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Is it Okay to Wear Flannel Shirts with Dress Pants? Trousers?

Flannel shirts might be versatile clothing but not every outfit looks good with it. Dress pants and trousers are the best examples and here is why you should not wear flannel with them.

Man wearing a flannel shirt and trousers against a distressed concrete wall.

When you’re dressing up, you might want to break the norms and dress down while dressing up with a flannel shirt. However, think twice before doing that!  If you want a simple but fashionable look, going with a plain long-sleeve button-down paired with dress pants is a better choice.

Most people associate flannel with pajamas. When you’re dressed to the nines, you certainly don’t want to look like you just rolled out of bed. While you think it might be a bold fashion choice, most people would wonder why you’re wearing your PJs.  

What is Flannel?

Flannel fabric with green and black plaid pattern.

Flannel is a fabric. It’s made by weaving together yarn, cotton, or wool. It typically has a checkered or tartan pattern. The soft, wool fabric is not a great option when you’re trying to look sharp. While it may be great to change into after a special occasion, you also don’t want to wear it when making the right connection.

Flannel is a default casual-cool choice for many occasions—a day at the beach, a hike, catching up over coffee—but it’s a no-go when it comes to wearing with dress pants.

Don’t make the mistake of wearing flannel with dress pants if you’re trying to make a great first impression! It’s a classic fabric with hundreds of years of history, but it’s never been a style that’s considered to be great to dress up with or to wear with dress pants. Stick to the classic suit and tie, or vest styles.

History of Flannel

Man sitting in a barber shop wearing flannel shirt and denim jeans.

Flannels have always been a staple in many men’s wardrobes, and they recently have seen a resurgence in popularity. Since the 90’s, it’s been the go-to for those in-the-know, grunge icons, and even lumberjacks or outdoorsmen.

I understand that you might feel extra macho and even more comfortable when wearing a flannel. Put it aside when going to your next black-tie event.

However, flannel shirts have been worn since the 17th century Wales, when Welsh farmers would protect themselves from the elements. So, flannel has always been low key, low brow, and definitely not a choice any stylish and savvy man would make for a formal occasion.

From there, the fabric was being used as a fabric for Civil War soldiers upon its arrival in the United States. So, you don’t want to create the impression that you’re dropping in from your way on the battlefield. That being said, don’t wear the flannel when you’re trying to be suave and sophisticated.

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” —Yves Saint Laurent

How Flannel is Worn

Back profile of a couple in red flannel shirts climbing up the stairs.

Flannel and denim is the classic combination that you can never go wrong with. Dark denim, denim shorts, boot cut jeans—a buttoned-up or open flannel shirt is fine. You can even wear it with corduroys or khakis.

“I think of each new season as an evolution, not a change in style.”

 Manolo Blahnik

Should I Wear Flannel With Dress Pants

Man in plaid shirt leaning against the wood-paneled wall.

Look, I know where you’re going with this. You want to be comfortable and warm. Or, maybe you don’t have any dress shirts to wear with your dress pants, and you want to see if it is something you can pull off. Perhaps you just have an… interesting sense of style. Regardless, you shouldn’t wear your lumberjack flannel with dress pants or to a formal event.

“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”

 Coco Chanel

Reasons not to wear flannel with dress pants

Man wearing a flannel shirt with his hands in a thumbs up sign.

1. It’s tacky

Wearing a flannel shirt with dress pants won’t get you the appreciation that you’re aiming for. People will sense that you don’t know what is going on, or how to dress for the occasion. Among other things, people may think that you don’t have a great choice in style.

When you are investing in yourself and your image, you want to project the best version of yourself possible. So, mismatching a flannel and dress pants will only put forward an unfavorable impression.

2. It misses the mark

If you’re at a business meeting, unless you work in a lumber mill, your colleagues would not appreciate you dressing way down with a flannel. Also, if you’re at a black-tie event, a date, or any other formal occasion, you will want to leave your flannel in the closet. People have expectations in various social settings, and it’s your social—and style—responsibility.

3. There’s better choices

Why wear a flannel when there are plenty of other great fashion choices available? If you really want to project an air of authority or savvy-ness, you should definitely find another option other than a flannel shirt.

When picking out an outfit for a special occasion or big interview, don’t pair a flannel shirt with dress pants! A classic linen button down or cotton dress shirt is a much better choice.