The lapels of the jacket are almost as defining of a feature as the fabric itself. They can completely change the style and formality of a suit. In this short guide, we hope to make the decision a little bit easier by giving an insight into these key style components.
Ol’ faithful. If you happen to encounter somebody in suit there’s at least an 90% chance their suit has a notch lapel. The “notch” is the opening where the bottom of the collar meets the top of the lapel, usually at a 75 – 90 degree angle. The notch lapel is the most common lapel for a reason – it’s the most versatile of the bunch. It is most often found in single-breasted suit jackets, blazers and sports coats. If you only own one suit, this is the lapel type to go with. The main downside to the notch is it’s a bit safe. Personally I don’t think a notch lapel should ever be used on a double-breasted jacket as it gives off too much of a 1940’s mobster look. I also personally feel they don’t belong on dinner jackets. A notched dinner jacket screams 1990’s movie premiere and lacks the sophistication and formality of a peak or shawl lapel dinner jacket.
The notch’s cooler brother, the peak lapel brings a different, more European style to a single-breasted jacket and are the standard for double-breasted. Peak lapels were traditionally found on formal wear garments such as tailcoats and morning coats but at the turn of the century became more common practice on suits. The Italians and French have taken peak lapels in with arms wide open making it a very popular choice for casual blazers and sport coats. Worn over a t-shirt and linen, soft shoulder, peak lapel blazer will give the illusion you’ve just got back from a trip to the Côte d’Azur.
Generally, a shawl lapel is seen as one of the most formal lapel styles for a jacket. This is largely due to the fact that it’s used almost exclusively for tuxedo and formal dinner jackets. In these cases, the collar is usually a satin or grosgrain material in slight contrast to the jacket fabric. Outside of special occasions you’re very unlikely to see a shawl lapel jacket unless you’re in certain parts of Asia. Certain countries such as China and Japan have adopted the shawl lapel into their business-wear although primarily worn by the younger businessman.