What has happened to the flannel shirt in the two decades since Kurt Cobain wore it, unbuttoned over a T-shirt in the grunge era? The easygoing fabric has matured: Flannels are, as ever, comfortable, but now they're culled from a finer cotton or wool, brushed smooth, and usually stonewashed or beaten down. The fit, too, has advanced, with armholes cut higher and billowy waists brought in tighter. Assuming you've got a shirt that fits properly, this all translates into freedom of movement and a cleaner, dressier look. "The attitude of the plaids has evolved quite a lot over the last years," says Steven Alan. "They're much more practical and easy to wear now. I always wore flannel shirts as a kid and loved them, so I was excited to start making them for adults." Taming these plaid shirts with a tie is not a move meant only for fashion models. Solid ties are safe with most flannels, but don't fear patterns on patterns: Just be sure to mix up (not match) the colors and styles.
Steven Alan Flap Pocket Collegiate Shirt
The buttoned pocket on this windowpane plaid lends a casual air, while the bright-red David Hart tie dresses it up a bit. [$198; stevenalan.com; $125; davidhartnyc.com]
Credit: Photograph by Levi Brown