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Are Flannels Business Casual?

The quick answer is that it is situational. The long answer is that flannel shirts can be dressed up to look business-casual enough to satisfy the requirements of some employers. Flannel shirts, on the other hand, are sometimes too informal for a company to designate them "business casual."

Bearded man wearing stripes flannel shirts while squatting.

When we think of business casual, we may picture a man or a woman in a plaid button-up and khakis or slacks. With this in mind, it only seems natural that flannels would qualify as business casual attire.

For those living in a more rustic area or enjoying a “hipster” lifestyle, flannels might be a staple in your wardrobe. They’re not just for lumberjacks or baristas–flannels are a popular style right now among a bunch of different age groups and types of people.

If you have more than a few flannels in your closet, you probably want to get some good use out of them. Like most people, I spend a lot of time at work and I like wearing my favorite clothes there as much as possible.

For casual wear, flannels look great over a band t-shirt or buttoned up on their own. For those working in professional settings, flannels may be too casual to wear to the office.

Since every workplace’s definition of “business casual” is unique, it’s important to take a few things into consideration as you decide whether to rock a flannel at work or save it for the after-work Happy Hour.

Are flannel shirts business casual?

The short answer is that it depends.

The long answer is that flannel shirts can be dressed up to look business-casual enough to pass certain employers’ standards. On the other hand, flannel shirts are sometimes too casual for a company to call them “business casual.”

When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a supervisor or consult the handbook’s dress code section to determine whether a specific article of clothing fits the workplace culture. For some employees, a nice t-shirt and khakis count as business casual.

For other places, a two-piece formal top and blazer plus high-quality slacks meet the definition of business casual. Flannel shirts can be tricky because their button-up style lends itself well to business casual, but their material may look too laid back for some bosses’ comfort.

Related: Flannel vs. Plaid Clothing

What is a flannel shirt?

Before we discuss whether a flannel shirt is business casual or not, it’s important to define “flannels.” After all, there are plenty of plaid button-ups that do not qualify as a typical flannel.

Flannel shirts are often confused with plaid shirts, but they are not the same thing. According to, “A flannel shirt, therefore, is any shirt that is made from flannel. It is never about the print since there’s flannel shirts that’s not plaid printed or that does not have any print at all.”

Legendary Whitetails Men's Standard Buck Camp Flannel Shirt, Alpine Mountain Plaid, Small

Flannel material is traditionally made from wool. Over time, though, the fashion industry has made flannel shirts out of cotton, synthetic fibers like polyester, and even tree fibers. This is good news for people who are allergic to wool or find it uncomfortable!

Because flannel shirts tend to be made out of casual materials such as cotton, polyester, and wool, they already read more casual than something elevated like a silk blouse or waxed button-up. This is an important thing to note when styling flannel in a professional setting.

Related: 2 Types of Flannel Shirts

How can I make flannels look more professional?

The easiest way to elevate a flannel into business casual territory is by adding other items that are more formal to balance its laid-back appearance. As Lands’ End suggests, “Because wearing a flannel shirt places you in the more casual territory from the very beginning, consider incorporating more formal clothes into the rest of the outfit to make up the difference.” 

When wearing a flannel shirt, avoid pairing it with a casual pair of pants such as leggings or light-washed ripped jeans. These pants might be cute for a date night or a concert outing, but they will bring your flannel down a notch on the professional scale. 

PINKMARCO Womens Black and White Flannel Plaid Shirts Roll Up Long Sleeve Button Up Pockets Mid-Long Casual Boyfriend Shirts

You can also pair your flannel shirt with dressy bottoms such as a pencil skirt or wide-legged polyester slacks. Add some subtle professional accessories like tasteful jewelry and flats or loafers to keep the flannel grounded in the “business” end of “business casual.”

By wearing neutral colors like black, brown, gray, and navy, you can also bring a business casual feel to a flannel look. The classic red buffalo plaid flannel or bright green plaid flannel might stand out in a classy office setting, so it’s best to exercise some caution on colors if you work for a strict employer. 

Carhartt Rugged Flex Fitted Midweight Flannel Long-Sleeve Shirt Black

Certain workplaces might be more forgiving about wearing flannels–some places might even actively encourage wearing casual, cool styles like flannels to work.

If you’re working for a budding start-up on the tech scene or enjoying a creative role for an up-and-coming company, wearing a popular style like a flannel might make you a more desirable employee. For more traditional, conservative fields like banking or law, you may want to save your favorite flannels for the weekend. 

Some workplaces also allow employees to wear flannels on special occasions, like spirit week for certain holidays or Dress-Down Fridays. When your employer gives you the opportunity to sport your flannels, feel free to take it! In these cases, you can probably get away with pairing your flannel with a casual pair of jeans or a comfy pair of sneakers to complete the cozy look.

If you love button-ups but can’t wear flannel shirts to work, consider wearing a button-up blouse for women or a button-up formal shirt for men. These shirts offer the same crisp style as flannels with an elevated level of professionalism. While it’s not the same as wearing a flannel to work, these have some similar elements that might achieve a similar look.

Amazon Brand - Goodthreads Women's Flannel Relaxed Fit Boyfriend Tunic, Coral Shirting Plaid, XX-Large


To make a flannel shirt look professional, opt for high-quality flannel shirts in colors that reflect your professional sensibilities. Pastels or neutral tones will automatically bring a level of professionalism to a flannel. Even metallic tones like silver or gold can make a flannel look fancier, which can add a professional touch.

When it comes to deciding whether a flannel shirt is business casual, it always boils down to your specific workplace. It also depends on the accessories and other items that surround the flannel in an outfit.