The Birth of an Icon

“Flannel shirts are one of those wardrobe staples that we all take for granted. Like a pair of jeans or white t-shirt, the humble flannel is versatile, fashion-proof and eternally classic – it’s no wonder that Woolrich’s shirts have been a cornerstone of men’s wardrobes for 170 years.” Said Samutaro on the recent Highsnobiety article “The Birth of an Icon”

Sam Trotman or Samutaro as he is known to his thousands of followers, is the Instagram archivists favourite Instagram archivist.
We asked him to take a look at one of subcultures enduring staples, the Woolrich Buffalo check flannel. Samuel Trotman has dedicated his working career to tracking and documenting global fashion trends.
He’s become a well known writer and cultural scholar who has contributed to magazines such as Vogue, Hypebeast, Grailed, Highsnobiety, PAQ and Complex.
His instagram @samutaro is an accumulation of knowledge and expertise surrounding fashion, art and music.

While the cross-hatch pattern might conjure imagery of Wyoming ranchers and Brooklyn hipsters, deer hunters and rock and hip-hop musicians, the story of the fabric has a rich history that stretches back centuries.

1830 - 1930

Although it originated in Wales in the 17th century, flannel has become synonymous with American outdoor wear since the 18th century when the first European migrants settled on America’s East Coast and made it the uniform for hardworking outdoorsmen.
One of the early settlers at the time was John Rich – the son of a wool weaver – who migrated to America from Liverpool, England in the early 1800s. After initially settling in Philadelphia, Rich moved to the more rural, central sector of Pennsylvania, where he would build his first woolen mill near a small brook called Plum Run and found the Woolrich brand in 1830.

Initially Rich began selling woolen fabrics, socks and blankets to local outdoorsmen and their families as his brand goods were ideal for keeping workers warm in the harsh Pennsylvania winters. But it wasn’t long until Woolrich branched out to produce its first-ever garment, a flannel shirt. Today, the word flannel is used interchangeably with plaid or tartan, but the word flannel actually deals with the actual fabric as opposed to its associated pattern. Woolrich’s first specific shirt model, the Wool Buffalo Check Shirt (made using a wool flannel fabric) was introduced in 1850.
In order to stand out in the market and have customers recognise their quality products, Woolrich developed its signature Buffalo Plaid. Consisting of big checks in two alternating colors, the iconic red and black pattern was born. Legend has it that Woolrich’s designer of the distinctive style owned a herd of Buffalo and that’s how it got its name.