Notch lapels are one of the most common lapel styles in circulation. In fact, they can be found on almost all blazers and sports coats as well as most business suits.
Their understated and subtle design makes them a versatile finishing touch that can be applied to a spectrum of occasions. Although traditionally most associated with casual settings, they can also be found on more formal jackets.
In the following guide, you will learn about notch lapels. You will be able to discover what jacket styles they best suit as well as how they compare with different face shapes and body types.
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Being the most common lapel style, it’s easy to find notched suit jackets and blazers. Pretty much every off-the-rail business suit will feature notches bar a few excepts, which may have peak lapels instead.
However, you may be wondering whether notched lapels are the right ones for you? Perhaps you’re not sure if they suit your environment or the occasion that you’re planning for.
Fortunately, this guide will answer those questions and much more.
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What Is A Notched Lapel?
A notched lapel (referred to as a “step collar” in British English) is the most common style of lapel used in men’s tailored clothing. It is the standard lapel for business suits, and is characterized by a 90-degree opening cut into where the low end of the jacket’s collar meets the upper end of its lapel. This meeting point between the collar and lapel is known as the jacket’s gorge, regardless of lapel style.
There are some styles in which the opening is a fair amount smaller than ninety degrees; these notched lapels as referred to as “fish-mouth” lapels.
While de rigeur for business and conservative events, notched lapels are not the most dressy lapel style. That title is held by the peaked lapel.
Sales of notched lapel suits, sport coats, and overcoats far outpace those of any other lapel style for men. This is far and away the best lapel to choose for work, a job interview, a funeral, or any other event wherein dressing conservatively is expected of you. Further, your first suit should absolutely take a notch lapel, which we also mention in our pages on the capsule wardrobe and how to buy your first suit.
Best Jacket Styles
Notched lapels go particularly well with certain jacket styles. Likewise, there are other styles better suited to a peak lapel or shawl collar. We discuss some of the most common jacket styles where a notch lapel is seen below.
Notch Lapels & Single-Breasted Suit Jackets
Upwards of 85% of single-breasted suit jackets utilize notch lapels. This is unsurprising, as the overwhelming popularity of the single-breasted jacket would require a lapel style of similar popularity.
This holds true regardless of the button stance of the jacket (one-, two-, or three-button single-breasted) or whether the jacket is British, American, or Italian in provenance. To learn more about suit nationalities, see our guide to suit styles.
Note that double-breasted suit jackets should not take notched lapels, but rather peaked ones in most cases. Furthermore, single-breasted jackets don’t require notched lapels, this just happens to be the most popular lapel style for this jacket.
Notch Lapels & Blazers
If your blazer is single-breasted, it can certainly take a notch lapel. While this isn’t the traditional blazer button stance or lapel style (most are 6×2 double-breasted with peak lapels) this is definitely the most common.
Notch Lapels & Sports Jackets
As sport jackets are less dressy than suit jackets and notch lapels are relatively informal, it makes sense that most sport coats use notched lapels. With that said, there are some sport coats that utilize peak lapels, and while this is a bit of a sartorial oxymoron, it’s not totally unacceptable.
If you’re buying a sport jacket, your best bet is to get one with a notched lapel. For more information on sport coats in general, take a quick look at our guide to sports jackets.
Notch Lapels & A Tuxedo
Tuxedo jackets are the one style wherein notched lapels are not appropriate. Tuxedos are worn for black tie events, and a notch lapel doesn’t do this dress code justice. Tuxedo jackets should take either peaked lapels or a shawl collar, regardless of the jacket style.
To learn all there is to know about tuxedos, see our comprehensive tuxedo guide.
Best Face Shapes For A Notch Lapel
One element of looking your best that doesn’t typically get the brain power it deserves is face shape. Knowing what your face shape is and how to properly dress is will give you a leg up on the other guys in the room. If you don’t know what yours is, our face shape identifying guide will get you straight in five minutes or less.
Due to their being the standard for business wear, men will have to wear notched lapels regardless of their face shape. Thankfully, no one really looks bad in a step collar, but the face shapes mentioned below can wear this lapel style to particularly great effect:
Oval Face Shape & Notch Lapels
Oval face shapes are gifted in that they can wear pretty much anything. A subtle mix of rounded and angular features, oval faces sync well with the proportions of a notched lapel.
Oblong Face Shape & Notch Lapels
A rectangular face that’s rounder than it is wide, oblong faces pair naturally with step collars.
Square Face Shape & Notch Lapels
A face that’s as long as it is wide and sporting an angular jaw, the angularity of the square face shape is tempered by the openness of the notch.
Best Body Types For A Notch Lapel
Another important factor to consider when getting dressed is your body type. If you don’t know yours, see our body type guide in which we identify nine body types and two body type modifications.
Any body type can wear a notched lapel, but the width of that lapel is important to consider. If you’re thin, you can opt for a narrower lapel. Conversely, larger body types should look to wider lapels to better sync with their frame.
Regardless, the body types below look particularly good in a notched lapel jacket.
Average Body Type & Notch Lapels
Average guys can wear anything, and notched lapels look good on just about everyone, so it stands to reason that men of average build can wear them to great effect.
- Recommended lapel width: 3 1/8″-3 3/8″
Big & Tall Body Type & Notch Lapels
Big and tall men want to draw relatively little attention to their frame with their clothes, so opting for a notched lapel is the perfect way to make yourself not look any bigger than you already are.
- Recommended lapel width: 3 3/8″-3 5/8″
Short & Thin Body Type & Notch Lapels
Men who are smaller in stature also benefit from notched lapels because they don’t call any attention to their frame. In other words, a nondescript lapel will create an appearance that won’t make you look overly short or overly thin.
- Recommended lapel width: 2.75″-3″
What Next: Other Lapel Styles
Now that you know all about the notch lapel, we invite you to take a look at our other lapel pages: