Flannel is a soft woven fabric, of various fineness. It usually doesn't have a nap, and instead gains its softness through the loosely spun yarn it is woven from. It is commonly used to make clothing, bed sheets, and sleepwear.

Flannel was originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn, but is now often made from either wool and cotton, or wool and synthetic fibre.


Flannelette is a light, napped cotton fabric imitating the texture of flannel. The weft is generally coarser than the warp. The flannel-like appearance is created by creating a nap from the weft; scratching it and raising it up. Flannelette can either have long or short nap, and can be napped on only one or two sides. It comes in many colours, both solid and patterned.

The word seems to have been first used in the early 1880s. In the 1900s it was used very extensively for things such as underclothing, night wear, dresses, dressing-gowns and shirts, and it is still used in much the same way. Flannelette was largely used by poorer classes in the early 20th century, and the flimsier kinds often ended up catching fire. A flannelette, patented under the title of "Non-flam," was made with fire-resisting properties. Flannelette is made throughout Europe, in the United States, as well as in Great Britain.

Flannelette is normally called flannel in North America, where the term flannelette is not used. In the United Kingdom, however, it is illegal to sell flannelettes under the name "flannel".

Winceyette is a lightweight cotton fabric with a slightly raised two-sided nap.

Cotton flannel

Cotton flannel or Canton flannel is a stout cotton fabric napped only on one side.


Flannel, flannelette and cotton flannel can be woven in either a twill weave or plain weave. The weave is often hidden by napping on one or both sides. After weaving, it is napped once, then bleached, dyed, or otherwise treated, and then napped a second time.


The origin of the word is uncertain, but a Welsh origin has been suggested as fabric similar to flannel can be traced back to Wales, where it was well known as early as the 16th century. The French term flanelle was used in the late 17th century, and the German Flanell was used in the early 18th century.

Flannel has been made since the 17th century, gradually replacing the older Welsh plains, some of which were finished as 'cottons' or friezes, which was the local textile product. In the 19th century, flannel was made particularly in towns such as Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Hay on Wye, and Llanidloes. The expansion of its production is closely associated with the spread of carding mills, which prepared the wool for spinning, this being the first aspect of the production of woollen cloth to be mechanised (apart from fulling). The marketing of these Welsh woolen clothes was largely controlled by the Drapers Company of Shrewsbury.

Originally it was made of fine, short staple wool, but by the 20th century mixtures of silk and cotton had become common.

Flannel in popular culture

In North America, flannelette, commonly referred to as flannel, was commonly thought to be the fabric of woodsmen, lumberjacks, tough men, lesbians and farmers. Today it is commonly used for children's winter pyjamas as well as pyjama pants for adults. It is incredibly good at keeping warmth in, therefore it is favored among many blue collar workers in cold environments.

In the US, due to its popularity in the Pacific Northwest (especially in Seattle, Washington) and Vancouver, British Columbia, flannel there has become associated with grungers and music. This idea was even further popularized by the fact that many rock, metal and, most notably, grunge musicians from the early 1990s often wore clothing made from it. In addition, West Coast gangsta rap shared the style with the alternative music scene for much of the 1990s. Flannel has been thought by some to be a fashion statement. Also, there are clubs in the Philadelphia area, one of which is known as "Flannel Fridays," whose sole requirement for membership is being "plaid clad," or wearing flannel on Friday.

In Australia and New Zealand, Flannelet is associated, in a derogatory manner, with Bogans, and, more specifically Westies.

In the TV series my name is Earl the main character Earl played by Jason Lee is usually seen wearing a flannel shirt.

Other meanings

  • In the plural, flannels refer to trousers or another article of clothing made of flannel, e.g.:
    • Cricket clothing, which was originally made of white flannel
    • Baseball road uniforms, historically known as "road grays", made of wool flannel
  • In the United Kingdom and New Zealand, a flannel refers to a washcloth or facecloth.
  • Australian slang defines a flannelette 'flanno' or 'flanny' as a shirt typically worn by bogans.
  • In colloquial British English, to 'flannel' is to not answer a question or be evasive in any answer .
  • It is also used in the publishing industry to denote copy of low interest such as the flannel panel, which outlines who does what on a magazine.


Search another word or see flannel-leaveson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature