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What kind of pants goes well with a flannel plaid shirt (and pants that don’t)

Man wearing plaid shirt outside

I love plaid shirts.  I didn’t always. Last year my wife bought me a couple of great plaid shirts from L.L.Bean.  I liked them so much I bought another from Banana Republic.

All three plaid shirts are part of my rotation now that it’s cold out. I love how they’re warmer but not sweater-warm (I love the look of sweaters but they’re often too hot for me).

Related: Can you wear flannel shirts with shorts?

What is a plaid shirt?

Plaid is a “twilled woolen fabric with a tartan pattern” [source: Merriam-Webster].  A tartan pattern is stripes (horizontal and vertical) in varying widths.  Often plaid and tartan are used interchangeably but it’s not technically correct.  Tartan is more specific.  Plaid is more general referring to a criss-cross pattern.  These days, plaid shirts aren’t all wool.  They are typically thicker than your dress shirt but you can buy “plaid” shirts made with 100% cotton (my LL Bean plaid shirts are 100% cotton).

Don’t forget the flannel element.  Often “plaid shirts” refers to “flannel plaid shirts”.  Plaid is the criss-cross pattern and flannel is the material.  This article focuses on flannel plaid shirts and pants.

What types of pants look good with flannel plaid shirts?

For my analysis of the best pants to wear with plaid, I’ll assume a casual, thicker plaid shirt. The dress plaid shirts go well with jeans or trousers (even as a suit shirt… definitely as a suit shirt).  However, below I list out pants that go with the thicker, more casual plaid shirt.

In a nutshell, the best pants for plaid shirts are pants with natural fabrics that have some texture.  Smooth, glossy and synthetic pants aren’t a good match for plaid.  The reason for this is that wool or cotton plaid shirts are thicker and textured so it would look odd with the smooth finish of fine trousers or the glossy material of synthetic outdoor wear.  Which means there aren’t a lot of pants that are good fit with plaid shirts.  On the plus side, the pants that do work well with plaid are in most mens’ closets (jeans, dockers and cargo pants).

Jeans and plaid shirts are a perfect fit

Man wearing jeans with plaid flannel shirt

I’m actually more of just a blue jeans guy. I have black jeans but I don’t care for wearing them. Nevertheless, plaid shirts go well with blue jeans (pretty much any plaid shirt color scheme) and black jeans (most plaid shirts also go with black jeans).  It’s a very classic casual and physical work outfit.

Khakis are ideal with plaid

Man wearing khakis with plaid flannel shirt

As you can imagine, the solid color casual style pant that’s a bit dressier than jeans works well with flannel plaid shirts.

Dockers work well with plaid shirts

If you wish to dress it up a tad without going full trousers or dress shirt the plaid and docker combo works perfectly.  The solid tan docker color works amazingly well with most plaid shirt color schemes.  It’s a classic look.

Can’t go wrong with cargo pants and plaid shirts

Cargo pants are a casual pant that also is an excellent pant choice to wear with casual plaid shirts.  You might have to coordinate the color scheme a bit since cargo pants come in a variety of colors but otherwise, it’s an excellent pairing.  I would avoid green cargo pants with too bright of a plaid shirt.  Bright plaid shirts go well with a tan or blue pant color.

Corduroy pants and plaid shirts are a winning combination

Corduroy pants are an outstanding pant choice for plaid shirts, again because of the texture.  Again, any color of cords will work assuming it works with the color scheme of the plaid shirt.  You still need to coordinate the plaid shirt color scheme with the pant color.

Chinos fit nicely with plaid shirts

Man wearing chinos with flannel plaid shirt

Chinos are also an excellent casual pant that goes well with plaid shirts.  Again all colors will work as long as the plaid shirt color scheme fits.

Pants that do NOT go well with flannel plaid shirts

There are definitely some types of pants that do not go with plaid shirts.  They are as follows:

Athletic pants are a no-go with plaid shirts

Athletic wear does not go with plaid at all. You’d think it might given both are casual but the button-down design of plaid is a bad fit with sweat pants, track pants and athletic or lounge wear in general.

Dress pants are a bad idea with casual plaid shirts

Unless it’s a dress shirt with the plaid design, dress pants do not pair well with plaid shirts.  The textures are all wrong.  It looks sloppy. I never wear my plaid shirts with dress pants.

Synthetic shell-exterior outdoor wear clash with the plaid shirt texture

I love a lot of the outdoor wear you can now buy that doubles as casual wear but any outdoor wear pants that have a sheen or smooth shell-like exterior clash texture-wise with plaid shirts. It’s not a good fit. It’s like wearing track pants with plaid.

Camouflage pants pattern is all wrong for the plaid criss-cross pattern

While the material of most camo pants works the pattern doesn’t at all. Camo is curved lines. Plaid is straight lines. The two together clash.

Plaid Shirts and Pants FAQ

Now that you know which pants are a good fit with plaid shirts, here are some more questions and answers you might be curious about.

Where can you buy flannel plaid shirts for men?

I particularly like L.L.Bean plaid flannel shirts. I have two of them. I’ll buy more.  I also have a plaid flannel from Banana Republic.  Amazon has many to choose from as well.  Most men’s apparel stores that sell casual clothing sell plaid shirts.

Should pants be loose, baggy or fitted with plaid shirts?

Looser or fitted both work fine.  It’s a casual look.  You don’t want the pants too baggy.  You can quickly venture into the “dad look” with jeans and plaid shirts which is what you want to avoid. I’d say err toward fitted/slim fit jeans (assuming they look good on you) with a not-to-baggy of a plaid shirt if you want to create a stylish look.

Should you tuck flannel plaid shirts into your pants?

Amazon Essentials Men's Regular-Fit Long-Sleeve Flannel Shirt_dnu, Brown Plaid, Medium

Tucking plaid shirts into your pants is not a good look.

Right now, no… absolutely not.  Today’s button-down shirt style for casual wear is untucked.  If you tuck, it’ll look goofy; totally out of place.  I’m sure at some point the tuck will come back but until then, don’t tuck your plaid shirts into your pants.  The exception is dress plaid shirts and trousers.

What’s the difference between flannel and chamois shirts?

Often when looking for flannel plaid shirts you’ll see some referred to as chamois.  A chamois cotton shirt with a plaid pattern is very similar to flannel except Chamois is a bit thicker and softer.  But there are more differences than that… read this flannel vs chamois article for all the info.  I prefer the thinner flannel shirt over the chamois.

How should plaid shirts fit men?

Plaid shirts are usually on the looser side which is what you want… just not too loose. The reason I particularly love my LLBean plaid shirts is they are long and a tad narrower in the torso than other plaid shirts I’ve had.  It’s not fitted (shouldn’t be) but it’s also not bulky.  I enjoy a slimming look in the shirts yet it retains the casual, loose fit.  In a nutshell, you want your plaid shirts to be reasonably loose and long (untucked) without making you look huge but also you don’t want them so tight that the buttons are taught.

When can you wear casual plaid shirts?

“Casual plaid shirts” is redundant. Plaid shirts are typically casual although you can get dress shirts with a plaid pattern (which actually look pretty cool).  Plaid shirts are ideal as everyday wear and are also good as work shirts.  It’s a popular shirt for people with physically demanding jobs, especially if outdoors somewhat.  I wear it on weekends doing errands, taking kids to various events and working around the house.  When working at home it’s one of my go-to shirts as well.

Is it okay to roll up plaid flannel shirt sleeves?

Yes, absolutely. Rolling up one flip or two is a great look with any types of pants worn with a flannel plaid shirt.

What are common plaid colors?

Plaid shirt colors are typically a bit muted but other than that they come in all colors. In fact, a hallmark of the plaid pattern is the fact they are colorful.  They can be more muted with one color and black or more colorful incorporating two, three or more colors in the criss-cross pattern.  I have a red and black plaid shirt (the red is quite bright).  I have a salmon, light blue and dark blue plaid shirt.  I also have a dark blue and yellow plaid shirt. All are very different but very colorful.