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