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Peak Lapel vs Notch Lapel: How and When To Wear Each?

Though subtle to many, a peak vs notch lapel is notably different in terms of the vibe it adds to the outfit. Here’s everything you need to know.

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I prefer to be casual, but I’ve always been a stickler for dress codes. That being the case, details and exceptions are important to me. If you see me wearing a sports watch with my tuxedo, I did it on purpose — ‘twas no accident.

You may not know the difference between a peak lapel and a notch lapel. In fact, when looking at two jackets, you may not even realize that one is the former and the other the latter. But, you may gravitate towards one because of its look.

I’m going to break down the differences between the two. This way, you can optimize your attire for every dress code and learn more about what fuels your personal style.

Let’s start by asking what a notch lapel is.

Peak Lapel vs Notch Lapel: What Is a Notch Lapel?

Notch lapels are the most common style, found in formal business suits as well as casual blazers. They get their name because they’re literally notched. The top of the lapel features a v-shaped outer silhouette towards the jacket collar.

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It’s classic and adaptable. It fits in casual, smart casual, and formal settings. It doesn’t stand out, and that’s a good thing. This is why notched lapels are most common on single-breasted suits and preferable on single-breasted suits, at least according to sartorial traditionalists. 

I should mention that wider lapels might have deeper indents, giving a more dramatic look. Of course, this would stand out more than a slimmer lapel.

Choosing between slimmer or broader notch lapels is completely up to personal preferences. However, it’s important to consider body types.

A notched lapel beyond the four-and-a-quarter-inch mark sits more naturally on wider chests. Anywhere between three and a half and four inches is a more traditional look.

Now you know what a notched lapel is. So, what is a peak lapel?

What Is a Peak Lapel? How It’s Different From a Notch Lapel Suit

The peak lapel features more of a slice rather than a notch up towards the collar. The bottom portion beneath this “slice” points up a bit, peaking out from the piece above the slice. It’s essentially notch-less, with a peak at the edge of the lapel, hence the name.

It’s often wider and has a far more formal, bold, and striking design than its understated, notched counterpart. You can find this lapel style in formal business suits and tuxedos. Most designers consider it too dressy to pair with more casual jackets and blazers.

Even more, the peak lapel pairs beautifully with both double-breasted and single-breasted jackets. It’s an excellent option if you want to go for a highly formal black or white tie look. Or a power suit with a la ‘80s investment banker aesthetic.

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Stick to a lapel at three and a half inches or more. If the lapel is too skinny, the peaks will look too dramatic. Still, you don’t want to go beyond about four and a half inches, or you’ll go full zoot suit. But hey, maybe that’s what you’re going for.

Just know that there’s enough visual broadness on a peak lapel. As such, you don’t need to go physically broader than four and a half inches.

Alright, now you know the difference between a peaked lapel and a notched one. But did you know that there’s an even more formal option, especially for tuxedos?

Let’s look at shawl vs peak lapel tuxedos next. 

Shawl vs Peak Lapel Tuxedo

For extra formal events, go for shawl lapels. They’re the dressiest types of lapels. The lapel sports a smooth silhouette. It’s a continuous strip with no notches, peaks, or slices. It often has a silky satin finish, especially on a tuxedo.

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It’s a cleaner and more sophisticated look than a striking peak-lapel tuxedo.

My tuxedo is midnight blue with a velvet shawl lapel. I often wear it with dark brown whole-cut Oxfords. 

While you can find peak lapels on tuxedos and business suits, shawl lapels are only for tuxedos and dinner jackets.

I find it interesting that old-world casual and the highest forms of sartorial formality overlap. 

Some of the most formal attire is tuxedos with shawl lapels, similar to those on dressing robes. Meanwhile, the most formal dress shoes are slippers, such as opera pumps. You certainly don’t want to pair a notch-lapel suit with a velvet opera pump.

So there you go. You now know the difference between a notch vs peak lapel and a shawl lapel.

Conclusion: Choose Accordingly

When it comes to a peak lapel vs notch lapel, here’s a quick rundown.

If you want to look classic and subdued in a formal suit or a business suit, go for a notch lapel. 

If you want to look casual, also go for a notch lapel. A blazer or sports coat paired with jeans and suede loafers is a good example. Or perhaps you’re wearing a T-shirt, blazer, and chinos to a night out.

If you want to look strikingly formal, go for a peak lapel. Perhaps you’re wearing a solid suit and tie to a business meeting. Or, for a country club party, go for a double-breasted navy suit jacket, a club tie, and silky khaki-colored trousers. An on-theme lapel pin or pocket square would tie this all together beautifully.

A peak lapel tuxedo is also a good option for a black-tie or white-tie formal.

To really level up the dressiness, though, go for a shawl lapel. Perhaps it’s opening night at the opera. Or maybe you were invited to a stately white-tie wedding with a strict dress code. A shawl-collar tuxedo is your best bet for the fanciest parties.

Did you know the difference between a peak lapel vs notch lapel prior to today? Do you have a preference for either? Let me know in the comments!

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