Suit lapels: which, when and where

14 July 2016

Suit lapels: which, when and where

It’s the smaller details you never see until they’re pointed out to you, and then you notice them all the time. When was the last time you gave consideration to your suit lapels? Are you looking down as you read this? Now that we have your attention, there are broadly three type of lapels, and each has its own variations and application. While you mightn’t think a lapel has a great bearing on a blazer, in fact it affects greatly its construction. And lapels have a beautiful tailoring heritage that has continued today. Here’s how.

The most common lapel is the notch, or step collar if you’re from the United Kingdom. To identify it easily, you’ll see a triangle missing from the diamond shape the collar forms. This style of lapel dates back to the early Regency Period, when collars would button all the way to the neck. Back then it meant the wearer was protected from the wind and the elements, whereas now it has more a decorative function. Most versatile of all the lapels, it tends to be worn in the corporate world, but that’s not to say  you can’t wear it to other functions. Worn wide it looks great with double-breasted suits and single-breasted suits with large pinstripes, worn narrow it's best with slim-cut jackets for slight-built gents.

A peak lapel (or wingtip or pointed, as it is sometimes known) has a bit more sartorial flair. It accentuates the shoulders and makes more of a statement. The most formal of the lapels, you’ll find it on morning and evening tailcoats, single and double-breasted tuxedos and also throughout daywear. With a double-breasted suit it looks its most meticulous, but it’s also popular on single-breasted blazers. In fact, a single-breasted peak lapel is one of the hardest things to achieve properly in tailoring, even by the most experienced tailors.

Shawl or roll collars are also perfect for evening affairs. You’ll find one on dinner jackets and variations thereof. A shawl collar is characterised by its rounded shape, which drew its inspiration from Victorian smoking jackets. They’ve recently resurfaced as a popular evening choice—this style comes and goes out of fashion. But if you’re a stylish gentleman always, a shawl collar is perfect for kicking it at home with a cognac and a cigar, when receiving visitors in your slippers.