The 3 roll 2 Lapel
These days people rarely want to wear 3 button suits or sport coats. It looks a little outdated, and was the norm in the 1990s—an era we are still hesitant about remembering for its sartorial choices. I have seen it tastefully done of late on some very stylish men who are clearly trying to bring it back. But I digress…
Something that’s been in vogue for quite some time within contemporary tailored menswear, however, is the 3 roll 2 button/lapel configuration. It seems pretty de rigueur on most soft structured Neapolitan-style jackets these days, and has long been the favorite of the American Ivy League and ‘Traditional’ set. You know, the ‘man in the grey flannel suit,’ and the titular ‘man in the Brooks Brothers shirt’ in Mary McCarthy’s short story of the same name.
And though I’m no expert at these things, I have found in my limited experience that Americans and Italians (as in many other things) generally approach the 3 roll 2 differently.
Pictured here is a quintessentially American example of the form. It’s a navy hopsack blazer by Southwick from The Andover Shop. You’d be hard pressed to get more traditional than that. Note the fine finishing on the interior of the top buttonhole. It’s clearly meant to be seen, and not hidden under the roll of a lapel. The other two buttons are not finished nearly as nicely on the unseen side of the jacket. This lapel rolls smoothly, and quite low. There would be no mistaking the fact that it ought not be buttoned at the top button. Some Brooks Brothers and J. Press jackets I own have a much more aggressive and hard 3 roll 2 lapel. The lapel doesn’t begin rolling much until below the top buttonhole on those. It’s a different look, and one that I personally like less.
On the other hand, I’ve noticed that the Italian jackets that I own that are 3 roll 2 do so a little higher up on the lapel, and always in a very subtle manner. The jacket, when buttoned, has a nice blooming effect, almost like an elongated lily of some sort. I feel like this frames a tie and collar in a distinctly more dramatic fashion than the Southwick does.
For those of you who, like me, get the majority of your jackets second hand either thrifting, on ebay, or through the various classified boards on menswear fora, one solid way of determining whether your 3 button jacket was meant to be a 3 roll 2 is to compare the buttonhole finish on the three buttons. If the top one is nicer than the other two, it was probably meant to be a 3 roll 2.
There are some tutorials around on how to reshape a 3 roll 2 that’s been haphazardly pressed into a hard 3 button by a dry cleaner who knew no better. I’ve done it before, and it works fine for me. Sure, you probably lose some of the intentional shaping that the tailors ironed into the jacket when it was first made, but in this instance the trade off is well worth it. And it wasn’t made for you in the first place if you’re buying it used.
I’ve even seen some folks (Eric over at acutestyle comes directly to mind) who have turned a lapel that was constructed as a 3 into a 3 roll 2 with some aggressive ironing and steaming. The results have looked pretty good to my eye.
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