Style Defined: Shawl Lapel

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While a shawl lapel is often black, it doesn't have to be. However, it is usually made in satin or grossgrain material in order to contrast with the jacket fabric.

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Simple and elegant, it's a look that is reserved for formal occasions.

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if there was ever a time to break out the velvet slippers, this is it.

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With formal attire, it's best to avoid wearing a wristwatch. Because of the simplicity of the outfit, a wristwatch will disrupt that in a bad way. Additionally, in terms of etiquette, if you're going to such a fancy party, why would you care what time it is?

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Know what I'm saying?

A guide to the uber-formal shawl lapel

With a shawl lapel, we’re right back to simple, self-explanatory menswear terms. A shawl lapel is exactly that – a shawl. That is, the lapel has no notch, no peak, but is a continuous strip of fabric running from lapel to collar to lapel, and only tapering off when it finally hits the button closure.

Generally, a shawl lapel is seen as one of the most formal lapel styles for a jacket. This is largely due to the fact that it’s used almost exclusively for tuxedo and formal dinner jackets. In these cases, the collar is usually a satin or grosgrain material in slight contrast to the jacket fabric. The lapel is usually black, but not always, as Brian wears here.

shawl lapel guide

Likewise, a shawl lapel jacket will usually have all the other attributes of a formal tuxedo jacket. For example, a single button closure and an often-ventless tail.

That said, to throw a wrench in a seemingly simple style, it’s become far less unusual these days to see a designer employ a ‘high/low’ motif by using a shawl collar on a decidedly casual such as a linen blazer or soft-shouldered cashmere sport coat.

shawl lapel guide

| BRIAN WEARS | Kingsman jacket, Ermengildo Zegna shirt, Dolce & Gabbana pants, Barney’s bow tie, Del Toro slippers | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

Regardless, a shawl lapel is obviously not nearly as versatile as a notch lapel, or even a peak lapel. And as shameful as it is to be underdressed, it can be just as big of a faux pas to show up to a ‘sharp-casual’ dinner date in a tuxedo, which will only leave your date feeling quite uncomfortable.

shawl lapel guide

Likewise, a shawl lapel is not appropriate on a business suit. In fact, it’s safe to say that it’s not for the day-to-day in general, and is better suited to special occasions.

Of course, in today’s quickly evolving world of men’s fashion, these rules are often put in flux. Heck, I personally have worn a shawl collar tuxedo jacket with a t-shirt and jeans, but it took the right occasion and the right crowd to pull it off.

shawl lapel guide

In a world with so many choices, it’s become harder and harder to definitively say which are correct. But the trick to successful styling is to approach each with deliberation and purpose!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Adam Lehman
He Spoke Style

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