Should you wear a notch, peak or shawl? That depends on the occasion, and we’ve got you covered with a quick overview of each style.
NOTCH LAPELS – THE STANDARD ONES
Most single-breasted suits and blazers have notch lapels. They’re the standard ones you’re most used to seeing around, especially if you’re shopping for a classic suit to wear to work. The notch looks like a sideways ‘v’ where the collar meets the lapel, with a visible gap in the fabric.
Why are these the most standard ones? Quite simply, they’re the easiest for tailors to make. And it means they have an understated look that’s a bit more relaxed than others. Still, they’re pretty smart, so choose a jacket with notch lapels when you’ve got to make a great first impression at an interview, or if you want to be a modest wedding guest. Every man should have at least one smart jacket with a notch lapel – it’s a staple.
If you want to slim down your chest and shoulders, notch lapels are the ones to go for.
PEAK LAPELS – THE DRESSED-UP ONES
Here’s where things get a bit more interesting. These are fancier lapels that make more of a style statement than standard notch lapels. The bottom edge of each lapel points upwards and the peak sits higher up on the shoulder.
Peak lapels first came about in France back in the 16th century when Louis XIV’s was king – hence the fanciness. They’re not the easiest of lapels to make, so they were generally reserved for tails and morning coats. But when fashion had a refresh in the 1920s, tailors started adding peak lapels to more casual jackets, making them much more popular for the everyday.
They’re not just reserved for special occasions anymore. Wear a suit with peak lapels when you want to stand out at work or raise your game at a dressed-up party.
And where notch lapels slim the chest, peak lapels broaden the shoulders.
SHAWL LAPELS – THE REALLY FANCY ONES
The only place you’ll normally see shawl lapels is on a dinner jacket. They have no break in the fabric – just a single piece of material that gets narrower as it reaches the buttons in a sweeping curve.
First seen on Victorian smoking jackets, shawl lapels are definitely more play than business. Today, they’re only really at home at black tie events. If you wear one, you’re likely to wear a bow tie too, but it’s not a faux pas to wear a normal tie.
You’ll often find shawl lapels are made from a material that contrasts with the rest of the jacket, like a black lapel on a wine-red background. If there is a contrast, the buttons usually match the lapel, and the idea is to match your tie to the same colour.