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Peak lapels on a pinstripe jacket.

Menswear Lapel Guide

Lapels are the two folded pieces of fabric on the front of a suit, coat, or jacket, which are joined to the collar, and are most commonly found on formal clothing.

The word "lapel" comes from the Old English word for a skirt or loose flap of fabric belonging to a piece of clothing.

Understanding lapel styles is vital for properly coordinating all the parts of your formal outfit, so it's good to learn them well!

And to learn more about how to craft your perfect menswear ensemble, be sure to check out our menswear style guide!

Lapels come in 3 common styles: peak, notch, and shawl.

Peak Lapels

  • Peak lapels have a triangular tip that points up to the rounded part of the collar or the shoulder.
  • Peak lapels are notoriously difficult to tailor, and are often found on the most formal kinds of suits and jackets.
  • Peak lapels are great for standing out and giving a grand impression.

  • Can be worn as a flashier alternative to shawl lapels for black-tie events.

A peak lapel on a tuxedo.

Peak lapels are very formal and help put you in the center of attention.

Notch Lapels

  • Notch lapels feature a V-shaped gap, are very common, and are found on most standard, single-breasted business suits.
  • Considered very traditional, and were the first kind of lapel style that was created.
  • A notched lapel suit is a tried-and-true option for many occasions.

  • Usually not appropriate for black-tie events.

A notch lapel on a business suit.

Notch lapels give you a more reserved, business-like appearance.

Shawl Lapels

  • Shawl lapels appear similar to notch lapels, except they have a continuous curve instead of a V-shaped gap.
  • These were originally designed for eveningwear, but are now mostly associated with tuxedos and dinner jackets.
  • Shawl lapels give a smoothcool, and debonair impression.
  • Appropriate, but more laid back for black-tie events than peak lapels.

A shawl lapel with black satin trim.

Shawl lapels work best for a suave and subtle profile.

Why Does It Matter?

Stylistically speaking, lapels are one of the most important and defining features of a person's formal outfit. They dramatically affect the shape, silhouette and style of a suit, and a person's entire outfit.

Lapels can also be a useful way of determining what kind of style or setting that particular piece of clothing is appropriate for.

Satin lapels, for example, can be a good way to identify tuxedos.

Shawl lapels are also commonly found on tuxedos and dinner jackets, while notched lapels are almost always found on suits. Good to know!

When Were Lapels Invented?

Lapels were invented in the 17th century when men began to arrange their collars, which buttoned to the neck (called ghillie collars), down into stylized folds.

Horatio rocking his lapels nicely.

This fashion caught on, and by the late 18th century, lapels were part of the formal design of jackets, and could be seen on the garments of most wealthy aristocrats.

While lapels are usually associated with men's fashion, a growing number of lapel designs can be seen in modern women's attire.

A classy rose lapel pin.

What About Lapel Pins?

Lapels are sometimes decorated with pins.

Almost universally worn on the left lapel, lapel pins can come in a wide variety of styles and motifs, and can also feature larger brooches or stylized chains.

Lapel pins have a long history which can be traced all the way back to the Roman Empire. That makes lapel pins even older than lapels themselves!

Lapel pins, along with other kinds of accessories, are an effective and simple way to add your own personal touch to your outfit, as we often mention.

So don't neglect your lapels! They may seem like small details but they have a huge impact on your style.

Paying close attention to the way your lapels mesh with the rest of your outfit will help put you miles ahead of the competition.

Experiment with different lapel designs and accessories and you'll be surprised at how much it can affect your look!

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