First, a little primer on what lapels are. The lapel of a man’s suit is the folded flap of cloth which extends from the collar and folds back against the breast of a jacket or coat. While they might appear like a miniscule detail, never underestimate how important lapels are to the shape of the blazers and jackets that you wear. There are three distinct styles of lapels: notched, peaked and shawl. But within each style, there’s plenty of experimentation to fit your body type, setting and suit type. We’re going to help you navigate the world of lapels so that you can find the perfect ones for your suits.
Notch lapels are by far the most common lapel type. Recognized by the ‘notch’ that connects the bottom of a jacket’s collar with the top, they’re much simpler to craft than the other lapel types. Versatile and subtle, they’re the finishing touch on single-breasted jackets, blazers and sports coats. While tailors will have their personal preference on the angle of the notch, it usually sits between 75 and 90 degrees. The good news – notch lapels are difficult to get wrong. As a rule, the notch should line up with your shoulders.
Suit Types: Single-breasted suits, blazers and sports jackets are ideal for notch lapels. Slim notch lapels, on the other hand, are best suited for slimmer frames.
Body Shape: Just about every body type.
Setting: Business suit, meetings, everyday office attire, interview suit, dress suit and dates.
Peak lapels are the most formal type and are distinct because of their pointed cuts. They’re most at home on double-breasted blazers since they naturally extend the jackets’ line. That doesn’t mean they won’t look great on single-breasted suits – the key to get that right is great tailoring. Peak lapels were originally designed for tailcoats and thus, are of a more formal style than notch lapels. They instantly up the style ante of any outfit and will make you stand out. Choose your peak widths wisely though. Men with broader shoulders should choose wider peaks to accentuate their shoulders while those with narrower shoulders should opt for small peaks.
Suit Type: Double-breasted suits. They look fantastic on certain single-breasted suits as well, especially those with pinstripe, herringbone or houndstooth fabrics.
Body Shape: Peak lapels fit most body frames but are especially useful if you’d like to add a few inches to your frame (they provide an elongating effect, making you appear taller). They’re also slimming, so larger gents usually pull off peak lapels with ease.
Settings: Formal occasions such as weddings, formal dinners, conferences or black-tie events. Essentially, whenever you want or need to dress it up a bit. Are they too formal for the office? They’re perfectly fine for business settings as well.
Shawl lapels and tuxedo go hand in hand. They’re recognized by the distinct, round edges with smooth, curving lines. They’re the rarest of lapel types and for good reason – you should reserve these for tuxedos, dinner jackets and smoking jackets.
Body Shape: No matter what your body type, sport a shawl lapel with your tuxedo. If you would, however, like to make your face look more angular, then you can opt for peaked lapels with jagged lines on your tuxedo or dinner jacket.
Suit Type: Tuxedos, dinner jackets, smoking jackets and lounge suits.
Settings: Black-tie events, red carpet galas and weddings
The Right Lapel Width
Choosing the ideal lapel width for your body type will make your suit look balanced.
Slim Lapels: They’re usually 2 – 2.75 inches and flatter slimmer body types. Average sized guys and larger built gentlemen should shy away since slim lapels will throw off their suits’ proportions.
Regular Lapels: The classic lapel width that never goes out of style. They tend to measure 3 – 3.5 inches – most off the rack suits will have regular lapels.
Wide Lapels: Measure up to 3.5 inches at their widest point and are generally suited for men with larger builds. However, wide peak lapels can look fantastic on just about anyone since they’ll give your physique a dominant/imposing edge.
Whether you need to dress up for everyday business life or want to suave it up for your wedding, these tips will take you a notch above the competition.