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All You Need to Know About Lapels

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Section: Tailoring and Clothing Maintenance - Blog

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For the sartorial novice, the suit lapel is something of a conundrum. Should it be narrow or wide, peaked or notched? And what actual purpose does it serve? Well, the truth is these folds on the front of your jacket are no more than aesthetic additions, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them.

In fact, your lapels, like many components of your suit, can make or break a look. So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at these most fashionable of folds.

The notched lapel

The notch is that little cutaway section that looks like someone took a pair of scissors to your suit right where the collar meets the lapel. This is the most popular lapel; one you will find on practically every sports coat, blazer, and single-breasted suit.

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Its popularity is due to its versatility as this style of lapel is suitable for all occasions and suits most men. Now we would never advocate being a one-suit man, but if you were, then this would be the suit lapel to choose.

When to wear them – anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

The peaked lapel

Also known as the pointed lapel, this style features edges that point upwards towards your shoulders. They are more formal than their notched counterparts and are most common in formal wear such as tailcoats and morning coats. For this reason, we think they look a tad more stylish than notched lapels and lend you an air of sophistication and sartorial savviness.

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This lapel requires the most skill to tailor so expect to pay a little more to add these to your custom tailored suit. But for a look that is subtly different, we think it’s worth the investment.

When to wear them – Formal events such as weddings or black tie affairs but you can also break them out at the office if you want to stand out from the notch lapelled crowd.

The shawl lapel

The most distinctive of the bunch, the shawl lapel flows in a swooping and unbroken curve from top to bottom. Now you are unlikely to find this type of lapel on anything other than a tuxedo, so it stands to reason you will not choose this collar for your everyday suit.

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However, there are those that will argue rules are for breaking and while we agree with the sentiment, we will politely but firmly disagree with their point. Keep the shawl lapel for your dinner jackets. End of story.

When to wear them – I don’t think we need to tell you when to wear your tuxedo.

The width

The width of your lapel is all relative to your frame. If you are of slight build, then a wide lapel will take over your jacket and look more comical than stylish. The same can also be said for a large man with a pencil-thin lapel, accentuating his size rather than complementing it.

Thankfully, lapels the size of your hand died along with roller discos, and these days tailors will stick to a range of 2 inches to about 3.5 inches. Of course, you can go wider for a more individual look, but as we mentioned earlier, you run the risk of allowing the lapel to overpower your ensemble.

So how should you go about choosing your lapel style or width? Well, like all things sartorial we highly recommend listening to your local tailor who should know a thing or two about lapels. You can also see how the various styles hold up by downloading our free lookbook from the Montagio homepage.

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Simon Frazer

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