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Suit Lapel Types: What They Are and When to Wear Them

The lapel of a suit may seem like a small detail, but it can significantly impact your overall look. There are different types of lapels to choose from, each with its own unique style and purpose. This article will provide education about the different types of suit lapels, their distinguishing features, context, and appropriate occasions to wear each style.

Suit Lapel Types

What is a lapel?

A lapel is an underappreciated component in men’s suits. It is what determines how formal a suit is and what personality it has, and you can choose from different types of suit lapels to match your body type, occasion, and personal style.

Of the different types of lapels for suit jackets, you can choose not only the style but the size. More and more people are investing in wide or slim/narrow lapels to go with slim or wide ties. This helps offset different body types, providing slimming or widening effects based on your preferences.

The style helps you compliment your body type, show off your personal style, and wear the right outfit for the right occasion. Some suit designs remain the quintessential mark of a black tuxedo, while others are more flexible and meant for casual social events.

Types of lapels on suits

Lapels are part of the fabric that goes from the collar down either side of the suit jacket to where the buttons begin. Types of lapels on suits are defined by how they look where the collar of the jacket and the lapel meet. This is referred to as the “gorge.”

Different lapels on suits can help you dress for your body frame, weight, and height.

Notch Lapel

The notch lapel is the most common of the suit lapel types.

As the name suggests, its most identifying feature is a notch or opening that takes on the appearance of a small step in the lapel. This notch has an open gorge where the collar and lapel come together. This is where the seam and the step happen. The notch open space has a ninety-degree angle.

Types of Lapels on Suits

The notch lapel pairs well with any body type or face shape, so you don’t have to worry if you are tall, short, wide, athletic, or trim. You can wear these types of lapel in suits for business meetings, dinners out on the town, or other formal events.

Note: In the UK, this is referred to as a “step collar.”

Peak Lapel

Different types of suit lapels have different angles at the gorge. The peak lapel has a closed gorge, but the lapel goes beyond the collar as if reaching out or pointing to the shoulder. This is where it derives its name of “peak,” like a mountain peak sticking out above the collar.

These different types of suit lapels are standard for tuxedo jackets or other double-breasted suits. It is not suited for, no pun intended, single-breasted suits.

Peak Lapel

These types of lapels on suits are best for:

  • Short men

  • Heavyset men

  • Men with round faces like hearts, oval, or round shapes

The peaked angle sharpens the softer face angles and can add slimness and height to the body.

Note: In the UK, this is referred to as a “point lapel.”

Shawl Lapel

The shawl suits lapel types are given their name because they do not have an open gorge. Instead, they continually wrap around from the collar, all in one piece, much like a shawl drapes over the shoulders.

Different lapels on suits induce formality, and the shawl lapel is the staple of formality. In fact, they are only found with black tie attire. You often see the shawl types of lapel in suits that serve as a smoking jacket.

Shawl Lapel

These types of lapels on suits are best for:

  • Tall men

  • Thin men

  • Men with angular faces like diamond, triangle, or square faces

The round design of the shawl can soften sharper face angles.

Tip: The shawl lapel works well on single or double-breasted jackets.

Slim or Narrow Lapel

More recently, slim or narrow lapel designs have become very popular. These lapels are typically thinner than three inches. They work well with single or double-breasted suit jackets and can serve for several occasions that are less formal, making them ideal for dinner parties, social events, casual networking, and relaxed business meetings.

These types of lapels on suits are best for:

  • Thin men, as they accentuate athletic builds

Wide Lapel

Larger lapels can add a lot of size and dimension to the appearance of the suit jacket, and this can be ideal for larger individuals who don't want particularly slim or narrow lapels or ties making them look even bigger than they are. For that reason, many taller and broader people are choosing wide lapels.

A shorter, wider man can benefit from a wide peak lapel over a standard peak lapel, for example, helping to add more size to the suit to detract from the size of the man. Conversely, an average-height male with an athletic build could use a narrow lapel with a notch design for networking and business events, producing a slimming effect.

Wide Lapel

These types of lapels on suits are best for:

  • Tall men

  • Wide men

Note: In the case of both broad and slim or narrow lapels, the width of the different types of suit lapels can still be combined with the shawl, peak, or notch design. If you are interested in wide or narrow lapels, you can work with a retailer to get made-to-measure styles that work for your situation and body type.

Summing Up

Knowing the types of lapels on suits can give you the confidence to walk into a store and order something you know will complement your body type. Moreover, you'll be confident in your decision to pick a lapel that fits the formality of your event, whether it's a black-tie dinner or a business meeting. If you genuinely need one option that works for several occasions, stick with the traditional and popular notch lapel.

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