OK—let’s get this right out of the way—there are actually three types of lapels for your suit jacket or sport coat.
Since the shawl collar is really only seen in tuxedos and formal attire, we are going to focus this article on the peak and notch lapels, and when (& how) to wear them.
But first, let’s back up.
The jacket lapel is that flap of fabric that connects the front of the jacket to the collar of the jacket. Every suit jacket and sport coat has one and they are often overlooked, which is why we wanted to write this piece dedicated to them.
The notch lapel is probably the most ubiquitous and most utilized type of lapel in suiting and sport coats. They are easy to recognize by their namesake “notch” where the lapel meets the collar of your jacket.
Notch lapels are traditional yet also contemporary in their styling and are the most versatile type of lapel—looking great on your best wear-to-work suit or weekend date night sport coat.
The notch lapel jacket works on all body types and for many (most) occasions, from a board meeting to a job interview, to a wedding or a first date. It’s just a great, classic, do anything and go anywhere look.
If you’re going to own one suit and one suit only, buy a notch lapel suit.
However, if you’re looking for a little more variety in your suiting options or if the event you’re dressing for is on the more formal end of the spectrum, or if you just want to make a statement, take a look at the alternative option:
The Peak (or peaked) Lapel is generally a more formal look than the notch lapel — not that there is anything wrong with that! Peak lapel jackets are perfect for when you have a statement to make or if the occasion calls for you to go a little above and beyond, say for a wedding, a work fundraiser or if you are attending a party where the invitation states that the dress-code is “semi formal.”
Any guy can (and should!) wear a peak lapel jacket. They are different enough that you’ll get noticed, in a good way, and an extra boost of confidence to boot. For an added bonus, they also tend to have a slimming quality for those that wear them because of the strong V-shape the front of the jacket, thanks to the tip of the lapel peaking higher than a traditional notch lapel.
One of the best things about style is that there rarely are hard and fast rules about when and how to wear the clothing that fits your look. Generally stated, if the clothing fits you well and matches your “look” and overall vibe (and of course, if it’s suitable for the occasion — you wouldn’t wear a t-shirt to a wedding, for example), it’s fair game.
That said, there are some general rules of thumb that can help you decide what type of lapel to wear:
And if you have no idea what you want or what would better fit your look and lifestyle, book an appointment with a Ticknors Style Advisor to see all of the options available to you and to put together a wardrobe and a look that you’ll love!