17 June 2011

On Lapels

The 1960s produced a lot of nonsense and mayhem: the Vietnam war, sitar music, the civil rights and immigration acts, long hair, Baby Boomers, and the Kennedy administration (for which my hard-line WASP mother's family still can not forgive American voters). To this list we must add: narrow lapels.

Narrow lapels, like skinny denim, seem to be all the rage amongst the younger set today, considered cool, trendy, Mod-ish, though I doubt even 1 in 20 American children even knows what a Mod is. Not that it matters to me. When it comes to the Mod versus Rocker debate, I was always on the side of the Punks, New Romantics, and Dandies.

I suspect some of the current narrow-lapelism is attributable to televisual programmes such as Madmen, a fictional entertainment produced by the sons and grandsons of men who were still largely societal outsiders at the time depicted in the series. It is an adolescent fantasy of what American life was like a few decades ago just prior to the revolution and Occupation, but as such it has had a remarkable influence on menswear, I think, at least where lapels are concerned.

You might be interested to know I recently performed a quantitative analysis of my own lapels, using a sample consisting of the seven (7) suits I wear most frequently: Brooks Brothers, Southwick, H. Freeman & Sons, Corneliani, and Hickey Freeman. The resulting lapel widths are as follows:

(1) 3.25
(2) 3.50
(3) 3.25
(4) 3.75 (H. Freeman)
(5) 3.50
(6) 3.25
(7) 4.00 (Southwick)

*Measurement system: Imperial Units (inches)

So there we have it. The mean width is 3.50" with a standard deviation of approximately 0.27". That seems about right. Anything narrower and one risks looking like a desperate extra from a Madmen set, or a club-kid fresh from the local disco.

Moderation is the key to virtue, as Aristotle tells us, so it is important to avoid both skinny and fat lapels. Keep to the middle path.

I would be interested to know about other lapel experiences. What's in your closet?


v. Braun. said...

A fun suggestion, I'll do that at some time, too!

In my opinion too narrow lapels don't look good. Moreover, if it was really necessary to choose between any one of those sub-cultures, I'd also go with the punks...still, I'd also take along my Venetian plague-doctors'-mask, along too!

Queeg said...

Mon Amiral,

I would hate to think what your hard-line WASP mother's family think of the Obamas.

JHG said...


Next to the annoyingly frequent use of ventless cuts and the occasionally used windsor knot, the too narrow lapels are definitely the most awkward style faux-pas of Connery as 007.

I am using standard width as well, by the way.

As this is my first comment, it seems appropriate to congratulate you on your blog, the daily visit of which I truly enjoy.

Es grüßt aus der Reichshaupt- und Residenzstadt Wien,


Pimlico said...

You pays your money and you takes your choice:


Anonymous said...

The entire "skinny" suit, tie, and highwater trousers look was a Pee Wee Herman joke. It's still a joke. More so, because it's being taken seriously by ridiculous fashionistos.

(I don't want to hear any crap about that last word!)

Anonymous said...

3.25 - 3.75 inches depending on size of jacket.

Such a damn shame it doesn't apply to my Nehru jackets.

Anonymous said...

Just measured my lapels with trepidation.


Apparently my tailor knows what he's doing.

Trailer Trad said...

If you hadn't included the standard deviation of the sample, I would have totally discounted your analysis.

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, as a female I can assure you narrow lapels give out the same signals to me as say, faux fur may do to discriminating menfolk; ie: mutton dressed as a rather poorly fed lamb. Any aesthetic appeal the look laid claimed to - although has any man over the age of 21 or sporting a larger than 28" chest ever been able to look even remotely elegant in this? - has long since been depreciated by its ubiquity in mass market stores who as always are delighted to charge full or even an elevated price for something made from half the cloth and requiring considerably less fine detail.
Gentlemen, stick with Anderson & Sheppard.

Mike Diaz said...

HA HA HA!!!!! Pee Wee Herman, what about the absurdly high notches or lower notches in lapels and how some jackets sleeves are longer than the body of the jacket? Just looks stupid. I still don't get it.

bucephalus said...

But lapel width, like tie width, should be proportional to the body of the wearer. Thus a 2.75" lapel on a 5' 6" man should be seen as equivalent to a 4.25" lapel on a 6' 6". Mad men lapels and ties are wrong because they are 2.5-2.75" regardless of the wearer's body size.