By Ryan on October 23rd, 2013
When shopping for a suit, one of the first big decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want a notched lapel or peaked lapel. Understanding the differences between the two options, and more importantly, what occasions call for which lapel style, can help you to build the suit that’s right for you.
So, what exactly are the differences? And when should you wear one over the other? First, a little background: For those that may need a refresher, 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 (3) types of lapels – notched, peaked, and shawl. The latter is basically what you see on a dinner jacket (aka tuxedo). Since the dinner jacket is in a world all its own, this blog will focus 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 have 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.
If you are used to buying off-the-rack suits then you’ve probably owned all notched lapel suits. On the other hand, with bespoke suiting, you have the choice. You may even adjust the size of the notch. For instance, a slimmer lapel demands a very subdued notch, whereas a wider lapel has 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 selection. 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 will even take you to some rather elegant occasions. However, if the event is significantly 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. You can’t really dress down a peaked lapel. 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.
Regardless, don’t shy away from the peaked look. Yes, it’s generally a more formal look than the notched lapel, but is there anything wrong with dressing up? Of course not! Aside from turning some heads at a wedding you’ll look great in your Denver office. Read: dark pin-striped, peaked lapel suit, striped tie, & a great pocket square.
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 induce a lengthening effect by moving the eyes upward towards the shoulders. Larger guys may also employ 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 of general rules:
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 your personality. And remember, good fashion is about wearing what makes you feel confident.
So, the next time you’re building a suit, keep in mind what the lapel style says about the occasion. Like so many things in men’s fashion, understanding the subtleties will make it easy to be the best dressed man around!
By Ryan Wagner
About Bespoke Edge: BE is a leading men’s custom clothier, serving the Denver and Scottsdale area by appointment.
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