It’s time to demystify the flannel. The original flannel shirts were born from the work uniforms of Welsh farmers, and eventually became an international symbol of outdoorsmen and the working class i.e. the lumberjack. But to understand what really makes a flannel shirt great, we first need to understand just what exactly a flannel shirt is. The word “flannel” has a surprisingly broad definition, but in essence, flannel fabric is a loosely woven textile meant to be soft and warm. Pretty broad right? Typically, a good flannel cloth has an impressive ability to hold in heat and insulate, and yet it can still be breathable enough to wick moisture away. Iron Heart’s Ultra Heavy Flannel takes these fundamental qualities of a flannel shirt and pushes them to their logical conclusion. It’s heavy, as the name suggests, and is just as tough as it is warm. It’s highly representative of not only what a flannel is, but what a flannel ultimately can be. So let’s take these core characteristics and see just how Iron Heart takes them to the next level.
First, it’s important to look closely at the fabric; not only its base materials but how it was made. Generally, great flannels are made of high-quality wool, cotton, or a blend of both. Wool is great for warmth, but is not as forgiving on the skin, and can sometimes lead to that “scratchy sweater” feeling. Cotton is a prime alternative to wool as it is much softer and easier to maintain. A flannel’s characteristic softness comes from a brushing process after it is woven, where the fabric is brushed on one or both sides (called “napping”) to raise fine fibers and make it feel even softer. But a flannel can be brushed or unbrushed, patterned or solid, and sometimes the pattern alone will lead to a shirt being called a “flannel.” But what most don’t understand is that flannel is a highly functional fabric with its own unique qualities and weave, and not just a pattern. The takeaway here is that flannel fabrics are deliberately napped to create that soft texture that we love so much, and that signature pattern that has become so characteristic of flannel shirts does not necessarily define the flannel as a whole, it’s the fabric itself that makes a flannel a flannel. The Iron Heart Ultra Heavy Flannel is a prime example of what happens when you take these core fabric components and push them to their limits, experimenting to see what is possible to create. The key factor that sets the Iron Heart UHF apart from other flannels is the use of Aspero cotton. The features of this specific cotton cannot be overlooked, and greatly lend to what makes this flannel so special, so wearable, and so unique.
Iron Heart currently uses a 12oz Aspero cotton for the majority of their flannels but also uses a 13oz and 14oz weave for their exclusive herringbone and anniversary models (which we have been lucky to stock over the years). Aspero, named after the region in Peru where it is cultivated, is unique in its tensile strength and extreme softness. This cotton is not farmed on a large scale and has been used by the indigenous peoples of Peru for millennia. In fact, cotton textiles found in Aspero go back as far as 3000 years! This wild cotton is one of the wooliest cotton fibers currently in use. It has all the strength and warmth of wool, but with all the softness and breathability of natural cotton. The fibers are dense and yet produce a very fine weave. When layered in a heavy 12oz Tartan, Buffalo, or “Crazy” check pattern (among others), or in 13oz herringbone, this cotton produces the perfect flannel material and makes these color patterns really pop. Because of the nature of the cotton and the heavy weave, these patterns tend to look deeper, more 3-dimensional, and more pronounced overall.