Men roll their sleeves both as a social gesture and a practical reaction. Historically, men have rolled up their shirt sleeves in preparation for work or an occasional fight. Watch any old Western film and notice how men take that extra moment to carefully fold their sleeves before landing a punch! They also fold their shirt sleeves to indicate a relaxed mood, for freedom of movement or simply to bare their arms. Before you roll your sleeves – remember to undo the buttons on the cuff and gauntlet of your shirt. Also keep in mind that you should keep your sleeves above the elbow if you’re about to do work. Roll your sleeves below the elbow if you’re just cooling off and want to let in some air or to signal that it’s the end of the day; and of course, these are not rigid rules.
Rolling up your shirt sleeves will draw attention to your biceps & triceps; for those that work out it’s a great chance to show the world you take care of your body. For those of us with thinner builds or thick non-defined arms – this may be a bit embarrassing. In this situation you need to think proportion and strive for balance.
- Wear shirts that fit you and compliment your physique. Example – petite men should choose shirts with smaller cuffs and thinner sleeves.
- Keep your sleeve roll below your elbow – this looks better and draws the focus to your forearms. Forearms are normally closer to an average size than biceps – which vary greatly.
- When rolling the shirt – roll the sleeve over on itself length-wise to reduce the sleeve width and create a tighter fit on the bicep. A loose rolled sleeve only exaggerates already thin arms.
You’ll notice there are no standard measurements in inches or centimeters on rolling shirt sleeves. That’s because how far you roll the sleeves is up to you — with some caveats.
- Above the elbow is a more practical place to keep the sleeves if you’re actually working with your hands. Aesthetically though, it violates the “rule of thirds” and never looks quite as stylish as leaving the rolled sleeve a bit below the elbow. Also, if you have a loose cuff or a lot of sleeve fabric it can start to look odd as more and more fabric gets bunched up around your elbow ruining the line of your bicep. Stick to thin, tightly-fitted shirts if you’re rolling your sleeves high.
- Below the elbow is a less practical, more stylish option. It’s good in situations where you’re deliberately trying to look relaxed. You may need to roll the turned-back fabric over on itself a few more times to keep it tight on your forearms (unless you have very thick arms), which will thin the finished band of cloth out some.
The AIFA Roll
This is a casual roll for the man wanting to signal the work day is over and it’s time to grab a beer. You can use this sleeve roll when just walking around town and it’s a bit warmer – it looks stylish and you can easily roll the sleeves down with no wrinkles. It is limited though by the size of your shirt cuff – too big of a cuff and this roll is impractical.
- Unbutton the cuff and any “gauntlet” buttons further up the sleeve.
- Using the cuff as the measuring point, we simply roll the sleeve over itself 1-2 times, stopping below the elbow.
- Adjust until you’re happy.
Method Two: The Master Sleeve Roll
Depending on how well you finish the final fold, you can have either a more casual look with the end of the cuff is still showing, turned inside out and shoved up your sleeve. This gives a decidedly more rumpled look that many consider stylish – especially if the shirt has a contrasting cuff color that pops.
- Again, unbutton the cuff and any “gauntlet” buttons further up the sleeve.
- Fold the cuff inside-out and keep tugging, without folding, until you’ve exposed just a little less arm than you want to with your finished look. The turned-back sleeve should just be inside out and unfolded at this point.
- Fold the bottom of the inside-out sleeve about halfway up so that it makes a band beneath the inside-out cuff.
- Adjust until you’re happy, leaving the unbuttoned and inside-out ends of the cuff sticking out of the rolled fabric.
The Basic Sleeve Fold
Perhaps the most intuitive fold, this is what most of us would naturally do when we roll our shirt sleeves for the first time. This is the hardest fold to undo and aesthetically the worst looking. However its simplicity and ruggedness make it a staple for the working man.
- Unbutton the cuff and any gauntlet buttons further up the sleeve.
- Using the cuff as the measuring point, we simply roll the sleeve over itself until it passes the elbow. For me this is 3 times – depending on your cuff size and arm length, it may be 4 or as few as 2.
- Adjust until you’re happy, although it’s better to ensure each fold is clean and straight to get the best final look.
The Devil Dog Fold
A crisp and professional look, we recommend this one for office settings and Marine Corps Change of Commands. The finished effect is a band of cuffed cloth that’s even in width all around, with no corners or buttonholes showing.
- Unbutton the cuff and any gauntlet buttons higher up the sleeve.
- Fold the cuff in half upwards, so that the very outer edge is folded back to meet the bottom edge of the cuff.
- Fold again, keeping the same width — half the width of the cuff — and tucking the end of the cuff underneath the new fold.
- Keep going until you reach the desired height on your arm. The roll of folded fabric should be even in width and should hide the cuff itself entirely.