A Good Flannel Shirt

Last fall, I got my usual flannel shirts out from under the bed and sighed. They still had some wear in them, but the buttons were starting to crack, elbows wearing too thin to patch, and the collars don’t close. They are open-collar, so to speak, and get drafty without a scarf or something else to fill the gap. They were/are also at least eight years old, and the wear is showing all over. Since I wear them daily in winter, if I’m not in a turtleneck, the time had come to get some replacements as back-up.

The new flannel shirts are heavier. They have collars that can button. They are softer (no age pilling) inside. They are roomier in the shoulder. They remind me very much of some flannels and corduroys that I wore to death when I was much younger. I loved them, and a cream-colored, ribbed turtleneck, until they fell apart. Every day, if I could get away with it, I wore those corduroy pants and the little turtleneck or the flannel shirt. Eventually Mom made the shirts and pants disappear when the patched holes had holes.

Every so often I end up with a garment like that. There’s one German dirndel-dress that I’ve had for twenty years and still wear every winter. Some jeans that are getting close to “too worn and faded even for garden work.” Some dressy sweaters that I got when I was flying for a living and that are no longer made. Work gloves that I wore until they fell apart and couldn’t be mended. Murphy’s Law of Fashion says that when you find a material, cut, and style that works for you (or for what you are doing, or both), that item will promptly be discontinued or the fit “updated.” Or the place will “reinvent” itself and no longer make anything close to your preferred/needed items. This happens enough that I now tend to find something, then go back and when budget permits, get at least one more.

A good garment, or shoe, or glove, or hat, is one that fits, wears well, and doesn’t remind you that “oh, yeah, I’m wearing that pair of boots.” Unless you have a reason to want to be reminded, like one of my performance black dresses that requires me to stand up straight, something very important when you are singing. (And it fits and is comfortable, and has real pockets, inspiring envy among some fellow musicians.) The older I get, the less negotiable pockets are becoming. As the hymn puts it, “I need thee every hour,” or at least when I can’t/won’t carry a handbag.

A warm, well-made flannel shirt in winter is a thing of beauty and a joy for as long as it lasts. Ditto comfortable shoes that have a good, solid sole and stay tied (if they have laces). Thick socks that stay up and don’t bunch in snow boots. Work gloves that really do work, instead of just pretending to be work gloves. Note that these things don’t have to be expensive. I got three-pack of leather work gloves (gardening or general use) from Sam’s some years ago and the dang things are still going strong. Likewise a couple of one-off test shirts from Duluth Trading that are still my go-to for heavy “grab and run” in winter.

Here’s to solid, well-made things that last and do exactly what they are supposed to!


9 thoughts on “A Good Flannel Shirt

  1. Amen! Muk boots were the first winter boots that are actually both warm and waterproof. I was ready to marry my first pair after the winter of 2013-2014.

  2. Ribbed turtlenecks are weirdly comfortable compared to the non-ribbed ones, though I’ve never understood why. I also tend to wear things until they have holes and are beyond patches. Partly because I get attached to particularly comfy clothes, but also because buying new clothes is always frustrating when you’re oddly shaped.

    I’m partial to overalls and suspender skirts as it’s difficult for them to not fit. For a while people gave me crap about it, but now that cottage chic/cottagecore has become a thing, it suddenly looks like I’m fashionable in my ten-year-old, floral-embroidered overalls with knee windows.

    The updating of products you mentioned is possibly the most annoying thing in shopping. I’m always happy to find that they still have those pants or that shirt I loved when the original dies–but it’s a trick. It arrives and it’s sewn differently and cut differently. It’s never an improvement.

  3. When I found Wells Lamont work gloves in Extra-Huge in 3 packs at Costco, I bought several one year. Some years, I can go all year on a single pair. Others (especially if I’m splitting fire wood or working with concrete chunks), I might go through a full three-pack in one summer.

    $SPOUSE doesn’t find the WL gloves to fit her hands, but sometimes, the farm&ranch store has what she needs. We’ll buy a few pair then. She finds the gloves last fairly long for her, largely because she’s not working with the abrasive stuff. And dry firewood is really abrasive.

  4. Concur with all of the above, but now so much stuff is…cheaper/wears out sooner… sigh Re gloves- Mechanic’s Wear if you’re handling ANYTHING with heat in it!

  5. I also had to replace my flannel shirts this year, with the additional complication that I am both big AND tall. Most makers assume one or the other. I found well made heavy flannel shirts under the Big Bill brand to fit well and be comfortable. From Tractor Supply, available (usually) in regular or tall, from Small to 5X.
    I have no affiliation with, financial interest in, or compensation from these companies.
    John in Indy

  6. If I can find men’s apparel that fits reasonably well I will buy it, because I find that affordable women’s apparel is not worth the money. It wears out faster, seams spit, etc. Same thing with shoes/boots. But I never claimed to be the epitome of fashion.

  7. I have a flannel-lined corduroy light jacket Jean bought for me thirty years ago I still wear even though it’s ripped and frayed, simply because it’s the most comfortable item I’ve ever owned. Made by Levi’s. The new version isn’t close.

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