What Is a Lapel? – Notch, Peak, Shawl Explained

Notch, peak, shawl – which lapel should you choose? For that matter, what is a lapel in the first place?

A lapel is the folded flap of cloth on the front of a jacket or coat, usually a part of formal or business attire. It is formed by folding back the front edges of the jacket or coat and sewing them to the collar. Lapels can vary in width, shape, and style, such as notch, peak, or shawl.

what is a lapel

What Is a Notch Lapel? – The Default Lapel Style

Notch lapels are among the most versatile and commonly seen types of lapels on men’s and women’s jackets. Often found on business suits, blazers, and sports coats, the notch lapel is identified by a “notch” where the collar meets the lapel at a roughly 75- to 90-degree angle. It’s a go-to choice for many occasions, striking a balance between formal and casual.

The notch lapel has a timeless appeal and is considered a safe bet for nearly any situation. If you’re stepping into the corporate world, attending a job interview, or going to a less formal social gathering, a notch lapel is usually appropriate. Because of its ubiquity, it’s often seen as the “default” lapel style, which means it blends in easily.

notch lapel

This lapel style pairs well with almost any kind of tie or bow tie, and it complements various shirt styles. However, for ultra-formal events like black-tie affairs, you might want to opt for a more formal lapel style like peak or shawl lapels. Notch lapels don’t usually stand out, which makes them ideal for everyday wear but perhaps less so for occasions where you want to make a statement.

In terms of fashion trends, notch lapels are a classic rather than a trend-driven choice. They’ve stood the test of time, maintaining their status as a wardrobe staple for decades. While lapel widths may change with fashion trends—going from skinny to wide—the basic notch lapel cut remains largely the same.

If you’re building a versatile wardrobe, it’s a good idea to start with a couple of suits or blazers with notch lapels. They offer you a broad range of outfit options, allowing you to navigate different settings without having to worry too much about committing a fashion faux pas.

Useful Table: Notch Lapels
Ideal forBusiness, Casual
Pairs well withMost tie styles
Not recommended forUltra-formal events
Commonly found onSuits, Blazers

What Is a Peaked Lapel? – Formality and Flair

Peaked lapels exude a sense of formality and flair that you won’t typically find in other lapel styles like the notch. Identified by lapels that point upwards towards the shoulders, peaked lapels are often seen on double-breasted suits, tuxedos, and formal wear. The sharp angles create a broader, more imposing silhouette, making them ideal for dressier occasions.

This lapel style adds an element of drama and sophistication to any outfit. If you’re attending a black-tie event, gala, or any setting where a bit of grandeur is called for, a suit or tuxedo with peaked lapels is a fantastic choice. In the business world, a single-breasted suit with peaked lapels can make a bold statement, particularly in fields like law or finance where tradition and formality are valued.

peak lapel

Pairing accessories with peaked lapels can be a bit trickier compared to the more versatile notch lapel. A skinny tie or a flamboyant pocket square might not do justice to the lapel’s grandeur. Stick to classic, bold accessories that complement the formal tone set by the lapels.

While they are undeniably classy, peaked lapels can feel a bit too formal for casual or everyday settings. You’re unlikely to see them on casual blazers or sports coats. So, while they’re great for specific events, they may not be the most practical choice for a one-suit wardrobe.

Fashion trends do impact peaked lapels, but not as much as you might think. The width and angles might vary depending on current styles, but the essence of what makes a peaked lapel stand out—its formality and flair—remains consistent. They have a timeless quality that keeps them relevant year after year.

Useful Table: Peaked Lapels
Ideal forFormal events
Pairs well withClassic accessories
Not recommended forCasual settings
Commonly found onTuxedos, Double-breasted suits
TimelessnessTimeless but formal

What Is a Shawl Lapel? – The Epitome of Elegance

Shawl lapels are the epitome of elegance and are most commonly associated with formal evening wear like tuxedos and dinner jackets. Characterized by a rounded, continuous collar that transitions seamlessly into the lapel, shawl lapels don’t have notches or peaks. They offer a smooth, streamlined look that’s perfect for high-end social events.

When you’re dressing for an occasion where a tuxedo is the norm, like a black-tie event, a shawl lapel is a safe and stylish bet. The clean lines and simplicity make it an excellent option for a refined and polished appearance. It’s no surprise that they are often the lapel of choice for weddings, galas, and red-carpet events.

shawl lapel

Because shawl lapels are inherently formal, your choice of accessories should match that level of sophistication. Satin or silk bow ties, pocket squares, and high-quality cufflinks are typical pairings that enhance the elegance of the shawl lapel. The absence of sharp angles or cuts makes the shawl lapel a canvas for understated, yet luxurious, style.

In terms of versatility, shawl lapels are limited. While they excel in formal settings, they can feel out of place in a business or casual environment. They’re specialized tools in the sartorial toolbox, so to speak, designed for specific, elegant events rather than everyday wear.

Despite being rooted in tradition, shawl lapels have also found a place in modern fashion. You might see variations in fabric or width, but the fundamental rounded design remains the same. Like its notch and peak counterparts, the shawl lapel has a timeless element, although its application is more niche.

Useful Table: Shawl Lapels
Ideal forBlack-tie, formal events
Pairs well withBow ties, elegant accessories
Not recommended forBusiness, casual settings
Commonly found onTuxedos, dinner jackets
TimelessnessTimeless but specialized

Wide vs Thin Lapels – Which Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing between wide and thin lapels, the decision often boils down to personal style, body proportion, and the level of formality you’re aiming for. Wide lapels, which can be more than 3 inches in width, convey a sense of authority and are generally considered more formal. They’re often seen on double-breasted suits and are a staple of classic menswear.

Thin lapels, on the other hand, are usually less than 2.5 inches wide and offer a more modern, streamlined look. They’re most commonly found on single-breasted suits and casual blazers. Because of their slim profile, they’re often favored in contemporary or fashion-forward settings. While versatile, they may not be the best choice for very formal events.

wide vs thin lapels

Your body type also plays a role in choosing between wide and thin lapels. Broad-shouldered or larger individuals often find that wide lapels create a more balanced look. Conversely, those with a slender build may find that thin lapels complement their frame better. The key is to maintain a sense of proportion.

The width of the lapel should also match the width of your tie for a cohesive look. A wide lapel pairs better with a wide tie, while a thin lapel works best with a skinny tie. Mixing widths can disrupt the overall balance of your outfit, making it appear disjointed.

Lapel width is also subject to trends. In the ’70s, for instance, wide lapels were all the rage. The 2000s saw a move towards skinnier lapels. However, classic lapel widths, which fall between the extremes, have a timeless appeal and are always a safe bet.

Useful Table: Wide vs Thin Lapels
Wide LapelsThin Lapels
Ideal for formal settingsSuited for casual, modern looks
Pairs well with wide tiesBest with skinny ties
Flatters broader framesComplements slender builds
Often found on double-breasted suitsCommon on single-breasted suits
Timelessness varies by trendTrend-sensitive

What Are Lapel Pins?

Lapel pins are like the cherry on top when it comes to sprucing up your outfit. They’re these little pins you stick on the lapel of your jacket, adding a dash of flair or meaning. You’ve got all kinds—from simple shapes to detailed custom designs. They can make your suit pop or even show off something you’re passionate about, like a cause or a hobby.

Now, these aren’t just for show; they can have some utility too. For example, if you’re in the military or part of a company, a lapel pin can signify your rank or represent your organization. It’s like wearing a tiny billboard that says something about who you are or what you stand for.

When it comes to picking the right lapel pin, think about the occasion and your own style. A formal event might call for something sleek and understated, while a more casual setting gives you room to be playful or quirky. And yes, people even collect these little guys, like mini souvenirs from different events or places they’ve been.

what are lapel pins

Placement is key; you don’t want it to look awkward. Traditionally, it goes on the left lapel, kinda close to your heart. The size should also match up with the width of your lapel—too big or too small and it’ll just look off.

Material matters, too. You’ll find lapel pins made from all sorts of stuff like metal, enamel, or even some blinged-out ones with precious stones. The quality ones have solid detailing and sturdy fasteners so you’re not constantly checking to make sure it hasn’t fallen off.

So, if you’re looking to add some zing to your jacket, or want a subtle way to say something about yourself, a lapel pin is a pretty cool option. It’s a small detail, but sometimes, the small details make all the difference.

Robert Phillips

From classic styles to the latest trends, I take pride in empowering my visitors with knowledge that enhances their personal style and boosts their confidence. As an advocate for the art of dressing sharp, I'm committed to inspiring men to exude sophistication and charm in every step they take, one perfectly fitted suit at a time.

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