I don’t generally like peak lapels on single-breasted suits. They aren’t necessarily wrong – although notch lapels are far more common, only the relatively inexperienced will tell you it is a ‘rule’ that SBs must have notch lapels (or indeed black tie have peak lapels). Have a look back through some 1930s stills or films and you will find plenty of evidence to the contrary.

But peak lapels, for me, often look short and stubby on a single-breasted jacket. More like little bat wings than long, elegant fins. On a double-breasted, the crossover allows the lapel a crucial few inches more, echoing the smart military style of a sash or cross-belt.

The image of Gary Cooper above I think illustrates the point. Part of the problem is that these old suits had a higher buttoning point – where the waist button, the top of a two-button suit, fastens. They were cut with that point on the natural waist, just below the ribs, where the trousers also sat. That leaves less room for lapel.

The only way to save a peak-lapel SB design, then, is to lower that buttoning point as much as possible. They tend to be a good couple of inches lower on high-street suits today, but bespoke tailors will often retain a high waist button, even if the trousers are cut rather lower. The proportions of the jacket, after all, are still mostly derived from the same system of cutting that was developed for the hunting coat, which buttoned high and cut away sharply to allow it to be worn closed while mounted.

High-street retailers still retain a high buttoning point sometimes, as shown in the Reiss suit opposite. But below, you can see the difference of just an inch or so, in an Armani suit being worn by Kobe Bryant. And it’s no coincidence that peak lapels were often cut for more formal, three-piece suits like the grey Bryant wears. As these may have been worn open more often, the lapel has rather more freedom.


Finally Gianluca Bocache, of the shop Sartoria Ripense in Rome, shows how the buttoning point can work well in a custom-made suit. I repeat that I don’t like peak lapels and I still think this would look better as a notch, but if you’re going to do it, then give the lapel a little more length.


Bryant images: GQ. Bocache image: The Sartorialist
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Matthew

I disagree. What really matters is the width of the lapel. If peaked lapels are narrow, they won’t look stubby even with a high button. On the other hand, if the peaked lapels are wide, they will look strange with either high or low buttons. With high buttons, they will look short and stubby. With low buttons, they will look loose and flappy.

The natural width of a lapel is the width it would be if it actually buttoned all the way up to the neck, instead of folding over. In the 30s, when lapels looked short and stubby, they were significantly wider than that. To look sleek and pointed, a peak lapel needs to be cut a little narrower than natural width. To look full and luxurious, as if showing off that the wearer has cloth and style to spare, they can be cut wider (something that’s hard to do with a notch lapel). Hence, the 30s look.

Anonymous

I think that they look better with wide lapels. Look at the Edward Sexton suits. I think they look fantastic.

/Anders

Anonymous

I don’t like them in general – they look too comical on a single breasted suit.

Christopher

I had a lovely one button, single breasted, peak lapel jacket made by John Kent for my wedding. When done well (like mine, but I’m biased!), I think it looks great.

Anonymous

SC– Could not agree with you more!!! Your first sentence sums it up.
If one thinks about the origins of a jacket buttoned at the collar, SB with a peak lapel makes no sense. You have only to visualize the line of lapels closed and buttoned to see what an awkward line it would create. –John

Paul F

Hello Simon,

Just FYI, Ripense and Gian Luca parted their ways. Gian Luca has opened a new store on his own (Bocache Salvucci) that is totally independant from Ripense. The latter has developed a new partnership with another shoemaker.

And to relate more to the topic, I do like single breasted peak lapel jackets as they offer another style, very chic, albeit less formal

Dan F.

Simon,
Interesting post and spot-on, in my opinion. I have an RLPL 3-piece (my favorite suit), but it only works (in my opinion) because of the lower button stance that allows more room for the lapels to “develop”.

On the other hand, I still appreciate the beauty of the lines in the 1930s version which is lovely to look at when done right, bat-wings and all. I did a post last year highlighting George Raft’s 3-piece SB with peaked lapels in Night After Night. Some of the touches are dated, but it still exudes a certain elegance (the high-waisted trousers, high button placement, high arm-hole positions, etc.)

http://uptowndandy.blogspot.com/2011/05/george-raft-americas-lost-sartorial.html

Dan F.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, I would like to add a small point to your anaysis above. I agree with you that peak lapels on single-breasted jackets are perfectly legitimate and very nice in theory, but the result is very often less flattering than expected, and you have already listed the reasons for that. One additional thing that I have noted, should one want to go for the peak lapels, is that on a single-breasted jacket they tend to work better with an Italian-style, rolled-lapel cut, where the movement of the rolled lapel helps giving a bit more plasticity to the lapel itself, all the way up to its peak. There is a memorable illustration of this on Alan Flusser’s “Dressing the Man” book, in a grey plaid suit worn by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.:
http://www.2dosesaday.com/post/12869202593/douglas-fairbanks-jr-gary-cooper-from-alan
Alex

Anonymous

Hi Christopher, could you possibly post a picture of your one button, single breasted, peaked lapel suit. I ‘m looking to get a similar one from John.
Thanks

Clate

If it was good enough for the circa 1928-37 period, it’s good enough for me. I can’t say that I see anything worthwhile in the past sixty years’ worth of men’s suits–it’s all just rehashing and copying various decades. The late 1920’s/early 1930’s are a darn sight better than all the Beatles wannabes walking around the past few years. This too shall pass.

Hugh

Would you apply the same logic to black tie and, therefore, have a preference for a shawl collar on a single breasted dinner jacket?

Anonymous

No, black tie has its roots in peaked-lapel formal wear, and is more appropriate there both for that reason and its style

Jon

Hi Simon is a rolled lapel easily achieved with linen? I’m about to commission a sports coat and really want a “nonchalant appearance”.

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I’d posit that as with anything in tailoring, a peaked lapel, single breasted jacket’s taste, shall we say, is entirely dependent upon its proportions. I’ve had some great ones, and some mediocre ones. I would also say that the gorge point of the collar plays into the equation just as much as the breadth of the lapel, and the fastening point of the coat.

I am also curious, if 7 years later, you still hold the same opinion, or if it has softened or reversed. Do tell!

As a final note, as I love to wear sack cut suits and coats, and exclusively do so, I find that I have an affinity for fish mouth lapels on my coats, and I would be very interested in yr doing a piece upon that subject, or commissioning a coat with such a detail as it is a fascinating subtle gradation, particularly in evening wear or formal wear, where it’s unexpected aplomb can be quite….fun.

As always, love the insight and the perspective. Talk soon, Sir1

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I can’t believe that I’d forgotten about yr Camps de Luca! That one did indeed have a svelt lapel! I’m going to go refresh my memory in a moment! I always love the subtle and tertiary, whether it be in colour or cut. I think it is more refined, typically as good taste, to me, is always about subtlety and nuance.

By the by, upon that same relative subject, my DB which is scheduled to be completed as by the 26th or earlier, has a subtle peak, which if fastened high enough would be a pseudo fish-mouth lapel, but if allowed to roll, should be more upwardly angled, as such lapels were originally cut to be. At least that is how it appeared in the original source image from Brooks Brothers which I submitted to my tailor. I assume that they will replicate it exactly as they have done with all of my other commissions.

I’m planning on my next suit being a sandy gray shaggy flannel or Shetland twill in the same colour as a 3 piece SB sack with a fish mouth lapel, and a DB peak lapelled waistcoat copied from my Edwardian DB Morning waistcoat which I am presently restoring, sans the braided lapel trim, of course. I think it will be quite tasteful. I am thinking of a 13 to 15 oz fabric for this one. I may commission it when I get my annual bonus or annual raise. Ha! After that will be a heavy Irish linen SB sack cut 3 piece with a belted and shirred action back in natural cream and peaked or fish mouth lapels on the coat with notched lapels on the waistcoat and fish tail belt backed trousers.

Yrs Truly – just to rant, on clothes,

E.

Liam

Hi Simon, any updates on your thoughts on this? I was always of the same thinking as you with regards to peak lapels on a single breast but i find myself strangely drawn to it all of a sudden and am thinking of perhaps getting one. Do you own any yourself?