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.
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.
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.
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.
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!