Plaid Flannel

Butch-FlannelIt finally dropped below freezing in New York. That means layers. And flannel. I love winter. It takes the edge off my dysphoria.

The official start of my flannel season is the weekend after Labor Day. I take stock of my shirts. Which one needs a button, which ones are so scruffy that they should only be worn for chores, and which ones should go into the rag box. One of the sad things about flannel is that it doesn’t last forever.

I own fifteen flannel shirts, not counting three that are permanent loan to Donna. All of them are plaid. I am waiting for a new plaid flannel shirt to arrive; I won it as a contest prize from The Flannel Files.

Once, during my internet travels, I hyper-linked into Gabriel’s “tips for transmen” post which recommended avoiding plaid flannel because it would “make you look like a lesbian.” The author recommended wearing slim fitting dark shirts with vertical stripes. I ignored his advice; I’m trying to be read as masculine and queer, not male. I see lots of good looking guys hunkering down in flannel without fear of being mistaken for a lesbian. Plaid flannel is masculine in my style book. As long as it doesn’t have princess seams or bust darts.

Flannel-for-breakfast

This guy is not concerned about what other people think.

Plaid flannel is not redundant. A plaid is a pattern, and flannel is a fabric. Plaids are tartans; they originated in Scotland in the 16th century. There are thousands of registered tartans, but only a handful are consistently used in flannel shirts. Tartans were used for wool blankets and then kilts (often worn with a blanket over the shoulder). The word plaid is derived from plaide, the Scottish Gaelic word for blanket.

Cotton flannel became popular in the 1800’s;  and was mostly used for warm underwear (e.g. the union suit). It has never been considered a luxury fabric. According to this article, plaid and cotton flannel were merged together by Carhartt, in the 1890’s. Plaid flannel shirts were developed for railway workers, loggers, and farmers. They are also stereotypically butch. I’m OK with the stereotype.

I bought my first plaid flannel shirt at Dave’s Army Navy, with money I saved by babysitting. My mother would only buy me girl’s clothing. As a result I had two wardrobes – what she bought and what I wore. The shirt was a blue and green plaid, probably a Black Watch. I was fourteen. I didn’t know I was gay, I just wanted to look like a boy. When I came out as butch, I did not have to buy any new clothes.

When I came out as transgender, I did not have to buy any new clothes. I treated myself to some spiffy stuff just for fun. If I were really trying to be read as male, I would ditch my button to the left shirts, including some old L.L.Bean flannels. Eventually they will wear out and be replaced.

The one piece of advice that I took away from Gabriel’s “tips” post is to buy the correct size. I’m at least two sizes smaller than I was two years ago, and I’m trying to stop wearing baggy shirts. He’s right, close fitting shirts do look better. Even if they’re plaid flannel.

16 thoughts on “Plaid Flannel

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for stopping in to comment. I agree that “fashion flannel” is an oxymoron. The shirts are soft, warm, don’t itch, and don’t shrink much when you throw them in the washer and dryer. But I do love those plaids.

      Like

      Reply
  1. westseventhfreelance

    Plaid flannel is the best. I also love (and don’t know exactly what the fabric is) the LL Bean solid heavy weight men’s winter shirt- I still have one that was my dad’s and recently bought a new one- nothing like the original though.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      If it is a thick and a solid color it might be their chamois cloth shirt. The L.L.Bean shirts are really hard to wear out. I’m very fond of mine. I went to college in Massachusetts and we used to drive late at night to the Freeport Maine store (when anything being open 24 hours was a novelty). We’d buy some gear and then go to a diner for early coffee and breakfast.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Jamie Ray Post author

        I’ve got a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a M.S. in Transportation from M.I.T. I almost stayed for a PhD but I came to my senses.
        I might have had a better time at Smith and in Northampton. M.I.T. was very nerdy.

        Like

  2. RonaFraser

    Love this: “The official start of my flannel season is the weekend after Labor Day.”! I’m the opposite – I put off wearing winter clothes as long as possible because I hate wearing socks and closed in shoes (except running shoes). Luckily, at the job where I need to look presentable to clients, we rarely have them in, so I just go about in comfy sock feet most of the time.

    Have a cozy flannel day!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. Donna is the same way. She tries to wear sandals until the first snow, and hates how hard it is to find winter clothes in bright colors (especially pants). At least we are not expected to follow the old “no white shoes or purses between Labor Day and Memorial Day” rules. And no white gloves either!

      Like

      Reply
  3. Meike

    I liked your post a lot better than Gabriel’s. His seemed overly focused on looking Capital-M-Male, and seemed very standoffish to anything that made you look Capital-L-Lesbian. Which there’s nothing wrong with looking like in the first place! Plus, like you want to be read as masculine, but not necessarily male. Very nice post!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. I think the unspoken part of Gabriel’s post is the mistaken assumption that many people make that all transmen were (or really are) lesbians. Since he was always attracted to men, he went from identifying as a straight female to identifying as a gay male. I understand his wanting to do everything in his power to be read as a man, not a lesbian, but I think he attaches too much power to the flannel shirt. Actually, he sounds like my mother “don’t wear that shirt it will make you look like a lesbian!”

      Like

      Reply
  4. hiddeninyoursoul

    I came across that link too in my searches. He is right about the wearing clothes that are the right size, but I also disagree with his assertion that plaid makes you look like a lesbian. But really, who cares, if it’s something you like wearing and feel comfortable in, go for it. Isn’t that the goal? To feel comfortable with yourself and how you present yourself?

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I absolutely agree, I am not participating in a “do I look masculine enough” contest. I didn’t go through all of this so that I could read or outfit myself according to the transmasculine equivalent of Cosmopolitan or Nylon. On the other hand, I’d hate to commit some horrible trans* fashion faux pas (e.g. wear my binder on top of my T-shirt).

      Like

      Reply
      1. androguyandcat

        I live near the coast in California… it’s rather sunny here, but it does get chilly when the fog rolls in some evenings 🙂

        Like

  5. Pingback: City Lights at the end of this tunnel | My Sister's Jeans

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s