The Brands Making The Thickest, Heavyweight Flannel Shirts For Men
Sadly, it’s not socially acceptable to leave the house swaddled in a big cozy blanket, so here’s the next best thing: a heavyweight flannel.
Head to any true-blue workwear store and you’ll find rails lined with heavyweight flannel shirts. Why? Because they’re comfortable, warm and damn near bombproof if you buy the right one. As a result, heavyweight flannels have become the unofficial uniform of lumberjacks, loggers, bushmen and hikers – basically, anyone who spends a lot of time outside and needs their clothes to be tough as nails. It’s just a happy accident that they look great in everyday, casual settings too.
We’d put the heavyweight flannel up there with a good pair of raw denim jeans and quality work boots in terms of sheer bang for your buck, versatility and trend proofness. Buy a good one from a trusted brand and there’s a strong chance it’ll still be in your rotation a decade or more down the line.
So, who are those trusted brands? Why should you buy from them? And just what exactly makes a proper heavyweight flannel anyway? Below, we’ll offer up the answers to all of these questions as we take an in-depth look at one of workwear’s greatest exports.
What makes a flannel ‘heavyweight’?
The term ‘heavyweight’ is thrown around fairly loosely when it comes to flannel shirts. This can make finding one that’s actually heavy a bit of a challenge. Frustratingly, brands seldom specify the exact weight of the cloth, so it’s often on the consumer to either get up close and personal with the garment before buying or meticulously study product images to get a better idea of fabric thickness.
For us, a proper heavyweight flannel should feel more like an overshirt than a shirt. The fabric should have some heft to it, to the point that it would feel a bit unnatural to wear without at least a T-shirt underneath – the sort of fabric you’d want to reserve for fall and winter wear. If you need to put a number on it, we’d consider 12oz and above to be heavyweight.
If you want the real deal, it should be a brushed fabric. Technically, any shirt cut from flannel is a ‘flannel shirt’, but when the fabric is brushed, it gives it a softness and loft that makes it extra warm, cozy and comfortable.
The best heavyweight flannel shirt brands
Wax London makes all sorts of robustly built casualwear, but for us it’s the overshirts that steal the show. Cut from a heavyweight French fabric that is produced exclusively for the brand, these burly garments are available in a range of tasteful checked options and cut nice and loose for easy layering.
The quality is excellent for the price too, with premium details like Corozo buttons and internal reinforcements to the placket and cuffs.
It’s not traditional ‘flannel’ in the strictest sense of the term (i.e. not brushed), but it’s still warm, thick and perfect for the colder months.
Swedish brand Fjällräven doesn’t mess around with ultralight, high-tech, modern nonsense when it comes to making gear for the great outdoors. Instead, it tends to stick to the tried-and-tested formula it has used for decades to produce damn near indestructible outdoor gear designed for life in the Scandinavian wilderness – less Gore-Tex, more waxed cotton.
Flannel shirts, of course, are no exception. The label offers a number of styles, but the Canada shirt is king among them. This super-heavy flannel features snaps to the front and chest pockets, reinforced placket, cuffs and hems, and a generously oversized fit for winter layering.
The heavyweight flannel is, first and foremost, a piece of workwear, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Carhartt makes some of the best options around.
If you want the real deal, your best bet is to steer clear of the streetwear-leaning Carhartt WIP line and stick to the mainline range you’ll find lining the rails at rural hardware stores.
This is the stuff that’s built to take a battering on the job site, which naturally means it can handle decades upon decades of mooching around town, running errands and hanging out in coffee shops.
American heritage brand Filson makes workwear, country attire and outdoor gear for deep-pocketed individuals who like to have the best of the best. It’s not cheap, but the heavyweight flannel shirts are some of the best in the business.
The brand’s Mackinaw Cruiser jacket is about as heavy as flannels come, and while it definitely sits more towards the shacket end of the shirt-jacket spectrum, it’s still deserving of a mention here. Beautiful garments, but be prepared to pay the price.
Dickies is another heritage American workwear label that dabbles in the odd bit of streetwear. It’s an excellent recipe for flannel shirts that look good and are built to stand up to daily wear and tear.
The brand makes a whole range of different flannels, but we’re particularly fond of the Heavyweight Flannel Workshirt, which is cut from nice thick fabric that’s reinforced in the elbows and shoulders for maximum strength.
The fit is roomy for layering up in cold weather, and at only $XX/£80, it’s one of the best-value heavyweight flannels around.
It may be best known for inventing and popularising denim legwear, but San Francisco-born label Levi’s is good for more than just jeans. Basically, if it’s workwear-inspired and casual, Levi’s probably makes a decent version of it, and heavyweight flannel shirts are certainly no exception.
Styles vary from season to season and year to year, but head over to the site or into a store anytime and you’ll find a number of heavyweight options hanging on the rails.
For top quality, check out the Levi’s Vintage Clothing line, which takes inspiration from the label’s extensive archives, bringing throwback pieces back to life with authentic production methods.
Stan Ray is another USA workwear brand with crossover appeal. The clothes are tough and well made (the majority of them in the States), and there’s a good mix of classic workaday styles and more modern, streetwear-leaning design elements and shapes.
You’ll find things like graphic hoodies sitting alongside loose-fitting fatigue pants, and baggy jeans next to chore coats. You’ll also come across a range of heavyweight flannel shirts, including both checked and plain options at fairly reasonable prices.
If you’re from the US, L.L. Bean will need no introduction. For the uninitiated, it’s a long-running retailer of outdoor clothing and equipment specializing in gear for outdoor work, hunting, fishing, hiking and more.
Unsurprisingly, flannel shirts are something the brand is famous for, and there are plenty of heavyweight and even fleece-lined versions to choose from. Don’t expect cutting-edge fashion and you won’t be disappointed. This is clothing built for the outdoors – it’s function over fashion, and as such you might have to root around a bit to find the stylish stuff.
It’s great quality though, and in the unlikely event that you aren’t satisfied, L.L. Bean offers a famously generous anytime returns policy.
Founded in the mid-1800s, Pendleton is a traditional American woolen mill known for its patterned blankets and clothing. You know the ones – thick and heavy, often featuring Navajo patterns. Remember Lloyd Christmas’ Aspen outfit from Dumb and Dumber (1994)? That blanket coat was a Pendleton.
But it’s not just outerwear the label is great at, it makes some killer flannel shirts too. Prices are high, but that’s because everything is handmade in the USA using techniques passed down over centuries. That said, you can usually find some pretty good deals in thrift stores or on the likes of eBay, thredUP and Depop.
Woolrich is another historic American woolen mill (noticing a theme here?) that specializes in hard-wearing wool clothing for the great outdoors, including plenty of heavyweight flannel shirts.
In fact, the buffalo check flannel shirt in red and black is basically the brand’s signature garment, and one it has been producing for close to 200 years.
In that time, Woolrich has gotten pretty good at making flannels, so if you’re after some real heritage appeal and don’t mind shelling out, there are few labels out there better equipped to deliver the goods.
The Real McCoy’s
The Real McCoy’s is a Japanese menswear brand famous for its meticulous reproductions of vintage military and workwear garments. Founded by Hitoshi Tsujimoto, the label is well known for its absolute dedication to authenticity, going as far as to use traditional construction methods, fabrics and materials to recreate iconic pieces from the past.
Naturally, there are a few heavyweight flannels floating around. Yes, they cost upwards of $XXX/£300, which will certainly be enough to stop some shoppers dead in their tracks, but if you like the idea of authentic details and Japanese production, whatever the cost, then this is the flannel shirt brand for you.
You might have heard the name Iron Heart tossed around by the kind of guys who think sitting in a lukewarm bath in a pair of jeans is completely normal behavior, but you’ve probably only heard it mentioned in terms of raw denim.
What you might not know is that Iron Heart makes other stuff too, and it does so using the same traditional production methods and attention to detail its jeans are famous for.
An Iron Heart heavyweight flannel is about as well-built and hardy as they come. The brand’s signature Ultra Heavy Flannel (UHF) is cut from 12oz Japanese flannel, handmade in Japan and available in lots of color and pattern options, including classic buffalo check.
Founded in the mid-90s, Japanese label UES is all about making things as rugged, durable and long-lasting as possible to limit waste and keep its customers in the same clothes for longer.
The brand is best known for its denim, but it also makes an entire range of tough-as-nails casualwear in its native country, including everything from baseball caps to flannel shirts.
These flannels are all produced in Japan using super-heavy fabrics, and start at roughly $XXX/£120 each. That’s not a bad price when you take into account the quality being offered.
There are plenty of brands out there serving up shirts that are half as good for twice as much, so as long as you can deal with what will probably be a lengthy wait for delivery, UES is a solid option for flannel connoisseurs.
You can always count on American eco-conscious outdoor brand Patagonia when it comes to sourcing clothes that are well-made and built to last. We’re big fans of the fleece jackets, but the flannel shirts deserve a mention too.
The Fjord Insulated shirt is a heavyweight flannel with a quilted lining that’s packed full of recycled polyester insulation to keep you warm even on the coldest of days. The material is thick and soft, and there’s a button fastening to the front as well as two chest flap pockets for storing your valuables.
Patagonia also offers an unlined version of the same shirt if you’re after something a little bit more versatile.
British label HebTroCo is based in Yorkshire and offers beautiful British-made casualwear at very competitive prices. The brand’s flannels are handmade in Middlesex and feature a boxy cut for easy winter layering.
Granted, these aren’t the heaviest flannels in the world at roughly 9oz, but they’re still reassuringly thick and perfect for either layering up or wearing with a T-shirt in the tricky-to-dress-for transitional months.
American label 3Sixteen has been making high-quality denim and workwear-inspired clothing since 2003. It’s renowned for making some top-notch selvage denim, but the flannel shirts are definitely worth a look too.
The brand’s Heavyweight Crosscut flannel is $275/£225, which isn’t cheap, particularly considering it’s manufactured in India, but the quality is solid nonetheless, and the custom heavyweight fabric is thick, warm, durable and exclusive to the brand.
How a heavyweight flannel should fit
Don’t think of a heavyweight flannel the same way you’d think of an Oxford shirt. This is not a garment to wear on its own. It’s really more of a layering tool – something that can be worn on top of a hoodie or T-shirt in cool weather, or slotted under a parka when the temperature is particularly bitter.
To ensure your flannel is as versatile as possible, you’ll want to make sure it has a fairly roomy fit. You should be able to comfortably wear it over a sweater or a hoodie without it feeling tight or restricting your movements.
That said, it shouldn’t be hanging off you either. A well-fitted flannel should still sit nicely on the shoulders without the seams dropping too far onto the upper arm, and the hem should land just above the hips.
How to wear a heavyweight flannel shirt
Layers, layers, layers. Flannels – particularly heavyweight versions – are built for layering. They’re extremely versatile if you wear them in this way, and will gladly carry you through spring, fall and winter in style.
In warm weather, throw one on over a plain white T-shirt and leave it open with the sleeves cuffed. In the transitional months, pop one on over a knitted jumper or hoodie. And in the winter, layer some heavy outerwear over the top and use it as an insulating mid-layer.
In terms of what style of clothing to wear a heavyweight flannel with, we’d suggest sticking mostly to casualwear, particularly garments with a workwear background. We’re talking jeans, leather boots, chore coats, duck-canvas vests and anything else that’s rough, tough and built to take a beating.
If you’re clever about it, there’s no reason you can’t style a heavyweight flannel shirt within a smart-casual outfit too. We’d suggest keeping the rest of the outfit nice and subtle and sticking to a neutral color palette. This way, if the shirt has a pattern, the rest of the garments can let it do the talking.
Try combining one with some black straight-leg jeans, black suede chukka boots and a grey turtleneck jumper.