We Tested Five of the Most Popular Flannel-Lined Jeans
From Carhartt to Wrangler, who comes out on top?
If you experience below freezing temperatures at any point during the year, you need a pair of flannel-lined jeans in your arsenal.
Flannel-lined jeans are the KFC Double Down of pants. They’re the garment equivalent of putting on your clothes straight out of the dryer. Wearing them feels like you never left the metaphorical womb that is your flannel-sheet-covered bed. What we’re trying to say is they’re warm, comfy and rugged.
In an effort to spread the gospel of flannel-lined denim, I took the five most popular pairs for a test drive — wearing each to find out which is best.
A couple notes: Some brands release limited edition pairs every fall, others do one-offs, but these are all stalwarts of the style. Also, we’re only talking about flannel-lined denim. No fleece. No khakis. As with most lined pants, you’ll most likely need to order a size up in the waist. And yes, we’ll admit most of these won’t flatter your figure (the pitfall of sewing an extra layer inside your pants), but if warmth is what you seek, read on.
Below, a ranking of the best:
Best Bang for Your Buck: Carhartt Relaxed-Fit Straight-Leg Jean
What we expected from Carhartt: rugged, warm, work-ready pants. What we got: That to a T, and for a paltry $40. The 100-percent cotton denim is the heaviest of the bunch at 15-ounces. And while Wrangler, J.Crew and L.L.Bean have your typical small YKK zippers, Carhartt has a larger, tougher version. But hipsters be warned — this is not Carhartt WIP. This is classic Carhartt, so the fit (widest leg of the bunch) and color (pure American blue jean) may scare someone accustomed to skinny selvedge denim.
Other superlatives: Widest leg, strongest zipper (tie)
Best Color Scheme: Wrangler Rugged Wear Canvas Jean
The one cotton canvas option we tested. That color — paired with the lumberjack-esque red, black and yellow plaid interior — gives this top marks for pigment. You could even pass them off as khakis and wear them to work. But in the warmth department, these are found wanting. Even though they carry the “rugged” label, these were the least rugged of the bunch. They’re too thin in the legs even though the flannel was the softest, and there’s not enough reinforcement for me to trust them when hauling wood, sledding a hill or playing pick-up broomball.
Other superlatives: Thinnest jean, softest flannel, softest exterior
Best Dad Jean: L.L.Bean Double L Jeans
Side-by-side, these jeans are indistinguishable from Carhartt in color. But the feel of the exterior denim is softer, and the legs aren’t as wide, making it the ideal runabout jean for dads and older men. It’s not going to win you any style cred at your kid’s (or grandkid’s) hockey game, but the blue-and-yellow flannel will keep you warmer than that concession stand hot chocolate ever will.
Other superlatives: Softest blue jean, most online 5-star reviews
Best Looks: J.Crew Straight-Fit Jean
Yes, I modeled all these jeans for my girlfriend for an objective opinion, and she preferred these. The reason? They look like your average stylish denim: dark wash, sit below the waist, fit comfortably at the hip but slim down for a skinnier (read: more flattering) fit. But don’t expect these to last. The fast-fashion construction is equal to Wrangler. The other downfall: the brand only offers limited runs of their flannel-lined jeans every year, so right now they’re almost sold out. Fear not, gents, the flannel will come again and we’ll update here when it does, or look for yourself on J.Crew Factory and J.Crew.
Other superlatives: Stiffest denim, best out-of-the-box flannel feel, girlfriend-approved
Best Overall: Duluth Trading Co. Ballroom Jeans
No, “ballroom” doesn’t stand for the dancing variety, it’s the … other kind. The dad-joke name aside, this is the pound-for-pound best flannel-lined jean on the market. It kept us the warmest during our test, but also felt the most durable. Upon closer inspection, it’s all in the details: the beefy zipper and deep pockets are on par with Carhartt, there is “Fire Hose cotton canvas” lining in key areas (waistband, cuffs and pockets) that no other jeans had, and the blue denim is darker than both Carhartt and L.L.Bean (admittedly, that’s not saying much). No, it will not win you any best-dressed awards. But if anyone feels the flannel lining, they’ll quickly whisper, I need some of those.
Other superlatives: Warmest, best work pant, strongest zipper (tie)
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