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The Genesis of an Icon, the Woolrich Flannel

Woolrich is proud to represent the plaid flannel shirt in The Museum Of Modern Art’s current exhibition: Items: Is Fashion Modern?, a collection of 111 iconic designs that have had a profound impact on the world over the last century. In honor of this recognition we want to share a brief history on our Woolrich Flannel Shirt, one of the items included in the exhibit organized by MoMA’s Senior Curator, Paola Antonelli. What is a flannel shirt? It’s important that we define what exactly constitutes a flannel shirt since there are common misconceptions. Flannel is a soft twilled wool or worsted fabric with a loose texture and a slightly napped surface. It also describes a cotton fabric of soft yarns simulating the texture of wool flannel. Thus, a flannel shirt is any shirt made using flannel fabric; it is commonly offered in a variety of patterns (plaids, stripes, solids) and fabrications (wool, cotton).

History of the Woolrich Flannel

The first garment that Woolrich ever produced and sold was a flannel shirt. The specific model, The Wool Buffalo Check Shirt (made using a wool flannel fabric) was introduced in 1850. The move from strictly selling woolen fabric and yarn to ready-to-wear garments coincided with the invention of the sewing machine in 1846. These red and black Buffalo Check Wool shirts were immediately popular and became a staple for the lumberjacks who worked near the Woolrich Mill in central Pennsylvania, which at that point was the nation’s leading lumbering state.

The evolution of the flannel 1850-present

Over the next 100 years, the Woolrich flannel offering changed to suit the needs of the American Population. No longer only worn by people who worked outdoors, by the 1950s flannel shirts were popular for men and women in both rural and urban centers. While the Original Wool Buffalo Check Shirt remained a popular item, the Woolrich flannel offering included a variety of weights and styles to suit a wide range of customers.

As the tastes of the American population continued to evolve, so to did the Woolrich Flannel offering. In 1973, Woolrich introduced cotton flannel shirts in two styles: western and traditional. A few years later a third style was created: The Heavyweight Super Flannel.

Today, Woolrich continues to pride itself on crafting timeless quality flannels for both men and women. We offer a variety of weights, fabrics, and patterns and stand behind our flannels with our satisfaction guarantee. Included in our offering is the Original Buffalo Check Wool Shirt, still one of our top sellers 167 years after it was first introduced.

The MOMA exhibition opens on October 1st 2017 and closes January 28th 2018. Celebrate the enduring influence of fashion on our past, present, and future with us this fall!