When I was in middle and high school back in the mid-1990s, flannel was everywhere. The high point of the grundge movement had led to store after store stocked with flannel shirts for men and women. Even rock-slighly-too-influenced-by-hair-bands-in-the-1980s-band Aerosmith deliberately featured some very 1990s styles in their iconic videos from their landmark album, Get a Grip. Flannel, like many other styles, slowly faded out. Flannel eventually gave way to a hyperbolic reinterpretation of the styles of the 1970s, and, likely a corresponding dose of embarrassment on the part of every teenager who indugled. Flannel has been gone and forgotten ever since, buried in public consciousness while flannel button-down moved farther and farther back into the depths of teenagers’ closets.
And, finally, at long last, flannel has returned!
I actually remember the moment I transitioned to flannel in middle school. I was in 8th grade, and it was a Sunday morning. I had just returned home from a birthday sleepover, complete with a large crowd, over at a friend’s house. Like any good sleepover, I do not remember much sleep actually being involved. It was fall, and the morning brought one of the first frost warnings of the season. Between being exhausted and colder than usual, I was desperate for something warm to wear. My father, for years, had built up an impressive collection of flannel shirts, and they proved too tempting to avoid–I took one out of his closet, put it on over a pair of jeans and a pair of black, lace-up boots, and my classic high school wardrobe trend was born. Thereafter, I accompanied my father on the only clothes shopping trip we ever took together–he actually brought me to Sears, where he purchased his flannel shirts, and insisted upon my buying my own.
It’s funny because these days, high school becoming an ever more distant memory, high school reflections have started to take on a new tone. Memories are more differentiated than ever before–some of us remember an event one way, and some remember it another. I find it fascinating that my high school friends remember me always wearing flannel. This was certainly true in our early high school years, but I have a distinct memory of my wardrobe changing. Sometime in my junior year, I insisted upon visiting boutique stores for the first time. I eagerly snatched up every Delia’s catalogue that was sent to the house. By senior year, flannel had largely disappeared from my wardrobe. Regardless, when I ask my high school friends about their image of me in my teenaged years, I hear three things: flannel shirts, the unfortunate perm I wore the first two years of high school, and my job working in the drive-thru window at the local McDonald’s.
Columbus Day weekend, flipping through online sales, I was thrilled to observe the long-anticipated return of flannel shirts to store shelves. I eagerly took advantage of the opportunity, and, for the first time in about 20 years, flannel is among my regular wardrobe rotation.