The lapel is an often-overlooked component of men’s suits that can play an important role in determining the personality and formality of a jacket. Everything about it -its style, width, and aesthetic minutiae- is important to consider.
Overall, lapels are simply flaps of folded cloth on the edges of a jacket or coat near the collar. Like many menswear components, they’re largely military in origin. Originally, lapels would stand up to protect the neck from harsh winds.
Although most lapels could still fulfil this function in a pinch, they evolved to such an extent throughout the 19th Century that they’re largely decorative today. In the following guide, we’ll be taking a look at each lapel style and their differences.
See All Our Suit Content!
In this guide, we’ll discuss the differences between each jacket lapel style. This will serve as an easy and high-level introduction to the subject before diving into any particular details that you may like to explore. You can read about any of the following here:
Interested in one in particular? Simply click on the link above and jump straight to it.
If you’re looking to learn more about a specific lapel, you can discover our in-depth guides that extensively cover each one. These will briefly discuss their history as well as face shape and body type considerations:
If you want to read our introduction first, just scroll down! These links will be presented again at the end.
An easy guide to lapels. With Bespoke Unit, you can learn about each lapel style and find the one that suits you.
What Is A Notch Lapel?
The notched lapel (“step collar” in England) is the standard lapel style for business suits and other conservative jackets. Its ubiquity makes it play well with any face shape and body type, though it’s particularly sympathetic to Oval, Oblong, and Square face shapes. It also pairs well with Average, Big & Tall, and Short & Thin body types.
Notch Lapel Vs Shawl Lapel
Lapel styles are determined by how the gorge is treated. The gorge refers to the point at which the jacket’s collar and lapel meet.
Notch lapels have an open gorge, but shawl lapels (or, more accurately, shawl collars) don’t have a gorge at all. The collar and lapel are all one piece, which is why this is often referred to as a shawl collar. Below, you can see the difference between the two lapel styles:
Notch Lapel Vs Peak Lapel
A notch lapel has a 90-degree open space at the gorge. A peaked lapel has much less space (if any), and the lapel juts outward and upward toward the shoulder, extending past the collar itself. See below for a visual representation of the differences:
What Is A Shawl Lapel?
Shawl lapels (also known as shawl collars) are totally rounded, gorge-less collars wherein the lapel and collar are actually made of one piece. Only found on black tie attire (with a particular commonness on smoking jacket), the shawl collar can be worn with either single or double-breasted jackets.
Shawl collars are best suited for men who have angular face shapes, such as Square, Triangle, and Diamond. They also tend to work well on Thin and Tall & Thin men, as the roundness of the lapel softens the harsher angles of these faces and body types.
Shawl Lapel Vs Peak Lapel
What Is A Peak Lapel?
Also known as a “point lapel” in England, peak lapels are the dressiest lapel style. Characterized by a closed gorge and a lapel that points upwards towards the shoulder, they’re standard on double-breasted suits, common on tuxedo jackets, and can make a single-breasted suit look more rakish than it would with a simple notched lapel.
As its defined by angularity, the peak lapel works best on men with rounder facial and body features. Round, Oval, and Heart shaped faces all share some softness that gets tempered by the peaked lapel’s angles, and Short and Heavyset men benefit from the height and slimness the peak lapel offers.
Peak Lapel Vs Peak Wide Lapel
Super narrow lapels have been in style for years, but we’re beginning to see a swinging of the pendulum in that regard. Many retailers -especially in the made-to-measure sphere- have begun to pick up on the fact that a skinny lapel doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it works for relatively few, but that’s a different discussion for a different time.
As such, lots of retailers such as Indochino have begun offering a “wide peak lapel” in addition to their regular lapel offerings. The catch is that every retailer will have a different viewpoint as to what “wide” means, and it’s always going to be relative to what a regular peaked lapel looks like for them.
Let your lapel width decision be determined by your body type. If you’re a small-framed man, go with a narrow peak lapel. If you’re a larger guy, a wider one will sync better with your frame.
How Wide Should Lapels Be?
Lapel width changes every few years. The sixties saw skinny mod lapels, and the 1970’s saw huge, four-inch-wide lapels. What’s correct?
While lapel width should be determined by your frame as mentioned above, the commonly accepted lapel width is 3 3/8″. As it happens, this reaches the halfway point between the fold of the lapel and your shoulder. This is an intentional tailoring concept that works well regardless of body type.
Now that you have an introduction to lapel styles, why not check out our in-depth lapel resources? You can see them all by clicking the links below: