For those of you who don’t know, lapels are the collar-like part of your suit jacket or blazer. Just like ties, shirts, and fabrics, lapels are another way for you to be different and show off your personality, since lapels come in a variety of styles. In this article, we’re going to look at some of these styles so you can find the ones you like!
The Function of Lapels
Other than being used to shield your neck from wind or rain, I believe lapels exist to accent your figure by creating a gorge (V shaped opening of the jacket). Doing so accentuates your shoulders and makes your waist look thinner (don’t get me started on where it’s supposed to pointing towards). Lapels have varied in length, width, and style over the years and are a tell-tale sign for what era a jacket is from. For example, the 40’s had wide lapels while the 50s-60s marked the advent of the skinnier versions we see today. These differences marked that particular time period’s view on the “ideal masculine physique”.
Other than accentuating the gorge, lapels can adorned. That is why there are button holes present to carry boutonnières or lapel pins! Now lets start looking at different styles of lapels.
1. The Notch Lapel
The notch lapel is so named because it looks like someone cut a notch out of the lapel! The notch is simply a sideways v (or a > ) cut into the lapel. Thanks to the simplicty of the design, the notch lapel is the most conservative and basic one out of the list. You will find that 9/10 suits or blazers in any store will have these type of lapels. As I’ve said before, Mad Men has influenced our current state of menswear, and has resulted in almost every modern notch lapel being skinny.
Wide rounded end notch lapels:
Skinny and Medium lapels, respectively. Note how my lapel doesn’t touch the breast pocket but Raj’s does!
If you want to stand out with your suit, I suggest trying to find notch lapels that are wide enough to cover a part of the breast pocket. The wider lapel results in a more dramatic V shape (which is also helped by how well the jacket fits). The lapels on this particular suit jacket by Zara does the effect quite nicely.
Basically, you can find notch lapels on any type of jacket: blazer/suit, double breasted, and even tuxedos. However, these lapels should only stay on blazers and suit jackets. And especially don’t buy a double breasted notch lapel jacket. It’s gross.
Pro: Simple, clean, good starter
Con: Basic, boring, mark of a cookie-cutter jacket
2. The Shawl Collar Lapel
Being skinny or large, the shawl collar is the most formal of the three distinct lapel styles. Instead of a “cut”, the shawl collar is one piece of fabric that is rounded in a U shape (rather than V) and can end at the button in a rounded or square edge. These lapels are most often found on cardigans and tuxedos, but can rarely be seen on suits and blazers. Here it is on a cardigan (near the top of my neck):
Being an oddity, I believe that these types of lapels should only remain on cardigans and tuxedos (and in some cases vests). . If you’re interested on getting one on a suit, I would suggest getting one bespoke (custom-made), as shawl collars aren’t often found in mainstream jackets and blazers. Want to see how its done? Here’s 1920’s dandy Rudolph Valentino with a three piece shawl collar suit, a definite rarity.
Isn’t that suit killer? But if you’re just starting out, I’d say keep the shawls on your tux.
Pros: Elegant, smooth, great touch if on a vest
Con: Odd to see on anything other than a tuxedo or cardigan
The Peak Lapel
This is the best lapel, named for the lower “lip” of the lapel peaking out from under the top lip. The Peak Lapel just exudes power and confidence thanks to its naturally wide nature and sharp points. Thanks to these features, it stands out among the others. Now these lapels have an old school vibe, since they are always present on the “gangster image” of double breasted suits. However, peaks have not always been present on double breasted suits and jackets and have actually been featured on single breasted jackets and vests!
My advice for peak lapels are always to have it medium to wide width. Never have skinny peak lapels since small lapels dilute the power. I personally prefer having single breasted peak lapel jackets over notch lapel ones, because its essentially getting the dramatic shape and power from double breasted jacket on a single breasted jacket! Just look at the power in this 1930s three piece, single breasted peak-lapel suit.
You can have them at an upturned angle:
Or you can have the “lazy” peak lapel variant (also called fish mouth lapels). The bottom “lip” of the lapel isn’t as attached to the top, resulting in a lazy demeanor. It’s like a cross between a notch lapel and the peak!
Pros: Everything, exudes power, very dramatic shape
Con: There are none. Peak lapels are the only way to go
So I hope you’ve learned something about menswear! My main focus is that menswear is definitely not cookie-cutter and boring. We don’t wear the suits of the 80s and 90’s anymore; we’re going back to the 20s-30s, where suits were worn with passion and different styles abound! You don’t have to look at suits as the uniform of corporate America because they’re now a symbol of creativity! When in doubt, go with peak lapels. They’re sick as hell.
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza