Here's the issue. During the Ivy heyday, gray flannels were seen about as often as khakis. Given, they are a bit more formal, more likely to be worn with blazers than rugby shirts, but by-and-large they are interchangeable with cotton khakis. Students wore them on campus, playing sports, cavorting on dates...very comfortable to share their messy collegiate lives with a trusty pair of gray flannels (or two).
Today it no longer seems to be the case. A quick perusal of the AAAT WAYW thread shows about a 80-20 split in favor of khakis, with flannels relegated to the most formal outfits, with a blazer or charcoal tweed, usually at work.
I think this is an important issue to address, because the Ivy dressers of today seem to be losing touch with a foundational element of heyday Ivy, versatile across the formality spectrum and around the color chart, high-performance and comfortable at the same time.
Here's my personal diagnosis for the decline of the gray flannel among current Ivy dressers. Other members far more knowledgeable than I are of course welcome to contribute their additions, corrections, and disagreements.
- The supply of durable gray flannels has fallen. The tough flannels of heyday were not the 130s, 50% cashmere thin Italian ilk that oversaturate today's flannel market.
- Because gray flannels have (sadly) become more niche, dress flannels trousers are much pricier relative to cotton khakis today than in the 50s-60s.
- Quality cleaners today are harder to find, and pricier inflation-adjusted.
In short, because today's flannel trousers are more delicate, more expensive, and more difficult to clean and maintain, we (very sensibly) have chosen to wear our flannels less and less.
A damn shame, and I would like to propose a prototype flannel that would break the vicious cycle and solicit input and advice for how forum members might acquire such an item.
My personal wardrobe consists of ~5 pairs of high-quality 100% natural-fiber flannels, some lighter, some heavier, + 1 pair of old Jos Bank gray "stretch" flannel (2-3% elastane). The JAB is on the thin side, near one of the pockets was a hole (I don't know if from moths or wear). Like other members here I only reach for my "good" flannels for the dressy occasions, a little too anxious to put them through the rigors of casual attire. About a month ago I had the JAB pair patched up, handwashed it in cold (it along with some sweaters took ~30 minutes to do), lightly pressed, and began wearing it just like my khakis or cords. That is, not caring if anything bad happened to it.
I discovered that I got more quote-unquote "enjoyment" out of these old, low-quality flannels, as they fulfilled 2 major Ivy principles: 1. decently presentable in a casual setting, 2. not letting clothes limit the things I do. Given that I essentially thrifted these pants from myself, I did not care if they got damaged; given that I can easily hand clean them myself, I did not care if they got soiled. While by no means perfect in fabric or cut, they are sufficiently worn in and soft to take on the character of old, well-loved khakis.
So here are the traits of the ideal flannel trousers that are high-quality yet still able to be worn comfortably and care-free
around the house:
- Can be had for 1-2x the price of a quality pair of khakis: $50-$125 (can be on sale, but no second-hand, thrifts, Trad exchange, etc.)
- Classic dress trouser configuration (not 5-pocket), with tailor-adjustable waistband, and unfinished bottoms for cuffing
- Contains 10-20% synthetic (maybe 30% is the maximum tolerable): this allows the pants to be hand- or machine-washable
- High rise (this can be suppressed in favor of price, #1)
- Heavyweight: 10oz and above (this can be suppressed in favor of price, #1)
The current Jos Bank is https://www.josbank.com/1905-collection-tailored-fit-flat-front-dress-pants-clearance-2AV2C
. It has thin-ish fabric, not enough synthetic, and a rise that could be 1-2" higher. But can be had on clearance for around ~$25, so I picked up another pair.
Short of that I discovered a great fabric on Luxire for a cool $100, which checks all my boxes: https://luxire.com/products/grey-wool-flannel?variant=273384086#/
. Being MTM, I am waiting for when they hold a trunk show in my city in order to measure me, as I believe measuring myself is a sure road to unwearable disappointments.
Who else would offer flannels in the spirit of what I'm looking for? Thoughts and comments about the usefulness of this particular "quest"?