The Anatomy of a Suit Jacket

Suspenders or Braces

The Anatomy of a Suit Jacket: Lapels

A suit’s lapels are a major factor in shaping the impression of a suit, as they are a prominent design feature right in the centre and close to eye level. Lapels can be defined as flaps of fabric on each side of the suit jacket immediately below the collar and folded back.

Of the two lapel possibilities on a suit, the more common is the notch lapel, where the bottom of the collar meets the lapel at an angle that creates a v-shaped notch. Notched lapels only appear on single-breasted suit jackets.

Peak lapels can appear on single-breasted suits too but are fashion etiquette with a double-breasted. It is difficult to distinguish the peak lapel from the notch lapel in some cases because the peak lapel can also form an opening where it joins the collar. This spot where it meets the point of collar and lapel is called the gorge. The key distinction is that the peak lapel ends in a point that juts out beyond the collar. Peak lapels are more formal than notch lapels and project a greater sense of authority, which is why they often featured on power suits as well as on tuxedos and morning coats. For this reason, wearing peak lapels can be a daring workplace move unless one is already in a position of power.

A higher gorge lapel with peaks angled upward, can create an added sense of height in the wearer. As a general rule, the gorge should line up with your shoulder.

Another way to think about this is that the gorge should rest on your collarbone. A low gorge can be seen as either dated or classic depending on your perspective while a high gorge creates the impression of a broader chest and greater height.

More important for the appearance of a suit jacket other than the gorge placement is the lapel width, which can vary from skinny to rather wide.

As a rule, notch lapels in the area of 3 1/2 inches look good on most men, as they balance with the average tie width of 3 to 3 1/2 inches. Peak lapels tend to be wider (4+ inches). Wider lapels have the effect of amplifying the appearance of the chest at the expense of the shoulders, while narrower lapels promote the impression of wider shoulders by leaving space between the lapel and the arm; if the lapel fills that space, your shoulders can seem more narrow. Thin men can look more proportioned with narrower lapels, and big and tall men look better with wider lapels. Narrow lapels on a big man make it seem like he’s outgrown his childhood suit while big lapels on a thin man appear like he’s wearing something from dad.

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