First, a little background:
The lapel of a man’s suit is the folded flap of cloth on a jacket. Typically, it is formed by folding over the front edges of the jacket and sewing to the collar. There are actually three types of lapels – notched, peaked, and shawl. The latter is basically what you see on a dinner jacket (i.e. a tuxedo). Since the dinner jacket is in a world all its own, we are going to focus our discussion on the two most common lapels, the notched lapel and peaked lapel.
The notched lapel is the venerable standard in men’s suiting. It’s traditional yet contemporary and will be found on jackets ranging from your weekend sportcoat to your go-to business suit. By definition, the notched lapel is categorized by a ‘notch’ where the jacket collar meets the lapel at a 75 – 90 deg angle.
If you are only going to own one suit, make it a notched lapel. Simply because this style is the most versatile. You can wear it to work, to the bar, to an interview - just about anywhere you like.
Most off-the-rack suits have notched lapels, but with bespoke suiting, you have the choice. You can even adjust the size of the notch. For instance, a slimmer lapel demands a very subdued notch, whereas a wider lapel leaves more room for creativity.
Tip: If you only need one suit, make it a notched lapel, but go with a dark charcoal or near-black fabric. This way, you can still navigate a formal event when paired with a black silk tie and white pocket square.
Body type considerations? None at all. As a testament to the versatility of this lapel, all guys can make this look good. A notched lapel is even appropriate for some rather elegant occasions. However, if the event is especially formal or if you are shopping for a double breasted suit, you better consider the alternative – the peaked lapel.
A peaked lapel is defined by the lapel edges pointing up and towards the shoulder. Traditionally, this lapel was seen in very formal garments like the morning coat or the tailcoat. In modern times this look is (unfairly?) constrained to the realm of executive offices and formal events.
Of particular note, is that you can’t really dress down a peaked lapel jacket. Whether it’s on a double breasted suit or not, you’ll stand out from the crowd. If you choose to widen the lapel and then go peaked, well, now you are really making a statement.
Tip: If you are a shorter guy looking to gain a few virtual inches, give this lapel a try. Similar to the effect of wearing a slim suit, a peaked lapel will provide a lengthening effect by moving the eyes upwards to the shoulders. Larger guys may also use this technique to lose a few virtual pounds by appearing taller. Wear a dark suit and the effect is amplified.
So, what’s the best lapel for you? In summary, there are a couple general rules:
Notched lapel –
business and everyday wear
Peaked lapel –
formal and bold
Besides that, it’s really up to you. A man’s style is all about knowing the rules and then bending them just far enough to match his personality. And remember, good fashion is about wearing what makes you feel confident.
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