Mark Lewman
March 26, 1993 AT 05:00 AM EST

Who better to teach the art of buying this season’s most necessary grunge item than Mike Watt, bassist for fIREHOSE, the chugging rhythmic power trio whose 1991 album, flyin’ the flannel, featured none other than a flannel shirt on the cover? It was one of Watt’s favorites, actually — ”an off-orange,” he fondly recalls, ”with that essential avocado green stripe.”

Preparing for the band’s spring tour, in support of its latest album, mr. machinery operator, Watt allowed us to trail along as he scoured the seedier thrift shops of his hometown, San Pedro, Calif., in search of fresh flannel. ”The real secret to selecting a righteous shirt is to comb the secondhand shops on the bad side of town,” says Watt, who usually tours with 10 flannels. ”I used to take more, but I get a lot from people at gigs. I think I’ll call the next album flyin’ the levi and I won’t ever have to buy clothes again.” Watt, who snorts outright at pricey designer knockoffs, believes the less you spend the better. ”Go econo, and be selective,” he advises, specifying $5 to $7, tops. Other attention-demanding details, according to Watt:

FABRIC: ”A lot of people don’t like it rough and scratchy, but I do. It’s like bourbon — you know you’re drinking.”

LABEL: ”Pendeltons are the prize. Avoid anything made in Sri Lanka.”

COLOR: ”In the flannel world red is kinda overplayed, but occasionally I’ll go for it. Earth tones — brown and green — I can’t stand those. Blue is great, and patterns with some white in it — the ultraviolet lights at clubs make it look badass. That’s the disco part of me talking, I guess.”

STITCHING: ”If it’s too bold and busy, you end up looking like a washrag.”

COLLAR SIZE: ”Wider collars prevent the dreaded strap burn during shows.”

POCKETS: ”The pattern of pocket fabric should be at a 45-degree angle from the shirt’s front pattern so you can find them in low-light conditions. Also mandatory, dual pockets and button-down flaps — dropping stuff out of my pocket and plumber’s crack are my most embarrassing things on stage.”

OVERVIEW: ”Don’t think too much about flannel. You gotta, like, just let it hit you. If you like it, you like it. And for me, that’s one in a thousand shirts.”

You May Like