Q & A with PG editors : Lapels -- Does size matter ?

Q & A with PG editors : Lapels -- Does size matter ?

Hey Dirnelli ,
I am not a fan of skinny, boy-band lapels and I do apologize if I offend– but don’t you think the wide lapels we are seeing today are too “1970’s”? As an extremely conservative dresser, it annoys me when style choices jump to such extremes. I might be wrong. What are your thoughts?


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Dear Anonymous,

Good question.

1) #Menswear repeats the same cycle over and over. Most every style variation has already been done and redone since 1920 with the basic format for making a suit laid out and stabilized just after WW1 (with popularization of the standard military cut for jackets and coats), marking a turning point for men’s dress and a major rupture of 19th century codes. The basic styles established after WW1 have remained unchanged for the past century and the stylistic changes over the decades are minor adjustments on the same basic canvas.

1920s suits

2) In men’s suiting, when you see a feature you think is new, think again. There’s a 99 percent chance we can find a picture of an old suit that has the same feature. I’ve posted about this regularly, whether it be my picture of the Hart Schaffner Marx lapel from 1920 that looks like the Smalto lapel of 1970, or the Zegna lapel of 1970 that looks like the Eidos Napoli lapel of 2015. The wheel of #menswear just keeps on turning. Not a problem, enjoy the ride. (See below a Brioni lapel from 1970).

Brioni 1970

3) If these ups and downs annoy you, find your own personal proportions which you believe to be timeless for your silhouette, and stick to them throughout the cycle. You will be in style and out of style over a 30-year period, i.e., you will be the most stylish guy in the room once every 30 years. This thought may be hard to live with, even if you do find some personal pride and comfort in the idea of not being influenced by the vagaries of Transient Fashion, that loathsome bitch.

4) For having discussed this over and over with my peers, I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all indeed on a quest for timeless elegance, but it would be farcical to pretend that we are not influenced by the tastes of our time in one way or another. And that’s OK–it really is.

1930s suits

5) So to your question, which has two parts: (A) are we seeing too many wide lapels because they are back in fashion, and (B) are lapels getting too wide?

No and no.

Wide lapels are indeed all over Pitti and Tumblr but nowhere else in the realworld, I’m afraid. When we start seeing massive lapels on Main Street and at Zara, then we’ll be able to consider the complaint that enough is enough.

Kevin Seah oversized lapel

In the meantime, the market remains dominated by skinny boy-band fashionista lapels, much to our chagrin. Among those makers of wide lapels,  currently only a few have sinned by reaching XXXL proportions: Chiaia Napoli (see the double-breasted above), Sartoria Reale or Kevin Seah (see the oversized lapel above) are some names that come to mind, with a few of their models reaching disco-ball proportions.

6) For the most part, I don’t consider today’s wide lapels to be out-of-proportion, especially if lapels are well-balanced with the notch point ending somewhere smack-in-the-middle of the distance between the shoulder seam and lapel roll–a timeless proportion, as any bespoke tailor will confirm.

However, when the notch point falls much wider or narrower of the 50 percent mark I just described, then there’s a risk that the lapel can look dated, but suiting for the masses is not even close to pushing the limits yet. If anything, we are just traveling back to normal proportions, always from the widespread or skinny lapel, which is a welcome evolution.

7) Lastly, rather than today being worried about lapels becoming too wide, I think it’s more urgent to be preoccupied about jackets getting too short, and possibly notch height being set too high.

Dirnelli : Tumblr

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