Questions We All Ask: Is There a Difference Between Flannel and Plaid?

published Aug 29, 2018
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With the cold weather season fast approaching, it’s time to finally address an age-old debate in the decor world: Are there really any differences between flannel and plaid?

The answer, simply, is yes.

So to further breakdown the distinction, we called upon textile aficionado Annie Selke, CEO and President of The Annie Selke Companies, for help. We asked her what really made plaid and flannel all that different and she spelled it out for us.

“Plaid and flannel are actually two very different things, says Selke. “Flannel is a type of fabric, typically composed of wool or cotton, that is brushed—a.k.a. carefully rubbed with metal brushes to produce extra fine fibers—for added warmth and softness.”

“Meanwhile, plaid is a type of pattern with its origins in Scotland,” Selke explains. “Think tartan and kilts!”

So essentially, flannel is a kind of woven fabric and plaid is simply a pattern.

Which also begs the question: With such an obvious distinction, where does all the confusion about the pair stem from?

“Take a look at any L.L. Bean catalog and it’s plain to see that plaid and flannel go together quite well,” says Selke.

And because plaid is easily the most popular style of flannel—you can find it on everything from button-down shirts to bed sheets to pajamas—it’s no wonder the two are so easily confused.

Got it? Good.

Now that that’s settled, we asked Selke what her favorite way to use plaid and flannel at home is and here’s what she had to say.

“I love flannel sheets on the bed for cooler winter months,” she says. “And since plaid figures heavily in preppy style, I like to use it to bring a touch of personality into a space.”

“Just pop a plaid flannel pillow on your bed or sofa for an instant cabin-chic feel.”

Sounds like a stylish and cozy antidote to the upcoming cold weather season.