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The Taxonomy of the Lapel

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A guide to suit fabrics and why you should pay attention to them

Formed from folding portions of cloth on the front of the jacket and sewing it into the collar, the lapel imbues the jacket with its aesthetic and purpose – the lapel style dictates what context the jacket should be worn in and the lapel size should be proportionate to the body. Often ill considered – especially in off the rack offerings, the lapel should be used to accentuate the masculine form.

Lapel styles can be described as follows:

Notch Lapel
Notch Lapel

Notched lapels

Notched lapels are the most common and feature in the majority of business and casual offerings – they are the most conservative and hence feature prominently throughout corporate wear.

Peak Lapel
Peak Lapel

Peak lapels

Peak lapels are inherently bold and traditionally regarded as being more formal than notched lapels. They are renowned for their ability to accentuate the width of the shoulders and subsequently, are great for alluding to a larger stature. Peak lapels are used predominantly throughout business and formal attire.

Shawl Lapel
Shawl lapels

Shawl lapels

Traditionally reserved for formal and evening attire, the shawl lapel rarely features on anything other than a tuxedo jacket.

Second to the style of lapel, is their size. In recent times, retailers have been influenced by the high fashion trend – deviating from sartorial tradition and cutting lapels to a much smaller size. Hence the prevalence of the skinny lapel. The skinny lapel is typically unflattering on most figures and has a habit of appearing ill considered.

When considering lapel style and size, self awareness regarding your body shape and structure is paramount – as is being aware of the aforementioned contextual implications of each different lapel style. Whilst any good tailor will make recommendations based upon these facets, it is still important for the client to consciously arrive at their own conclusions regarding this, as ultimately, it is they who will be wearing the garments. Some general rules regarding lapel choices are contextualised as follows:

Skinny lapels

  • Are not visually flattering or appropriate for most body shapes
  • Are an undoubtedly dying trend
  • We recommend avoiding skinny lapels

Medium sized lapels

  • Feature more prominently throughout the majority of conservative business attire
  • Remain relatively timeless regardless of trends
  • We recommend medium lapels only for gentlemen of smaller stature

Medium – Wide lapels

  • Feature more prominently throughout traditional tailoring
  • Most timeless and contextually appropriate lapel across all spectrums
  • We recommend medium-wide lapels for gentlemen of all shapes and sizes

Wide Lapels

  • Inherently bold statement piece
  • Are most commonly applied to peak lapels and often notch lapels also – but rarely if ever shawl lapels
  • We recommend wide lapels for those wanting an elegant statement piece

Whilst everything in fashion is subjective, decisions regarding lapels (as with the entire suit) should be well considered – based upon bodily nuances, the context in which the suit is to be worn and the degree of flamboyance you are seeking to achieve. We prescribe to the notion that medium-wide lapels suit most frames and adhere to a timeless, elegant aesthetic.

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