Fall is here. Yes, there’s a nip in the air, yellow aspen leaves flutter to the ground, and the days grow shorter. But the real harbinger of fall is this undeniable phenomenon: when more than half of the people I encounter on a daily basis are wearing flannel.
Cool guy walking down the mixed-use path in skinny black jeans, smoking a cig, wearing an airy open flannel? Check. That lady mountain biker raging past me in a cloud of dust wearing her tech checks? Boom. My wife, in yoga pants and a classy green and orange number, also wearing our months-old baby in a chest carrier? Yep. And, as I'm writing this, at least 50 percent of Outside staffers at our Santa Fe HQ are wearing flannel, or thinking about doing it tomorrow.
One of those people is me. Usually I go to great lengths to avoid what other people are doing (long story short: I'm a snob), but with flannel I just don’t give a shit. They’re too practical, comfortable, and good-looking for me to worry about it. Plus, wearing flannel is part of my heritage.
I grew up in a logging and fishing town on the south coast of Oregon, where flannel is as ubiquitous as water falling from the sky. Loggers wore classic red and black checks. My father sported wool Pendletons under his sports coat in the doctor’s office. I wore them to work in the yard, check the surf, and go on hikes, rain or shine, all year long. When we'd go to the big city of Portland, well, you know—flannel works for hipsters, too.
I’ve made a trip to Scotland—not far from where flannel was originally conceived in Wales—to hold the real deal in my own hands. I’ve buttoned that lamb fiber against my skin. Yes, flannel is a material, not a pattern and it is traditionally made of wool. I believe that construction is superior to other iterations, but my love for flannel runs so deep that I do not care what it's made from. (I also harbor a weakness for the plaid pattern itself.)
I own the heavy duty wool stuff and the cozy cotton knock offs. I have a thin, linen-feeling polo that is definitely not flannel, but it’s wonderful as a flannel accent during the long days of summer. Yes, I’ll even admit I once owned a pair of real flannel pants—but we don’t have to talk about that.
I liken flannels to jeans. They’re both so omnipresent that no one thinks twice about them, whether you’re in a meeting (at least here, at Outside's HQ) or amongst the trees. That’s because the shirts are so versatile and practical. Wool flannels are superb in wet weather. The velvety cotton versions are comfy house layers in winter. Tech flannels are made specifically for most outdoor sports and add a dose of style to our open spaces. And thanks to lumbersexuals, they’re totally acceptable in any U.S. city.
When I slide on my favorite patterned shirt and I know I look good, there’s no stopping me, whether I’m heading to work or the crag. Usually it bothers me when I show up somewhere and there’s somebody wearing the same thing as me. But when I arrive at the trailhead and I spy one of my square-wearing brethren, I nod to their fine taste. I'm in good company.
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