Review 18: Proper Cloth’s Awesome Japanese Low-twist Heavy Flannel

by | December 31, 2021 | Buying Experiences, Flannels, Products, Reviews

Proper Cloth

It’s undeniably winter in the Midwest. However, despite the 60 degree Christmas day, it is abundantly clear that cold weather is here to stay. This year I acquired some essentials missing from my wardrobe in the flannel department and was caught off guard by a brand I hadn’t considered before: Proper Cloth.

This season, we have been more than spoiled for choice, with the greats like Iron Heart, Flat Head, Momotaro, Samurai, and Indigofera producing beautiful pieces for 21/22. I am grateful to have shared the reviewing load with Chris Clark, who published part one of our Fall/Winter flannel round-up earlier this fall. I was set to post part two of the series when an unexpected message hit my inbox from Proper Cloth.

In fairness, I haven’t paid much attention to Proper Cloth to this point. While the Proper Cloth offering looks fantastic and offers a genuinely unique approach to the custom garment market, I never felt a huge draw to the brand. The target market seemed more J. Crew and less rugged brand of choice.

The conversation with the good folks at Proper Cloth started with a denim focus. They reached out, asking if I would be interested in their new custom wash jeans. Flattered, I politely explained that washed and stretch isn’t our focus here at The Arcuate. They told me that Proper Cloth plans to launch raw options later this month, with the Selvedge options coming at an undisclosed time in 2022. The conversation turned to flannels and chambray.

The timing was perfect; I was wrapping on my flannel picks for this year and I was looking for something unconventional to make the list for part two of the heavy flannel list.

Proper Cloth also has an exciting custom garment approach. You can have your shirt styled any way you like, for essentially a flat fee. There are only three customizations I noticed that come with surcharges. Otherwise, you aren’t getting nickeled and dimed for every minor customization. Even putting in your specific measurements comes at no extra cost. Their sizing options are robust, including standard sizing, body measurements, and shirt cloning measurements whereby you measure your ideal shirt or send it in for measuring.

I wanted to pressure test their system with their “smart sizing” option. This part I found very exciting and a bit of a dice roll. Essentially, you answer a few simple questions about your body and let their algorithms calculate your ideal custom size. At first glance, this looked like nonsense, but, when I looked deeper, I could see that they had done their homework. Their “Smart Sizes” are based on millions of customer data points and are therefore incredibly accurate.

Y’all know me: I’ll jump on any opportunity to test a claim that looks too good to be true, and I’ll jump on that grenade. I answered some questions about my body type and style preferences, and I provided a few numbers for good measure. Bingo Bango: their algorithm spat out an impressive prediction of my measurements. Compared to other heavy flannels in my collection that fit perfectly, the measurements line up with slight variances. Color me intrigued.

Proper Cloth

Proper Cloth Custom Japanese Low-Twist Heavy Flannel


Aesthetics

We can’t go any further without discussing the fabric, as it is the first part of what makes this flannel the unlikely contender for my favorite of 2021. Proper Cloth doesn’t list the weight of fabric in oz, but rather gives thread counts, fabric thickness, and then determines a weight category.

The low-twist flannel falls in their “Very Heavy,” category; the flannel has a 20s 3-ply construction that helps to tighten the weave and adds weight for warmth and durability. A rough estimate puts the weight somewhere around 8.5 – 9oz, in the neighborhood of an RGT heavy Flannel.

Proper Cloth has sourced the flannel from Toyoshima Mills, a small but noteworthy Japanese mill that specializes in low-twist yarns and textiles. In general, the number of twists per inch of a yarn determines how fine the material is—the higher the number of twists, the finer the fabric.

Low-twist fabrics are woven with more gently twisted yarns. Because there are fewer yarn twists per inch, the feel is more plush and pliant. When this low-twist weave is then brushed, the result is the kind of texture you see here. It’s got it all. It’s soft to the touch and hairy and irregular to the eye. It feels luxurious, and there’s a lot of structure to both the fit and the drape.

The red and black ombre flannel creates an incredible fade in/fade out pattern giving excellent depth of color compared to your standard buffalo check flannel. It creates an illusion that more than two colors are going on in this two-color flannel. Proper Cloth gives you options for accents and for fun I decided to put contrast accents on the cuffs and collar band.

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Quality

Now look, I could beat you to death on how I judge the quality of a flannel, but I’d really rather hit the highlights here and send you on your way for your morning coffee or post-work bourbon. I’ll start by saying that the Proper Cloth low-twist flannel meets the Szabo criteria for well-made excellence as set out in his well-made flannel guide over at Denim Hunters.

The first damn thing we do with all review pieces here at The Arcuate is verify measurements, and then we flip the piece inside out and start looking for flaws in construction. When a shirt hits your doorstep, there is a list of instructions for a fit check and QA. They want to make sure you are satisfied with your purchase. If you’re less than fully satisfied, Proper Cloth will do a complimentary remake to ensure you get exactly what you paid for. I’d consider this the sugar on top of the whole deal.

Based on Proper Cloth’s Smart Sizing algorithm, the initial measurements came in slightly bigger than what was predicted. This might alarm some, but the company does this to account for predictable shrinkage after the first wash. This is just part of the process, which should include both pre and post-wash fit checks. After a cold wash (proper) and hang drying, almost like shrink-to-fit, my flannel was spot-fucking-on to the algorithm predictions. Skynet is live and making our clothes fit better.

We discussed the fabric, possibly ad nauseam, in terms of aesthetics, but the quality is superbToyoshima has been weaving denim in Japan since 1955, producing traditional Japanese 100% cotton selvedge and some genuinely funky blends, incorporating bamboo and even hibiscus into their cotton denim. Weird and wonderful denim aside, they really have low-twist textiles dialed in, and I can see the fabric holding up to washes, wear, and time with no trouble.

Lending to the durability, the construction of the flannel is spectacular. Speaking with Daniel Zisman, my contact at Proper Cloth, we discussed manufacturing and managing a custom garment business. “We use an amazing high-end factory in Vietnam specializing in custom clothing. Their expertise, attention to detail, and quality can almost not be found anywhere else. Using them allows us to keep up with quality assurance, develop new products quickly, and offer extremely competitive lead times, especially for custom clothing.”

The hardware is sturdy and well-seated. The horn snaps keep with the western aesthetic I was going for and seem up to the task of wearing in for the long haul. The seams are all flat-felled and of single-needle construction. Small finishing details, like the accents over the side vents, are reinforced instead of being gusseted. Essentially, this son of a bitch is going the distance and will wear well with time.

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Value

Shit. There’s not much to discuss here, folks. A custom shirt in this specific fabric would run a first-time buyer $150 before taxes and shipping in the USA. Digging through the offerings from Proper Cloth, there doesn’t appear to be a fabric from a subpar mill in sight, with notable mills like Canclini and Reda. This price includes complete tailoring and customization for a flat fee, plus a remake if Skynet gets the sizing wrong or you aren’t completely satisfied.

Well-made flannels aside, Proper Cloth offers countless shirts, sweaters, outerwear, suits, and casual pant options. An utterly bespoke wardrobe is not out of the realm of possibility through their service, though I’d quickly become a broke divorcee if I tried… “See you on alternating Wednesdays and weekends, kids,” is not a phrase I’m prepared to embrace. But damn, I’d look good if I did.

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Bottom Line

OK, wrap it up, Grant. An old hockey coach I once simultaneously loved and hated used to say, “Shit boys, it doesn’t get much prettier than this.” It’s about as good a summary as any for this piece. Proper Cloth never really crossed my radar in the past, but I am happy as a pig that they have.

At $150 for this flannel, it tops my list on the best of ’21. Top-tier construction, fabric, fit, and customer service more than justify the price, especially when I’ve paid more for less. Granted, comparing a tailored flannel to off-the-rack options is like comparing oranges and hippopotami. But, that said, I have paid $50-$100 more from brands we in the denim and rugged community know well and have been as or less pleased with the product.

My verdict is a clear and resounding yes. They’ve nailed it, and they’ll be at the top of my list the next time I decide to add a new shirt into the rotation. Their flannel has found a happy home in my closet–perfectly at home next to the Iron Heart and Rogue Territory pieces next to it. Welcome to the rugged and well-made family, Proper Cloth.


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About the Author

Grant Schildhouse

Grant Schildhouse

Grant, our Editor in Chief, is a denim enthusiast and writer; The Arcuate is his attempt to combine these loves in one place. He wants to tell some of the stories behind those who make and wear denim with a passion. His journey into the world of denim continues, and he hopes you'll co-journey with him, allowing him to be your fireside storyteller.