Flannel is a soft, light woven fabric, typically made out of wool, and sometimes combined with cotton or synthetic fibers. It is used to make clothing, particularly sleepwear, and bed sheets. Flannel has been made since the 17th century, when it was a popular fabric in Wales. Eventually, its use spread across the globe, and is now common all over the world for making lightweight, warm clothing.
In North America, flannel is often associated with lumberjacks, farmers, and woodsmen. This is probably due to its popularity amongst middle class workers who spend large amounts of time outdoors, and use clothing made of this fabric to keep in warmth in cold environments. It is also commonly used for making winter pajamas for children and adults.
Flannel became an accepted fabric in American pop culture in the early 1990s, thanks to the rise of grunge music. Grunge bands in Seattle, Washington, in the United States, and Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada, wore clothing made from this fabric to combat the extreme cold of their environments. This caused the fabric to become a trendy fashion item for several years across North America.
In Australia and New Zealand, flannel has a slightly less savory reputation. It is associated with low class citizens, also known as bogans. This stereotype applies to people who are uneducated, and of an uncultured background. Flannel shirts worn by bogans are usually referred to as a flanny or flanno.
Contrary to popular belief, flannel can be made in a variety of colors and patterns. Plaid is a traditional pattern shirts and pajamas, but solid colors are also used. Baseball road uniforms, for example, are traditionally made out of gray flannel, and are sometimes known as road grays.
Flannel does not have a nap, which makes it different from most other woolen fabrics. A nap is the raised, fuzzy surface on fabric. When woolen fabric is woven, the surface is not smooth; this rough surface is sheared away to create a smooth, soft surface. Flannel is made of loosely woven yard which gives it softness instead of a nap.
Cotton flannel, also known as Canton flannel, is a type of the fabric that is napped on one side, and is made with cotton fibers. This fabric is stouter than that made of wool, and is known for its increased warmth. Flannelette is also commonly sold as flannel in the United States, but is really made of napped cotton, and only imitates the texture of the other fabric. In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to sell flannelette as real flannel.