Know Your Terms: Lapels

Photo: GQ.com

Bradley Cooper, peak performer.

Most gentlemen (including yourself, no doubt) know the difference between a notch, peak, and shawl lapel. What’s less commonly known — but just as important — is where each style should be worn, and which type of jacket looks best with each. Here’s the lowdown.

The Notch
The notch lapel takes its name from the triangular cutaway, or “gorge,” where the collar meets the lapel, and is the easiest to wear. It’s also the most versatile, showing up on everything from rumpled summer suits to formalwear — though purists will insist that a tux should feature only peak or shawl lapels.

The Peak
Favored by classicists from Tom Ford to Al Capone, the peak lapel gets its name from the point that extends upwards towards the wearer’s shoulders. More commonly found on tuxedos and double breasted suits, the peak tends to give the wearer the appearance of power and stature, and is the most formal of the three lapel styles. Found on single breasted business suits, it’s a serious statement typically linked to wide lapels and 1970s excess (think: Gucci jetsetters), and is therefore the most daring of the bunch.

The Shawl
Originally found on Victorian-era smoking jackets (considered informal eveningwear in those days), the shawl lapel is now seen most commonly on tuxedos and velvet smoking jackets, and is a great option for weddings, black tie affairs, and nights playing Baccarat at Monte Carlo Casino. Fans of the rounded style include James Bond (worn particularly well by both Sean Connery and Daniel Craig), Hugh Heffner (whose maroon dressing gowns are always perfectly curved), and Clooney, that old dog.

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