The ever-classic peak lapel makes a rakish modern day comeback
While the notch lapel jacket has been a staple of men’s style since its introduction, the peak lapel has been a bit more divisive. As such, it’s seen swings of popularity and decline, though of course it has never completely faded from the menswear world.
Let’s first take a look at construction. Whereas the notch lapel is pretty self-explanatory, the peak lapel is a bit more vague. The difference lies exactly where the notch does – where the fabric of the collar meets the fabric of the lapel. Instead of the concave notch, a peak lapel juts out with an extended, triangular point that reaches upwards towards the shoulder.
The size of the ‘peak’ can actually vary pretty widely depending on the style of the jacket. Regardless, just by the nature of extending at all, a peak lapel tends to come out wider than a notch lapel. As such, it’s often paired successfully with wider ties, which might explain some of the fluctuations in its popularity.
While skinny notch lapels fit perfectly with the skinny ties of the 1960s, it was the wide ties of the 1970s that really brought peak lapels to their peak (pun very much intended). Throw in the over-the-top boldness that was so favored in those days and a big flashy peak lapel was about damn near as good as it got.
Peak lapels stayed big – both in use and size, sorry don’t stop me when I’m on a roll – through the 1980s before being somewhat abandoned during the more drab, casual, down-played and grungy fashions of the 1990s. Now, in the 2010s the style is coming back into vogue with the resurgence of interest in classic tailoring.
Which brings us to the peak lapel today, and the ways it can be worn. As mentioned, peak lapels tend to at least appear on the wider side, making them a solid choice for wider ties and shirt collars.
That said, it has also become quite easy, not to mention rather common, to find much subtler takes on the peak lapel that work just as well with more slender shirt and tie choices. Versatility is always the name of the game.
When it comes to formality, the peak lapel falls into a kind of funky middle ground. On a structured business suit, it’s definitely a power move that puts it above a standard notch lapel. That said, it’s flashier at the same time, so maybe not a great choice for a young professional just starting to climb his way up the corporate ladder.
A peak lapel is also a common choice for a tuxedo, which is obviously about as dressy as it comes. On the other hand, on a more unstructured jacket, a peak lapel can be a fun way to add some serious panache to a more casual look. Like so many style decisions, it’s one that’s very malleable. It’s just up to you to steer it in the right direction.