our nod to Outerknown’s Rambler ($128). The 100% organic cotton is incredibly plush and beefy in the hand. It feels luxurious against the skin but has enough room to layer over a long-sleeve shirt. It’s hard-wearing and easy to take care of — just throw it in the wash and tumble dry low.
The Rambler comes in 15 different colors, both in plaids or solids. So there’s something to meet everyone’s taste. All seams are flat-locked and triple-stitched, promising a long life of enjoyment in the wardrobe.
If we could only have one flannel in our closet, the Rambler would be one we could live with for a very long time.
Best Budget Flannel: Duluth Trading Co. Free Swingin’ Flannel Relaxed Fit Shirt
Our best-priced flannel is also one of the best-fitting flannels on the list. This midweight shirt has gussets under the arms and pleats behind the shoulders, giving it fantastic mobility. There’s zero binding or pulling when reaching, lifting, raking — and yes, swingin’ tools.
The 100% cotton shirt comes pre-washed and has a slight texture to it. It’s a work shirt, so we expect this kind of rigidity as a compromise for added durability. The cotton is brushed to give it a softer touch, but it’s never going to be a velvety-soft shirt. And that’s unabashedly in Duluth’s DNA.
The Free Swingin’ Flannel typically runs $50, which in itself is a reasonable price for a hearty work shirt you can put some miles on. But it’s regularly on sale for less, making it an indisputable bargain. Get yours while they last!
Best Workday Flannel: Pladra Cascade Shirt
If you’re working from home these days, you’ve probably learned your way around Zoom. Judiciously use mute, business on top (shorts below), and don’t give your coworkers seizures with crazy patterns.
Plaids will always be part and parcel with flannel, but they just don’t look great on the screen. Pladra’s Cascade Shirt ($119) is a fitted shirt that doesn’t look like a traditional flannel. The svelte silhouette is the slimmest in our lineup. A pair of gussets behind the neck gives your shoulders room to roam. Like cashmere to wool, Portuguese cotton fabric is the best of the best, and we’d rank this shirt as the softest in our lineup as well.
Available in a muted color (wheat, gray, or gray-blue), Pladra dialed the intersection of handsome looks and that soft flannel feel we all yearn for in fall. And just like the shorts you’re wearing, the elk-print liner keeps it fun with your co-workers none the wiser.
Plus Pladra’s shirts are made in America and backed by a lifetime guarantee.
Best Heavy Flannel: Fjallraven Singi Heavyweight Flannel
Weekends are for working around the house and cutting loose. When Friday rolls around, we reach for shirts that are durable, comfortable, and have extra room in the shoulders to prevent blowing out.
Fjallraven’s Singi ($110) ticks all the boxes. The oversized flannel has a generous fit that layers well over a base. The waist and cuffs drop a touch longer than most shirts we saw. The shirt has generous length to tuck and stay tucked. This also makes it a great choice for guys with longer torsos and arms.
Available in five chunky plaids to match the hearty cotton weave, the shirt has a timeless, hardwearing appeal. Adding to the vibe, a pair of hidden straps hang inside the sleeves and tack rolled-up cuffs out of the way when working. For a touch of durability, the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps are all lined with Fjallraven’s indomitable G1000.
Simple, clean, and easy to care for, the Singi is a no-frills shirt with impeccable craftsmanship — exactly what you would expect from Scandinavian design.
Best Weather-Resistant Flannel: Simms Gallatin Flannel Fishing Shirt
Exhausted by plaids? The Simms Gallatin ($100) breaks the pattern with a soft, durable, smooth-faced flannel available in stripes.
This deconstructed flannel is stripped down to the basics. There are no gussets, no pleats, and the flannel’s nappy loft is shorn tight. The shoulders are triple-stitched to the torso. It’s designed to be sleek and made to be durable. The brand added a DWR coating for rain protection, it boasts a UPF rating of 50, and it’s been treated to neutralize odor.
The chest is has a pair of deep pockets. Each is large enough to hold a tin of flies and shuts with a pair of Velcro straps, making it easy to pull the contents out.
A row of pearly buttons snaps down the front. The shirt is easy to shed with one hand on the rod. We especially liked how the cuffs are sewn offset, adding a touch of extra sun protection around the top of the wrist.
This is a wonderfully durable shirt that’s the least fuzzy flannel on our list, capable of enduring any task you want to throw at it.
Best Wool Flannel: Anian Modern Melton
The origins of flannel date back to Welsh sheepherders. These were men who worked in cold, wet, windy, and otherwise crappy conditions. They appreciated all the properties of wool — warmth when wet, durability, and odor killing — and created flannel to endure the hard work.
Anian’s Modern Melton ($189) is for the flannel enthusiast. The hefty fabric is a blend of 80% wool and 20% nylon. It feels fat and durable. The smooth-faced fabric is draped and sewn into a modern cut that silhouettes the body with handsome and rugged appeal.
Wool isn’t for everybody, and the Melton has a noticeable scratchiness against the skin that may turn some guys off. But if you’re into vintage and iconic, where quality and functional design matter to you — and if you’re committed to trading the pros and cons for wool — this is another heirloom-quality shirt that will last you (and probably your grandchildren) forever. Just don’t put it in the dryer.
Best Full-Featured Flannel: California Cowboy High Sierra
There are more technical and durable options on this list, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a flannel comfier than California Cowboy’s High Sierra ($148). And there’s no way you’re going to find another flannel with as many hidden (and handy) doo-dads!
What does that mean? This shirt has a hidden rear pocket perfect for holding a cold can or bottle, a loop to clip gloves onto, a sunglasses loop, and a zippered water-resistant stash pocket for starters. Plus, every High Sierra ships with a beer koozie, bottle opener, and a stack of conversation-starter cards (because why not?).
The cotton-poly-lined Portuguese flannel feels super plush and soft, though it provides less defense against sticks, burrs, or tree sap than some other options. But for cruising around town, sitting around a campfire, or enjoying an apres day, the High Sierra might be the coziest and most fun flannel out there.
Best Bargain Tech Flannel: Eddie Bauer Expedition Performance Flannel Shirt
Quiet in the bush and warm when wet, old man Bauer created his original woolen flannel for hunting in Washington state. The materials may have changed, but the flannel has been in Eddie Bauer’s lineup since the beginning.
Eddie Bauer’s Expedition flannel is a lightweight synthetic flannel that’s brushed to feel smooth to the touch.
The fit is regular — it’s not tailored or baggy. Long tails help keep it tucked in the pants. A single pleat runs below the nape of the neck so you have a reasonable range of motion. The inside cuffs are reinforced with a strip of nylon for added durability and a touch of contrasting color.
The Expedition Flannel is always rotating through Eddie Bauer’s shop. So you can always find a new crop of colors. The shirt lists for $80, but the brand runs its entire site at 40-50% off just about every other month. And the brand has a lifetime guarantee, which makes the shirt an incredibly good value.
USA Made: Flint and Tinder American Made Flannel
Known for its timeless styling, Flint and Tinder’s American Made Flannel ($98) is a super-soft, well-balanced, form-fitting flannel that wears extremely easy.
This shirt almost topped our list, but the single pleat in the back didn’t give our testers quite as much mobility as the others. The shoulders feel slightly restricted when doing tasks that require a higher range of motion. But the brushed midweight cotton weft stands shoulder to shoulder on every other level.
The colors range from bold, blocky plaids to smaller checks. And as the name implies, it’s made in America.
Best Flannel for Mountain Biking: Dakine Reid Tech Flannel
First blush, Dakine’s Reid Tech ($75) comes across as a classic plaid with an athletic fit. Pick it up, though, and you immediately get a feel for the “Tech” part of the name.
The fabric has a shell-like texture, like a lightweight treated canvas. And it functions like it feels. Highly weather-resistant, water beads off the fabric with very little wetting out. The brand also treated the fabric with Polygiene, so it won’t stink over time between washes, which is a good thing. The Reid is aimed at high-energy, descent-oriented crowds who might be stuck in the truck driving to and from the trailhead.
This isn’t a buttery-soft shirt. This flannel is marked for Columbia Gorge trails — think wind, rain, and a tough surface durable enough to deflect a backcountry brush lashing. We found this durability works equally well around the shop in fall’s fickle weather.
The past few years have marked a spike in flannel’s expansion beyond the shirt and almost into the jacket territory.
Meet the shirt jacket, also known as the “shacket,” an overshirt that has enough room to layer over a hoodie (or flannel) and yet is slim enough to wear under an overcoat. With nearly every flannel brand offering a version, here’s a quick look at three pieces we like.
Best Shirt Jac: Patagonia Insulated Fjord Flannel Jacket
Patagonia knows how to nail iconic style, and its Fjord Flannel ($179) is no exception. A perennial favorite, the hearty Fjord Flannel has nearly 850 reviews lauding its fuzzy greatness to 5 stars.
The Insulated Fjord Flannel takes that same soft, lofty cotton and lines it with 60g insulation (the same weight of insulation found in Patagonia’s venerable Nano Puff). Worn by itself, the nylon quilt liner is super soft against the skin. But there’s plenty of room to slide it over another flannel or sweater.
The top straddles fluidly between jacket and shirt. True to size, it’s finished with a straight hem and a pair of insulated hand pockets. Two chest pockets and a button-down front keep it from drifting into full jacket mode. We like to use the Insulated Fjord for those late-September days before the rain, when the weather starts to pivot from cool to cold.
While we can’t say who for sure who brought flannel to the States, we can definitively say Carhartt popularized it. Back in 1889, Hamilton Carhartt created his own textile plant dedicated to weaving flannel. Ever since, the nappy check has become synonymous with the American workforce.
This Shirt Jac Flannel ($80) isn’t brushed, so the outside feels more durable and hardwearing. But the torso is lined with a fat, plush sherpa fleece, and the sleeves are quilted with a nylon shell, making it easy to slide your arms into. The pairing does a great job of trapping heat.
Wearing this top in the cold, there are virtually no breezy gaps. The jacket is oversized to layer over a sweatshirt and drops below the hips, covering the butt even when sitting. The shirt and cuffs close with oversized snaps.
Like you’d expect with Carhartt, the shirt is stout and burly, made for hard use in the cold. For under $100, you can expect it to get years of use.
Best Shirt Jac for Cycling: Pearl Izumi Rove Thermal Shirt
Flannels have wiggled their way into more active lifestyles. The best for cycling are slim but articulate, durable but pliable, and a warm liner is a plus. We think the Pearl Izumi Rove Thermal Shirt ($140) strikes the perfect balance for fall commuters.
The recycled polyester outer feels stout in the hand — squarely between a softshell and a canvas work shirt — plenty durable to stand up to dirt and grime or those exposed branches that creep into the trail. The inside is brushed and reminds us of a microfleece. While the fabric isn’t DWR-treated, we found the polyester’s weave tight enough to get you through a light rain shower.
While the button-down front and rolling hem tails give the shirt a traditional look, the Rove has an abundance of subtle flare that levels it up from a functional daily rider to a fashionable shirt. The cuffs, inside collar, and front shirt placket are all hit with a touch of plaid. Just behind the shoulders, some clever pleating is constructed with complementing plaid. More importantly, these wings give this slim shirt a surprising dose of mobility.
Our Idaho reviewer has been rocking the Rove on cool fall morning rides. It’s the perfect commuter shirt — even if the commute brings you back to the home office.
Have a favorite flannel shirt we missed? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.