The lapels of a suit are similar to the collar of a shirt. They frame the wearer’s face, and draw the most attention from the eye. And just like shirt collars, they come in more than one variety.
If you close your eyes and imagine a suit, there’s a good chance that suit has notched lapels. This is by far the most common type of lapel for suit jackets and sportcoats alike. The name comes from the small, inverted triangle of negative space—literally, a “notch”—positioned where the jacket’s collar ends and lapel begins.
It’s also the most versatile type of lapel, suited for any work environment and all but the most formal of occasions. It can vary in width, as wide lapels and skinny lapels fall in and out of fashion. But a medium-width lapel is an enduring classic that won’t change with the times. It goes well with any type of pocket or button configuration.
Peak lapels are both more formal and more adventurous than notched. They’re so named because the lapel ends in a “peak” that juts outward before joining the suit collar.
Single breasted suits can be made with peak lapels for a little extra pizzazz, but they’re a classic fixture of the double breasted jacket. They also turn up on tuxedo jackets, as their more formal look will be welcome at any wedding or black tie event. They gel with any pocket and button arrangement but should be paired with jetted pockets if used in a tuxedo.
Shawl lapels don’t distinguish between lapel and collar—they wrap around the jacket in a continuous curve. This rounded style may be the rarest of all lapels, and that’s because they’re so specialized. Shawl lapels are typically reserved for tuxedos and dinner jackets. Their length and formality pairs best with jetted pockets and a single button.