A jacket is an essential component of a two- or three-piece suit. Whether you're attending a business meeting, job interview, wedding, dinner party or any other formal event, you need to wear a jacket. Without a jacket, you won't be able to achieve an appropriate level of formality needed for the event. However, it's important that you choose the right of suit jacket. While there are many things to consider when choosing a suit jacket, you should pay close attention to the lapels. So, what are suit jacket lapels, and how do you know which style is right for you?
Overview of Suit Jacket Lapels
Lapels are the folded flaps of fabric found on the front of a suit jacket or coat. They are formed by folding the excess fabric back against the front of jacket, after which it's sewn in place to prevent it from moving or otherwise coming loose. Jacket lapels don't serve any functionality purpose. Rather, they are strictly aesthetic, only affecting the appearance of the jacket. Nonetheless, lapels help to create a more stylish, formal appearance -- and that's exactly what you should strive for when choosing a jacket for your suit.
To find the lapels on a suit jacket, look at the top front of the jacket. The lapels are typically found on the sides next to the opening where the necktie is visible. While there are several different types of labels, which we discuss below, they are all found in this location. So, always check the front when shopping for a new suit jacket to identify the type and style of lapels.
The most common type of lapel for suit jackets is the notched lapel. Also known a step lapel, it's characterized by a angular shape with the fabric sewn into the collar. Notched lapels are often used on single-breasted suit jackets, blazers and even sports coats. Although there are always exceptions, notched lapels are rarely used on double-breasted jackets.
You'll probably discover that the size of notched lapels varies greatly from jacket to jacket. Some jackets feature large notched lapels, whereas others feature medium and small lapels. Many men prefer small notched lapels on their jacket because it creates a slimming effect in which they are appear thinner. Known as a fishmouth lapel, it's become a popular choice among fashion-conscious men. With that said, you don't have to limit yourself to small notched lapels. It's perfectly fine to choose a suit jacket with larger lapels, assuming it flows cohesively with the rest of your outfit.
Another common type of lapel for suit jackets is the peaked lapel. Also known as the pointed lapel and double-breasted lapel, it's the most formal style of lapel. Peaked lapels are used on double-breasted black-tie suit jackets, including tailcoats and morning coasts. You'll also find them on tuxedo jackets, where they help to create a more formal appearance.
From an outsider's perspective, peaked lapels may look similar to notched lapels. If you compare the two, however, you'll notice a few subtle nuances. Peaked lapels, for instance, have pointed "peaks" that extend past the collar, whereas notched lapels do not. As a result, peaked lapels offer a slightly higher level of formality, making them a popular choice for double-breasted suit jackets. Some people may argue that peaked lapels are made with higher quality craftsmanship and materials than their notched counterpart. Whether this is true remains open for debate. What is true is that peaked lapels feature a point or "peak" that goes past the collar.
A third type of lapel commonly found on suit jackets is the shawl lapel. Also known as the roll collar and shawl collar, the shawl lapel originated from the Victorian smoking jacket, which subsequently paved the way for the modern-day dinner jacket and tuxedo. The shawl lapel is arguably the most basic type of lapel found on suit jackets. It's characterized by a single flap of fabric that's folded over the front.
In addition to the type of lapel, you should also pay attention to its features. For instance, some suit jacket lapels have a buttonhole on the left breast. This was originally designed to accommodate a decorate flower known as a boutonneire. Today, however, the buttonhole is rarely used for this purpose. Instead, it's used for strictly as an aesthetic feature that differentiates dinner jackets from other jackets.
You should also pay attention to the width of the lapel. Whether it's a notched, peaked or shawl, all lapels have varying widths. A good rule of thumb is to choose a width based on your body size. If you're a large man, for example, choose a lapel with an equally large width. If you're small, petite man, choose a lapel with a thin width. Following this otherwise simple rule will help you create a balanced, stylish appearance in which your outfit compliments your body type.
Do All Suit Jackets Have Lapels?
It's a common assumption that all suit jackets have lapels. Granted, most suit jackets manufactured and sold today do in fact have lapels, this doesn't necessarily mean that they all lapels. While few and far between, some suit jackets are made without lapels. These lapelless jackets are generally used in military uniforms, including those worn by servicemen and women of the British Army and U.S. Marine Corps.
Choosing the Right Lapel
After reading this, you should have a better understanding of the different types of suit jacket lapels. There are three primary types, including notched, peaked and shawl. Additionally, the size and width of lapels vary. So, which type of lapel should you choose? Honestly, you shouldn't worry too much about the lapel style and instead choose a high-quality jacket that fits your personal preference. Lapels are just one of many features to consider when choosing a suit jacket. Even more important is the size, which will directly affect how the jacket looks on your body.