Lapel Styles

Some of Our Common Lapel Styles

Lapels on a suit coat are supremely non-functional.  One could, indeed, do without them entirely without changing the function of the suit in any way.

But fashion begins to grow rich and strange at the very moment that function stops.  Indeed one might best think of a lapel as a type of “fetish.”  Its only purpose is to symbolize, to mean.

More than any other element of a suit jacket, the lapel is expressive.

Narrow Lapels

Narrow lapels express youth and agility.  Wide lapels express confidence and authority.

Wide 3-Button Lapels

The first decision when thinking about lapel style in a single-breasted jacket is to choose between a two and a three button style (or, less commonly, between a one, four, or five button style).  This is the strongest determinant of lapel length as it effects the “break point,” the point where the suit front folds over to become a lapel.

Some customers believe that the number of buttons on a jacket should be at least partially determined by one’s body type.

Using only two buttons will make the break point for the suit lower, creating a more horizontal effect.  With three buttons, the lapels are shorter:  they “top off” the suit

An Unstructured Style with 4 Buttons and Wide Notch Lapels

But tying this to body type often makes for confusion.  Should the tall skinny customer want a suit that is more vertical (accentuating his height) or more horizontal (balancing out his height)?  What about a portly customer?  Will a two button suit make him seem shorter and wider?

Pronounced Peak Lapels

In general, I don’t believe that body type alone should determine the number of buttons and the lapel shape of a jacket.  Much of the subtle work of tailoring is figuring out how to make each and every style look great no matter who is wearing it.

It must be confessed that a long three button jacket is particularly dramatic on a tall slim figure and that wide two-button lapels on a stocky gentleman give an air of natural authority.

Wide Lapels with Gentle Peaks

A larger chest and waist size call for bolder details, while the same lapels on someone slender could only make the neck, chest, and head seem weak and shrunken.

So certainly some attention must be paid to body type when working out a style, but this is more a matter of subtle work than of hard and fast rules.

The choice between peak and notch lapels is another significant choice.  With a peak lapel, the lower portion of the collar angles upward and reaches toward the upper collar.

Certainly, the peak lapel makes for a more dramatic effect.  Used correctly, the peak lapel can add distinction and formality to a suit.  It can also, on a youthful suit, have give an almost punk or rocker touch, especially when the look is exaggerated.

If you aren’t sure quite what type of lapel to go for, as us to sketch you some different options.

There are hundreds of slightly different variations that we can use to craft the perfect lapel, so tell us more about who you are and we will design the lapel to suit you.

Patch Pocket Double-Breasted Reefer Suit

On an overcoat or peacoat, a double-breasted style can serve to keep the wind out. It can make a significant difference as to whether you stay warm and dry.

But on a suit jacket, the traditional role of a double-breasted style is to waste fabric and buttons. The first purpose of the double-breast is to express a certain decadence, to say that one prefers to have more…

A double-breasted jacket stands opposed to puritanism and Protestant simplicity. Throughout history, the double-breasted jacket has served to symbolize the aristocrat, the decadent artist, the well-off gentleman and the “greed is good” Wall Street banker.

Double-Breasted Tailcoat with Covered Buttons

Classic Peak Lapels on a Double-Breasted Houndstooth Suit

A secondary use of the double-breasted style is that of bringing to mind military dress.

Much military clothing over the last several centuries has been double-breasted, partially, no doubt, because of the desire to stay warm in the elements, and partially because a double-breasted style is ideal for showing off extra rows of brass buttons, braid, and medals.

Double-breasted styles go in and out of fashion depending on the spirit of the age. The more austere and modern the prevailing spirit, the more the double-breasted style seems conservative, wasteful, unnecessary. But the more decadent the spirit, the more that the style charms, feeling more luxuriant, rich, and manly.

Chic, Clean, and Single-Breasted.

The double-breasted style, with a few tweaks, can transform from a Mod look to an Edwardian look. And from the dress of a poet, to that of a banker.

The single-breasted style needs no such introduction, of course. It doesn’t require an explanation the way that a double-breasted jacket does.

As the single-breasted style is the most standard jacket style, it is more flexible. The hem can be shaped from crisp and straight to youthful and cut away.

No doubt most customers will always prefer a single breasted jacket simply because it is less remarkable. Particularly so long as the age is one that values function and clean lines.