Breland: Flannel shirts can warm bodies on coldest days

Published 9:53 am Friday, March 18, 2022

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I saw an advertisement early in the winter for plaid flannel shirts. As I looked, I thought I would never figure out why they have been so popular with people, particularly men. I’ve never owned one and Rob didn’t wear flannel shirts either.

My dad, however, always wore flannel shirts with overalls over long underwear in the winter, because he was so cold-natured. He loved the outdoors, so on a cold sunshiny day, he would find a spot outside in the sun and enjoy it, depending on his wardrobe to keep him warm.

I have never noticed myself being really cold-natured before, but this winter I have been cold from the beginning! Seeing the sun shining and a little warmer weather has been a revelation for me. That cold Sunday morning we had recently was a day inside for me.

Has it been particularly cold this winter, or is it just me? I can’t figure why I have been so cold. Could it be medication? I don’t take very much. I know I have kept my house warm. Maybe it is just plain aging, but I will happily welcome a warmer spring and summer.

Although it is a little late in winter to discuss flannel shirts, I did find out why they are so popular: they are so very warm and comforting!

It is odd how life sends us signals, sometimes. After I had seen the advertisement, I was cleaning out some drawers in a chest and found an old faded red plaid flannel shirt of my Dad’s. I don’t remember putting it away, but I suppose I was keeping it because it was his.

Since Dad was not a really big man, that shirt looked very appealing to me. So being chilly, I put it on. It fit just right and felt so cozy and warm. I kept it on and I have been wearing it at home as an overshirt the entire winter! It is too well-worn to wear other places, except maybe when I walk to the mailbox, with a heavier coat on top.

The shirt was an interesting find for me, as I had been wearing a long-sleeved denim overshirt that I also found pretty warm.

Bringing the subject up, I have found many who really love wearing flannel. Maybe you do too! Have you ever thought about why we have it and where it originated? I looked up the history and found it very interesting because a large portion of my DNA comes from Wales.

Flannel cloth goes back to 17th-century Wales, where farmers wore flannel shirts to protect themselves from the harsh elements. They had multitudes of sheep, which provided the wool. I had not thought about flannel coming from wool, which is always very warm.

The wool fabric was “napped” with a fine metal brush. The word “flannel” likely comes from the Welsh word “gwlanen.”

Flannel spread in Europe and then to the U.S. where it was used during the Civil War for soldiers’ basic uniforms and during WWI, it was used again. During the 1930’s and The Great Depression, men who proudly wore suits and ties found themselves wearing flannel shirts, as many of them were working like common laborers.

Everyone seems to love flannel, so I don’t know how I missed it all these years. There are flannel garments for everybody, and not just for men. There were certainly flannel pajamas and nightgowns for me in the past, but I never noticed them like I did Dad’s flannel shirt.

Daddy certainly knew about it and stayed warm while he was deer hunting or just sitting outside in the sun. I will be folding that shirt to put away for another winter.

All in all, come on warm weather! I am tired of being cold!

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at