Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Flannel Suits: the gentleman's choice

Flannel for suits is a much-maligned, or perhaps just much-ignored, cloth. The film The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit was, according to Wikipedia, intended to draw attention to the 'stodginess and sameness' of the business community. But does that still apply? These days, stodginess or sameness in business suiting is more likely to be a gray or blue plain-woven worsted wool suit made of fairly lightweight cloth suitable for all-year-round wear in temperature-controlled offices. Flannel has become unfashionable, but at least it's not boring anymore.

My only flannel suit is a suitably dull, gray, double-breasted example from Hackett, and I love it.

I have come to realise that I love soft fabrics. I can't tell you why, there's certainly nothing inherently wrong with smooth-woven cloths, I just happen to go weak at the knees for fabrics with a bit of nap. It absorbs light, and usually adds weight so the suit hangs better, creating an attractive and shine-free sillhouette. Flannel, which is often deliberately brushed to raise a good nap, is a perfect example of this. These days it is often too warm for business-wear but, in less well-heated offices or if you spent a lot of time outdoors, it can be a good bet.

And where can you get one? Well, Hackett of course still do a lot of this sort of thing, and have the sort of properly dense flannel that I like. They are a little pricey though, so for a cheaper option you can always try Charles Tyrwhitt - they do a decent looking double-breasted gray flannel suit, although it's a little on the smooth side for my taste.

Definitely give flannel a try though. It'll make you feel warm inside.


  1. Bought what, at first, I thought was a flannel suit from Austin Reed in the sale the other day. The assistant told me it was actually a worsted suit treated to make the fabric have the feel/look of soft flannel cloth but should last longer. I look forward to trying out this theory.

    As for the look of flannel, it was the look of the suit, with its softer texture that attracted me. Perhaps it is due for a comeback?

    1. Sounds interesting - I had a look at the Austin Reed sale while I was searching for a three-piece suit, and they have some lovely fabrics, although I don't recall seeing the one you mention.

      Soft fabrics are definitely due a comeback. Their problem is that they tend to be both warmer and less hard-wearing, but it's by no means impossible to solve both these issues, as Austin Reed seem to have done in your case.

  2. I've bought plain grey flannel suits since the 1960s - I think my first one was from Take Six.

    They're always elegant and flannel falls beautifully. This fabric particularly suits a waisted jacket.

    Flannel has never been out of fashion with me!

    1. Absolutely right about the way it falls. It's the weight of these sorts of fabrics that I particularly love, but are so rarely worn nowadays because we don't really expect suits to keep us warm anymore.


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