• SumoMe

This lesson in the Suits 101 series shows the different types of lapels on a suit and what those various types of lapels are generally used for. The lapel is the part of the suit that runs from the collar bone to the top button on the inside seam where the suits meets itself.

As a general disclaimer: most people won’t notice your lapels. Unless they are interested in menswear, the lapel shape will go right past the run-of-the-mill person you encounter. However, what you wear (and how you wear it) is more about your own personal feelings than the expectations of others. Therefore, the suit you choose will ever so slightly (or more) influence your feelings and outlook on life on that particular day. What is great about the featured images below is how Bond’s overall attitude in each picture reflects how I envision the “feel” of the different types of lapels. Ok, now on to the important stuff:

There are three main types of lapels: the notch, the peak, and the shawl. In actuality there are many other types of lapels, but most of them are variations on these main three. As usual, we look to James Bond for menswear and attitude awesomeness:

The Notch

The notch lapel comes in various sizes, but is always the same shape. This lapel looks like the point of two arrows pointing in at itself.

The notch is the most prevalent lapel style in suits these days. This is mostly because the notch lapel is so versatile. The other two lapel styles are very distinctive and showy, and the notch lapel is a great suggestion for a first-time suit wearer.

You want to find a suit with a notch lapel that is just the size shown by Bond. A really small notch lapel (called a “fishmouth”) sort of makes the jacket look like something is missing. Some prefer this look, but I definitely wouldn’t suggest it for new suit-wearers because completing the suit requires other small accessories like pocket squares that are generally required to prevent looking like a mook.

The Peak

Where the notch looks like a notch, the peak looks like… well… a peak. It’s distinctive point skyward is a super-formal and super-powerful look that should only be used when you’re the man of the hour. Your wedding, the lead attorney, that business deal, your big speech–any time where you need to say “I’m here and in charge,” you should sport some peak lapels.

To that end, do not wear peak lapels on dates, to job interviews, or for everyday wear. Wearing one on a date is arrogant, at a job interview lacks humility, and sporting one daily takes away its power.

The older peak lapel suits are almost exclusively double-breasted, but modern trends have moved towards one or two button jackets.

After you’ve mastered the basics, all men should seek out a good peak lapel suit. Only James Bond should rock the white on white suit, though.

 The Shawl

The shawl lapel is the most casual lapel of the three. As you see, the shawl has no cuts and looks like the front of a smoking jacket or bath robe. Hence its casualness.

Generally, you will only see a shawl lapel on tuxedos. However, much like with the peak lapel, modern trends are moving towards shawl lapel one-button jackets. This is the ultimate “I’m casual but still the boss” look–don’t forget your leopard-print shoes.

You should wear a shawl lapel at times that are directly opposite from the peak lapel. Shawl lapels are great for parties, gambling, or blending in–all things James Bond excels at.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the shawl lapel. I’d rather just wear a notch lapel for casual wear. However, I’ve never personally owned a shawl lapel jacket, so maybe I can still be convinced later on in life.

Which style is your favorite? Give your opinion in the comments below.