How to Style a Flannel for Different Occasions

December 8, 2023

As soon as autumn’s crisp air arrives, flannel shirts emerge from the backs of our closets as a cold-weather staple. With their soft, brushed fabric and signature buffalo plaid patterns, flannels provide extra warmth and comfort during the cooler months. 

Unlike regular button-downs, flannel is made from a soft woven fabric that incorporates slight fuzziness for better insulation. Going beyond just practicality, the flannel shirt has become an iconic piece of Americana apparel. 

Today, flannels are produced in a wider variety of patterns, colors, and styles. They can be integrated into casual looks, smart-casual outfits, and even date night ensembles. 

With some tips on selecting, styling, and caring for flannel shirts, you can make the most of this versatile cold-weather classic.

Types of Flannel Shirts

Not all flannel shirts are created equal. There are a few main styles that serve different purposes depending on the situation.

Classic Flannel Button-Up

The traditional flannel shirt is a classic button-up style with long sleeves, button front closure, and most often, a buffalo plaid pattern. These are great for layering under jackets and coats. 

Stick to traditional color palettes like blacks, browns, greys, and dark greens.

Snap Front Flannel

Snap front flannel shirts ditch the row of buttons for snap closures down the front. Snap versions are perfect when you want a slightly more casual everyday look. 

Go for these over traditional button-ups if wearing the flannel open over a t-shirt.

Sherpa Lined Flannel

For ultimate cold weather insulation, sherpa-lined flannel combines the soft woven flannel with a plush fleece sherpa lining inside. 

The sherpa lining not only feels amazing but also provides superior warmth. These flannels veer towards being almost like a light jacket.

Pullover Flannel

Pullover flannel shirts come in a sweater style without any type of front closure. Instead, they are pulled on over the head. 

Opt for these pullovers to achieve a laid-back vibe. They look great styled with jeans, canvas sneakers, and a beanie.

How to Style Flannels for Different Occasions

From grabbing coffee with friends to impressing a date, flannel shirts transition seamlessly from relaxed daytime affairs to slightly dressier nighttime events. 

With the right styling decisions, you can wear them almost anywhere!

Casual Daytime Flannel Outfits

For casual wear, flannel shirts pair perfectly with tried-and-true basics like jeans, t-shirts, hats, and sneakers or boots. 

Keep things low key by wearing the flannel open over a graphic tee or tank top tucked into distressed denim with canvas high tops. 

Another way to go around it is to close the flannel up fully and add accessories like a beanie and classic chuck-style sneakers when the temperature dips. 

Stick to traditional color buffalo plaid or black/grey for daytime flannels.

Date Night Flannel Ideas

At first glance, flannel shirts may seem too casual for a special night out. But incorporate some key details and they work wonderfully over some button-down oxfords or polos when going for smart casual date attire.

Try layering an on-trend black buffalo check flannel shirt under a textured blazer or a modern bomber jacket. 

Pair this with dark rinse jeans and leather boots, then finish it off by styling your hair with some pomade and leaving the top one or two buttons of the flannel undone for a sexy, relaxed vibe. 

This brings a bit of laidback flair to otherwise dressy outfits.

Business Casual Work Flannels

It is possible to incorporate flannel shirts into business casual work attire, but restrain excess styling and stick to traditional color palettes for the patterns. 

Solid color flannels actually work best for office environments.

Tuck a single-color hunter green or navy flannel into khaki chinos with a belt, then add loafers and a watch to finish the professional look. 

Alternatively, you can button it up completely over an oxford shirt, leaving the trim of the collar exposed, with grey wool slacks and brown leather shoes. 

This allows just a touch of flannel texture without going overboard.

Layering Flannel Shirts

As the weather gets colder, layering becomes a crucial part of any wardrobe strategy. Flannel’s thickness makes it a good choice to incorporate under or over top of other cold weather items. 

Using flannels in creative layers amplifies both their visual appeal and practical warmth.

Flannel Under Jackets and Coats

Throwing on a flannel shirt before zipping up your parka or pea coat provides greater thermal protection from the elements. 

The flannel essentially acts as a base layer to block wind and cold air. 

Plus the peeking details of a flannel collar or cuff add a pop of pattern and texture to otherwise plain outerwear.

Flannel Over Hoodies and Sweatshirts

For days when temperatures could swing either way, wear a flannel shirt open or closed over the top of a comfortable hoodie or crewneck sweatshirt. 

The sweatshirt keeps your core warm, while the flannel shirt sleeves lend some arm protection against brisk morning air. This also makes your ensemble a bit more interesting than just a plain sweatshirt alone.

Vests and Cardigans Over Flannel

Mix up textures by pairing a knitted wool vest or retro grandpa cardigan over your trusty flannel. Opt for solids or simple patterns on the knit layers to let the flannel shine as the focal point. 

The knitwear provides lightweight insulation that works perfectly in conjunction with the flannel warmth.

Caring for Flannel Shirts

Flannel requires a bit of extra care compared to hardier fabrics like denim or oxford.

Taking proper steps to wash, dry, store, and maintain them will have your flannels lasting for seasons to come.

Wash Flannels Sparingly

Only wash flannels when they’re truly dirty or they will lose their signature brushed nap texture prematurely. 

Use a delicate cycle with cold water to clean them, then avoid the dryer which can damage the fabric.

Hang Dry Flannel Shirts

Tumble drying risks shrinking and fading patterns of flannel shirts. Instead, reshape them while still slightly damp and lay them flat, or hang them to air dry instead. 

Wash With Similar Items

Since dyed patterns have the potential for bleeding or fading in the wash, take care to wash flannels separately from white or light-colored garments. 

Stick to washing them with other hardy fabrics like denim jeans to prevent pilling.

Maintain With Fabric Shavers

While flannel shirts come pre-broken-in with a nice soft texture, they can pill easily with friction. 

Invest in an electric fabric shaver and use it according to package instructions to gently remove bobbles while maintaining the brushed fluffiness.

Store Properly

Do not hang flannel shirts, as gravity can stretch them out. Instead, fold them neatly and store them stacked in dresser drawers during off seasons to prevent distortion. 

This keeps them looking fresh for the next wear.

Iron Inside Out

If flannel shirts become overly wrinkled, iron them inside out at a medium heat setting. Ironing the interior side limits the risk of damaging the exterior fabric or fuzzy nap. 

Be sure to leave ample space for steam to escape while ironing.


Flannel shirts are a beloved staple once temperatures drop thanks to their functionality, comfort, and Americana style. Staying aware of the different types, from classic button-ups to pullovers, allows you to select the right flannel for every scenario. 

Integrating this wardrobe basic into casual affairs, nightlife events, and even smart-casual work outfits proves flannel’s outstanding versatility. Just incorporate intentional styling details with pants, shoes, layers, and accessories tailored to the occasion. 

Treasuring that favorite flannel with proper care ensures it survives many more autumns and winters filled with cozy wear. With this knowledge, anyone can expertly style a flannel no matter where the day takes them.