What is a Lapel? – How to Choose the Right Style for Your Suit

By  Mac Molli
Updated on 01/24/24
What is a Lapel? – How to Choose the Right Style for Your Suit

What is a Lapel? – How to Choose the Right Style for Your Suit

By  Mac Molli
Updated on 01/24/24
Groom Hacks

Part of the Groom Hacks

What is a Lapel? – How to Choose the Right Style for Your Suit

By  Mac Molli
Updated on 01/24/24

With all of the materials, colors, and styles out there, choosing the right suit for your wedding can be an overwhelming task. Decisions about theme, location, and dress code only add to the complexity of finding the perfect attire for your special day.

It’s easy to feel lost and frustrated when trying to coordinate all these elements to create the ultimate look for your wedding. One small yet significant detail that can make a big impact on your suit’s overall appearance is the lapel. Without understanding the different styles and uses of lapels, you might end up with an ensemble that looks mismatched or out of place.

Fret not, because we’re here to help you navigate the world of lapels with ease.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the basics of lapels: what they are, how they’re used, and which style is best suited for the look you’re trying to create. By the end, you’ll not only be a lapel expert, but also have a clearer idea of how to style them in creative ways that will elevate your wedding suit to new heights. Stay tuned and say goodbye to your wedding wardrobe woes!

What is a Lapel?

Confused groom holding his lapel
Lapels are the flaps of folded cloth on the front of a suit jacket, coat, or blazer. They are usually connected to, or part of the collar. Like trench coats, chinos, and bomber jackets, the suit lapel owes its existence to the military. Lapels were originally to protect soldiers’ necks and chests from heavy winds and cold. 

These days, lapels are mostly decorative. There are three main types of suit lapels. Among them are the notch lapel (also referred to as notched lapels), the peak lapel (sometimes called peaked lapels), and the shawl lapel. We’ll provide more details about each of these in a later section.

What is the Purpose of a Lapel?

In the late-18th and early 19th centuries, soldiers’ coats featured large lapels with button holes. By flattening the jacket lapels on top of each other and securing the fabric with a button, the men could shield themselves from bad weather. These oversized lapels soon showed up in 19th-century Regency fashion. At that time, they were usually folded backward and left open. 

Over time, lapels lost their functional purpose. As a result, they became smaller and smaller, with the exception of the wide peak lapels popular in the 1970s. Like lapels, modern-day button holes (also called boutonnieres) are mainly decorative. Although no longer an essential element of jackets, lapels on a jacket or suit say a lot about your personal style. In addition, they’re another way for same-sex couples to coordinate outfits

What are the Different Suit Lapel Styles?

There are three different main types of suit lapels. Let’s take a closer look to see what they look like and what kind of style statement each one makes.
Types of lapels

  • Notched lapels 

The most common and popular lapel style. This understated style is recognizable by a 75- to 90-degree v-shaped opening where the bottom of the collar meets the top end of the lapel. Lapels measuring less than 90 degrees are sometimes referred to as fish-mouth lapels. Although a notched lapel is most often found as a jacket lapel on casual jackets, you can find a notched lapel on more formal coats as well. That said, you won’t find these jacket lapels on tuxedos or double-breasted suits

  • Peaked lapels 

Of all of the lapel styles, the peaked lapel is the most formal. Unlike notch lapels that have an opening, peaked lapels have no slit missing. Rather, they extend outward and upward past the collar. They’re common on double-breasted suits and tuxedo jackets. Choose this style for weddings, especially white-tie events, but make sure to avoid it for funerals or job interviews.  

  • Shawl lapels 

Also called a shawl collar, this formal style gives tuxedos an extra touch of sophistication. In this style, there’s no separation between the collar and the lapel. 

How Wide Should Lapels Be?

Regardless of which type of lapel you select, it’s important to be aware of its width. More specifically, you want to choose a lapel width that’s in line with current fashion trends and one that coordinates with the width of your tie

When it comes to trends, you don’t need to worry about lapel widths changing too often. But your grandfather’s ultra-wide lapelled suit from the 1970s? Better to avoid it. As far as coordinating with your tie, it’s pretty simple. A skinnier tie is best suited to a skinnier lapel and vice versa.  

All of that said, look for a lapel with a width of about 3 ⅜ inches (8.6 cm) at its widest point. Not only will this keep you on trend, but it also ensures that the notch or peak reaches halfway between the tip of the lapel and your shoulder.

How to Decorate a Lapel

Decorating a lapel
Choosing a lapel style is just the first step in customizing your wedding attire. If you want to add an extra personal touch, then consider adding a lapel pin to your ensemble. From national flags to whimsical animals, there’s no shortage of designs, materials, and colors to choose from. Still, most grooms and groomsmen opt for floral boutonnieres at weddings. 

Lapel pin placement is key. Whether wearing a single- or double-breasted suit, the pin should be attached to the left lapel, right near your heart. Many suits have a decorative buttonhole on the left side, so use the hole to insert the pin or clip. If there’s no buttonhole, simply attach the pin to the upper part of the left lapel. 

Suit Lapel Styles FAQs

Why do suit jackets have a hole in the lapel?

When lapels had a more functional purpose (i.e. protecting the wearer from cold and windy conditions), the lapel hole allowed the wearer to button the jacket all the way up. Nowadays, the hole serves a solely decorative purpose, allowing the wearer to accessorize with flowers or a lapel pin. 

Why do some lapels have two buttonholes?

You’ll typically find lapels with two buttonholes only on double-breasted suits. This style features two rows of buttons down the right and left sides of the jacket. In order to maintain this symmetry, this style of jacket also features a buttonhole on each lapel. 

Why do men wear lapel pins?

Historically, military men wore metal lapel pins to show membership in a particular branch, organization, or mission. Nowadays, men wear them to finish off their outfits with a bit of personality. Boutonnieres and other floral lapel pins are popular accessories for special occasions like proms and weddings. 

What color lapel pins should I wear?

Try to blend the color of your lapel pin with your suit. A lapel pin should be used to tie your entire outfit together, rather than compete with your tie or pocket square. If you’re not sure which lapel pin to wear, you can never go wrong with a neutral like cream or gray.  

Can you wear a lapel pin without a suit? 

Feel free to sport a lapel pin even if you’re not wearing a suit and tie. Just make sure to pay attention to the lapel pin location or placement. You want to place the pin on the suit where the coat lapel usually falls. That means attaching the pin on the left side of your shirt close to your heart.

Plan Your Wedding Look with The Groom Club

Choosing the right lapel from the notched vs peaked vs shawl is essential, but it’s not everything. You also need to figure out which kind of suit you’re going to wear, choose which accessories to incorporate, and select the perfect pair of shoes to tie the whole look together.

If that sounds overwhelming, The Groom Club has you covered. Check out our complete Wedding Attire Guide for step-by-step instructions on selecting the right suit based on the dress code, season, and ceremony location. 


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