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Flannel: The comfort fashion style

From bearded north woodsmen to hard-working farmers to hoboes brown-bagging it under the bridge, flannel has a long history of being the clothing choice of the working class, downtrodden, and rebellious.

In the '90s, flannel became an iconic symbol of grunge, a cultural movement so universal that even the homeless caught on. Bob and Doug Mackenzie -- a fictional comedy duo -- made flannel famous with their own version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," which climaxes with: ". . . and a BEER!"

The Edge, U2's legendary guitarist, can occasionally be seen performing with a flannel jacket, which goes well with his iconic skull cap.

There's a reason flannel holds such an important place in our culture, and is so commonly worn by people who don't care how they present themselves. It's comfortable!

Nothing warms the bones on a cold night like a flannel jacket buttoned all the way up. The softness, the warmth, the love that you feel when let flannel bury you in its embrace: there's nothing else quite like it . . . except a girlfriend, maybe, but I wouldn't know.

And flannel serves many purposes beyond being simply an article of clothing. Fold it neatly into a square, and it makes a perfect pillow for a night under the starry sky. Tie the arms together, and you have yourself a sling to carry food and the other necessities of life.

Tucked under the arm, a bulky flannel jacket easily conceals small items.

To wear flannel is to make not only a fashion statement, but to blatantly shun the commercialism and materialistic pretensions of our society. A man who wears flannel is too confident in himself to be worried about what people will think if he doesn't wear Abercrombie like all of the other Lost Sheep.

He prioritizes his personal comfort, warmth and unrestricted arm motion over society's mandate that he impose his social class on everyone who sees him. The flannel wearer knows what he wants in life, and is willing to stoop to the level of the working class and homeless in appearance, in order to reach an inner spiritual plane far above the tumbling rapids of conformist brand-name fashion.

Unfortunately, the leading high-end clothing companies have started to capitalize on flannel -- perhaps sensing that it's on the verge of a comeback. But brand-name flannel is simply something that should not be, an oxymoron that runs contrary to the spirit of what flannel represents.

Flannel should be purchased for $5 at the Salvation Army (smelling vaguely like smoke, a special treat sometimes hidden in the front pocket), not 10 times that in some expensive clothing store that smells like cologne.

Let's prove to the world that we're not that easily fooled. Let's thumb our nose at the empty materialism that floods our senses every day and start opting for the real stuff. Doing so will probably make some people very uncomfortable -- like the ones whose job it is to convince us that we need to pay $46 for a "flannel" shirt . . . but, then, what is the purpose of youth?

So don't be a square. Instead, fold your flannel into one and lay on the ground one starry night. Fall asleep with your head warm and your eyes looking up at the heavens, which look down upon everyone equally -- regardless of what they are wearing.

Nathan Kitzmann is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School.