Flannel Shirts and Pumpkin Spice Dreams

By Troy Bishopp

I don’t know about you but when I slip into my well-worn plaid flannel shirt for the first time as the geese get restless overhead, it truly feels like fall. Flannel is a fabric for the country soul.   “Flannel is an integral part of our national heritage. It’s literally tflannel is the fabric that binds us togetherhe fabric that binds us together,” said Essayist Deborah Knight.

The origin of flannel can be traced back to Wales, where it was well known as early as the 16th century. Flannel was originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn.  At one time Welsh, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Irish flannels differed slightly in character due largely to the grade of raw wool used in the several localities.  Originally it was made of fine, short staple wool, but by the 20th century, mixtures containing either cotton, silk or synthetic fiber became common.  And for you old rockers, the use of flannel plaid shirts peaked in the 90s’, when popular grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam used them as their trademark fashion statement.

After the first flannel shirt of the season has been christened with leaf fragments and cat hair (cause they love to snuggle in it), it seems the flood of this soft nap seeps into our daily lives as the temperature ticks downward. The sheets and pillow cases are transformed to flannel.  The polos of summer are changed out in favor of colorful, brawny, lumbersexual hues.   Pajamas, bathrobes, long underwear and scarves are all put in play to fight old man winter.  Even the discarded flannel is used for cleaning, wrapping a newborn animal or mopping up grease in the shop.

When I go to buy flannel shirts, quality is all over the board. I prefer companies like Woolrich, Duluth Trading, LL Bean and my own Herb Philipsons when my budget allows.  Trouble is, the bargain-rack pseudo flannel for 12 bucks also calls my name.  It doesn’t seem to matter which product I chose, I always find ways to rip, stain or shrink the darn things.

As a flannel-nista, I prefer vibrant colors, plaids and patterns. They always match with jeans and any kind of Carhart clothing accessory.  I’ve worn a flannel kilt in running the highland mud-fest and what man about the town, wouldn’t dabble in a flannel, man-scarf.  The fabric’s versatility is unmatched.  I have to admit however, that my favorite article is when my wife wears my shirt and cuddles with me on the couch.  Flannel I think is even an extension of love.

Lately, there seems to be another significant sign of colder weather. It’s the advent or permeation of the pumpkin spice phenomenon into my olfactory receptors. It’s boggling to see how many items get infused with pumpkin spice.  The flavor resonates in hot pumpkin macchiatos, lattes, cookies, muffins spiced candles, mouthwash, gum, beer and even pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds.  My morning Frpumpkin-spice-everythingench Vanilla coffee also has its subtle overtones.  What’s next?  My aftershave!

Apparently folks are getting a bit agitated by the exhaustive advertising blitz of pumpkin spice-itis and all its high fructose companions, but sales of pumpkin-flavored items continue to soar, rising 11.6 percent to $360401 million for the year ended July 25, according to Nielsen. With this entire bonanza, I was hoping the pumpkin farmers were doing really well. Alas, fresh pumpkins at the retail level aren’t seeing the same boost. In fact, fresh pumpkin sales dropped in 2011, 2013 and 2014.  I’ll fight the trend and enjoy an ole fashioned pumpkin pie anyway, which I’m sure is more nutrient dense.  This high calorie orange season will end about as fast as you can say candy-cane latte.

Whatever traditions ring in the fall for you, one should get out and enjoy the fall colors and scenery that our region is known for. Take time to nap in the autumn sun wearing your comfortable flannel and having pumpkin spice dreams.

Published in Country Folks “Coffee Section” by Lee Publications