When choosing a suit, you want to get every little detail right, especially the lapels. This flap of fabric running underneath the collar on either side of your jacket's front is a crucial style choice. It frames the chest and tie and adds to the overall look of the suit or tuxedo.
Here, you'll learn what to choose between the peak vs. notch lapels, two popular options for tuxedos and suits.
While considered a critical detail, many people may not notice the differences in lapel styles. There are three main types of lapels, including notch, peak, and shawl, with the first two being the most common options for suits. They vary in design, appearance, length, and formality levels. For example, shawl lapels are almost always on tuxedos for black tie and formal events. In contrast, notch lapels are much more versatile, and you probably already have a business suit with them.
Let's dive deeper into notch and peak lapels' physical characteristics.
Peak lapels have sharp upturned edges ending in a single point, also known as the "peak." Traditionally, you'll see them mostly in double-breasted suits, dinner jackets, or tuxedos. These strong points exude a bold and assertive look. Peak lapels were popularized in the 1920s and ebbed and flowed in popularity for tuxedos and suits alike.
Peak lapels are naturally wider than notch and shawl lapels. They can provide a natural broadness to a suit and pair well with wider ties or large bowties to frame the look.
A suit with peak lapels is appropriate in business environments and formal events. Ultimately, they add a bit of sharpness, often paired with more conservative colors like black, dark gray, and navy blue.
Notch lapels are more common and appear on single-breasted suits of varying styles. The notch or "step" forms a sideways V-like indentation where the lapel ends below the collar. Typically, these notches will be at a 75- to 90-degree angle.
While mostly classic and somewhat traditional, the notch offers more versatility than the peak lapel and is much more common.
They create a more subdued and refined look, creating a balanced style for semi-formal and more relaxed events. Since they are not a style statement by themselves, you'll need to use other suit details like color pallets and accessories to form your desired look.
Notch and peak lapels ultimately communicate distinct styles and feel. While that can help your overall look, you'll also need to match them to the specific event. Consider asking the host for the dress code to ensure you choose correctly. This will ensure you have the right style and won't feel out of place. However, some general guidelines exist on when to go with one and not the other.
Peak lapels are somewhat flamboyant. Since they stand out, they're best for high-status formal events where you want to make a bold statement. Some of these events might include:
It's rare to find an event where notch lapels aren't acceptable. They're a safe choice for everyday events and can be used for more formal events. However, they mainly look stylish on occasions such as:
The notch lapel is the way to go for more common, semi-formal occasions. This is especially true if you don't like drawing too much attention to yourself but still want to look your best.
While both peak and notch lapels can look good depending on the occasion, they both have distinct advantages and drawbacks. Keeping their benefits in mind will help guide you to a choice that enhances your personal style in the appropriate setting.
The peak lapel has many benefits, and choosing them is right for you if you want your suit to exude these characteristics:
However, there can be a few drawbacks to peak lapels in certain situations:
With their highly relaxed appearance, wearing notch lapels can have multiple advantages, including:
On the other hand, there are a few drawbacks associated with notch lapels:
While both are commonly used for suit and tuxedo styles, the peak and notch lapels have different origins. Their rich history has dramatically influenced their uses today.
The peak lapel has two important historical points that led to its specific use and style today. These lapels trace back to Victorian-era men's fashion when they first appeared on morning coats and tailcoats. These articles of clothing were seen as essentials for a gentleman's wardrobe and were prominent in high-society functions. Today, peak lapels continue to exude this same air of sophistication.
However, peak lapels weren't just on the jackets of Victorian gentlemen. They also appeared on the double-breasted jackets of naval officers. The sharp upturned peak matched the precise, disciplined, and authoritative aesthetic that many officers preferred. As peak lapels were adopted among many 20th-century military organizations, they became increasingly popular with civilians, too. This solidified their appearance of authoritativeness and bold style.
Notch lapels have a history that is less stooped in formality. They first appeared on lounge suits as a cross between the shawl lapel and the peak lapel at the end of the 19th and 20th centuries. During the 1950s and 1960s, they came to prominence and became the lapel of choice for most business casual environments.
Various celebrities and essential figures have used these lapel types for different events. Using them as style role models can help you look your best and create a distinct aesthetic for any occasion.
Known for his iconic style, James Bond has frequently sported both shawl and peak lapels on his tuxedos and suits. Notice how the peaks align with Bond's distinct authoritative, sophisticated, and confident persona. You'll especially notice suits with peak lapels during black tie events, dinners, and on his most formal occasions.
Renowned fashion designer Tom Ford also loves to use peak lapels to create suits and tuxedos with a classy, eye-catching, and elegant appeal.
Sure, class and elegance are often associated with the peak lapel. Still, many celebrities have sported the notch lapels for a relaxed yet classical fit. Steve McQueen was known for his timeless style and wore notch lapel suits both off and on screen.
Ryan Gosling, known for his sharp fashion, also frequently sports the notch lapel, matching his laid-back, approachable, yet elegant demeanor.
Because of their ubiquitous appeal, it's hard to find celebrities that don't regularly wear suits with notch lapels. Events that would be otherwise considered formal in Hollywood frequently see examples with famous actors such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Tom Hardy. Because of more lax contemporary fashion trends, some celebrities will also wear tuxedos with notch lapels.
Both peak and notch lapels can enhance your look for a stylish and distinguished appeal. Peak lapels are more formal, bold, and striking, while notch lapels are more classical, relaxed, and subdued. Ultimately, your choice between peak vs. notch lapels will depend on your style preferences and the event's formality.
Black tie events are good opportunities to exude some sophistication with the peak lapel. On the other hand, more relaxed occasions such as semi-formal weddings are suitable for both. Your final choice might also be a matter of practicality. Do you need a suit for everyday office wear, or do you frequently receive invitations for highly formal charity dinners? Ideally, both a peak lapel suit and the notch lapel suit will be valuable additions to your wardrobe that prepare you for any occasion.