The suit lapel is meant to add class and style to the suit.
More importantly, lapels help refine the suit proportions, so getting the lapel width right must be one of your priorities.
But often, people are unaware of the different lapel styles and forget to give them their due attention.
What Does Suit Lapel Mean?
The suit lapel is a piece of cloth sewn to the collars on the suit jacket.
In simpler words, lapels are the flappy-foldy thing you see at the neck of the suit jacket.
They come in three different types: notch lapel, peak lapel, and shawl lapel. All three types are used for different suit styles for men.
More importantly, lapels are a great way to reflect your personal style and enhance your suit’s overall outlook.
Different Suit Lapel Types for Men
The three different lapel types – notch lapel, peak lapel, and shawl lapel, portray different styles.
All three match with different jacket pockets and come in various widths as well.
Additionally, the lapel has to be in line with the jacket proportions. Larger jackets should have wider suit lapels and vice versa.
You also have to ensure the lapel width matches your size. More on the subject below.
The Notch Lapel
Notch lapels are the most common lapels used by suit wearers.
They have a long history in the men’s fashion industry for being simple yet sleek.
Mostly found on single-breasted suit jackets, notch lapels get their name because of the V-shaped grooves they create between the jacket’s collar and the lapel.
It is often referred to as the most classic lapel for suits. However, this does not mean it is boring or monotonous.
In fact, it goes with a wide variety of dressing styles, including formal business suits and other semi-formal styles.
A notch lapel also adds versatility to the suit jacket, allowing you to wear it with separate trousers for a more casual outlook.
As a result, you can easily rely on notch lapels when nothing else makes sense because of how simple it is.
Make sure the jacket has flap or patch pockets to go with the formality of notch lapels.
Flap pockets are a way better choice as they are more formal, thus making the notch lapel jacket trendier and more versatile.
While it may be the easiest lapel to style, some things, such as the size, must be kept in mind.
For instance, the size of the notch must be in line with the width of the lapel.
This means a narrow lapel calls for a smaller notch. Similarly, a wider lapel works best with a bigger notch.
The Peak Lapel
Peak lapels are different than notch lapels in that they extend sideways further than the jacket collar.
The peak lapel design emphasizes the shoulder width while maintaining the narrow waist appearance.
Peak lapels are best worn on both single- and double-breasted suits. You can also opt for peak lapels for tailcoats, dinner jackets, and morning coats.
Since the lapel edge points towards the shoulders, it comes off as more formal.
More importantly, this style helps the wearer appear authoritative and dominant, especially when complemented with the classy flap pockets.
So much that a single-breasted two-button jacket featuring peak lapels is known as “power dressing.”
Therefore, you cannot use peak lapels with casual outfits.
Additionally, you have to make sure the lapel width is perfect. Otherwise, it looks odd.
The ideal lapel width for peak lapels falls between 3.5-4.5 inches.
And without the perfect peak angle, the suit just looks abnormal, so make sure the lapel has a good shape before buying.
Lastly, I would especially recommend peak lapels for shorter men.
This is because peak lapels give the illusion of making you look slimmer and taller.
The Shawl Lapel
The shawl lapel is the most formal of the three and is most suitable for eveningwear.
They originally came into being during the times of early Victorian jackets, which helped keep ash and smoke away from the wearer.
However, it evolved over time into a seemly choice for tuxedos without any peaks or notches.
The shawl lapel features a seamless round edge that goes around the neck.
Or you could think of it as an unbroken piece of material that stretches from the collar down and tappers off at the buttonhole.
Shawl lapels are available in several widths. If you go for narrow width, it will appear trendier.
Opt for a broader shawl lapel if you want a more classic look.
In either case, shawl lapels are specifically used for high-end events and formal jackets such as black-tie events.
In addition, they are usually made from a different fabric than the jacket, for example, black satin.
You can enhance the classiness of shawl lapels by complementing them with highly formal piped pockets.
Just keep in mind shawl lapel is not for a casual fit by any chance, so don’t get it stitched on your casual suit jacket.
Different Suit Lapel Widths
It’s equally important to get the lapel width right as it is to get the right suit lapel type.
Because no matter which lapel style you opt for, you have just ruined the whole look if the width isn’t right. It will make the jacket look disproportionate on you.
Many factors determine the right lapel width, including your body shape, the formality of the event, and recent trends.
As a general rule of thumb, the slimmer the lapel, the casual it looks, and vice versa.
Width also helps enrich or reduce the trendiness of the lapels.
However, this does not mean you go extra with the width, messing up the proportions.
Here’s how you can keep proportions in check according to body size, according to recent trends:
- Chest sizes up to 38 inches work best with a slim lapel 2.5 inches wide.
- Chest sizes between 38 and 50 inches work best with a regular lapel equal to or slightly greater than 3 inches in width.
- Chest size over 50 inches works best with wide lapels, measuring 3.5 inches or wider.
How To Choose the Right Suit Lapel Style
While you have the option to choose between different suit lapels, it does not mean you can just go with the one that appeals to you.
In fact, there are several factors one must consider before choosing a lapel for the suit.
For instance, lapels have to be in line with the suit’s formality, pocket styles, and the width of the tie.
Consider the Formality
While a black pinstripe double-breasted suit featuring peak lapels looks sharp, it might come off as too much for a business casual event.
Similarly, notch lapels on your black tux for a black-tie event are like taking a knife to a gunfight.
Therefore, you must choose the right suit lapel in accordance with the formality of the event.
Generally, notch lapels are the classics, suitable for less formal events.
On the other hand, shawl lapels scream formality and are present only on tuxedos for highly formal events such as black-tie.
Peak lapels are good for both suits and tuxedos but still fall more on the formal side.
The Lapel is in Accordance with Suit Pockets
The next important factor that helps determine the lapel style is suit pockets.
Pockets have to be in line with the formality of the rest of the suit, including the lapel.
Flap pockets are considered formal, whereas patch pockets fall on the informal side.
You can use both flap and patch pockets alongside a notch lapel.
Shawl lapels work best with piped pockets due to their highly formal and elegant nature.
On the other hand, peak lapels can match flap and piped pockets when present on a tuxedo.
Choose Tie Width that Matches the Lapel
As a general rule of thumb, the tie width should match the width of the lapel.
Minor differences in widths are acceptable but nothing too drastic.
Keep in mind that lapels and ties come in multiple widths. The slimmer the width, the trendier they make you look.
It’s best if the widths align with your body size.
For instance, slim men prefer narrower ties and lapels, and vice versa.
More importantly, if the widths aren’t similar, you won’t be able to achieve the suit symmetry, which helps make you look composed.