When shopping for your next suit, you probably don’t realize that lapel styles are more than just a matter of taste. They should enhance your body build as well as the image you’re trying to project. Here’s a crash course to help you make the best choice.
Different Suit Lapel Styles
Notch vs. peak lapel
Lapels originated from unbuttoning the top button of a coat, allowing the material to turn downward to form a flap. The notch lapel meets the bottom of the jacket collar to form that recognizable sideways “v.” It’s the most common type of lapel, especially for single-breasted suits. It’s also the safest route to go for everyday business or casual wear.
In contrast, the wider peak lapel styles forms a sharp triangular point that points upward towards the shoulder. Double-breasted suits almost always sport a peak lapel. Together they tend to be more noticeable and formal, particularly in the boardroom. This “power suit” displays confidence and a strong image for sure.
For both styles the lapel should lay at the mid-point between the collar and shoulders. If it extends past the shoulders the jacket will appear too big.
Lapel widths range from a slim 2.25” made popular in the 60’s to an extra wide 5” seen in the 70’s. The last three decades have produced more moderate widths of 3-3.5.”
The notch should reflect the width of the lapel—a small notch for a slim lapel and a large notch for a wide lapel. Peak lapels are usually wider but don’t go to extremes or they’ll tend to envelop you! Knowing your body type will dictate your choice of style and width. A narrow notch lapel draws less attention to broad shoulders and a barrel chest. A man with a slender build wants to make his shoulders appear wider so he can benefit from wider notch or peak lapels. Learn more about finding the right suit for your body shape.
The shawl lapel came to us from the British “smoking jacket.” After dinner, aristocrats would change into a jacket that had a continuous rounded lapel, forming a large “V” neckline. It served to protect their fine suits from smoke.
This particular style is great for the guy who is husky or muscular with broad shoulders. It’s a more contemporary look that elongates the body by drawing the eye downward. Wider lapels are classic while skinny lapels are fashion forward.
Shawl lapels have evolved from smoking jackets to formal dinner jackets and tuxedos. You’ll be hard pressed to find them on ordinary suit coats.
Mandarin lapel vs. no lapel
As its name implies, a Mandarin lapel or collar has a distinct Asian influence. Also known as a “banded” collar, it is a narrow stand up collar that fits close to the neck. Its edges don’t quite meet, leaving a small space at the front of the neck.
Suits that have no lapel are just that. They have no collar at all! It’s trendy and much more fashion forward than the Mandarin. In either case, suits such as these are not appropriate for the workplace and should be reserved for casual dress or special occasions. They’re available as tuxedos and you won’t even need a tie!
The buttonhole on the left lapel of a suit was once used to close the jacket flap for warmth. It continues to be a functional buttonhole that is now used for a boutonniere. The stem of the flower should be thread through the hole and hidden behind the lapel.