Back in part one of the Suit Series we went over the difference between single-breasted and double-breasted suits, their stylings, and why a man would opt for one or the other. Once you’ve past that point in the custom design process, the next decision you make is very important: What lapels should you select?
Before getting into what lapel to pick and why, we need a brief jacket anatomy lesson. Jacket lapels sit on the chest, and jacket collars hug the back of the neck. The point at which they meet is called the gorge (usually placed around the clavicle in modern-day suits), and the appearance of the gorge will help you identify what type of lapel you’re looking at.
This is the most common lapel style and is traditionally only proper on SB jackets (except for tuxedo jackets). When the gorge is left open and the bottom corner of the collar mirrors the top corner of the lapel, you have a notched lapel. In addition to only being proper on SB jackets, it’s definitely the safest bet for daytime business attire.
When the gorge is closed and the lapel juts upward and outward toward the shoulder, you’re looking at a peaked lapel. Less common than notched lapels, they’re generally not good for daytime business wear. On the other hand, they’re great for more fashion-forward suits and are great for SB tuxedos. Traditionally speaking, DB jackets are only appropriate with peaked lapels.
A bit of a misnomer, you know you’re looking at a shawl collar when there is no gorge at all. The collar and lapel are one piece, and there are no pointed edges. Shawl collars are traditionally reserved for SB tuxedos and smoking jackets.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO CHOOSE?
- First, think of the type of garment that you’re ordering. Is this going to be your job interview suit? A three-piece for your wedding? The tux you plan to wear twice a year for the next fifteen years? All these things matter, and we’re obviously more than happy to offer sound guidance in this regard, but the idea here is to always keep your audience (and their perception of your image) in mind.
- Second, consider your body type. For example, a single-breasted tuxedo can take either peaked lapels or a shawl collar. For smaller-framed men, the peaked lapel’s outward swoops toward the shoulder will add height and breadth to your build, making them a wise choice. On broad-shouldered men, those same lapels will over-accentuate what you naturally have, so going the route of the shawl collar would be the right move here.
- Third, don’t forget that this is a custom process and that your personal taste is an important factor. The small-framed guy from the example above may benefit from peaked lapels but might really, really want a shawl collar for the old-school panache that it creates. If your tastes are that particular, take the bull by the horns and enjoy.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Suit Series: vents.