There’s a serious contradiction of intention when a man rolls up his shirt sleeves.
Is he getting ready to fight?
Or is he relaxing at the end of a hard day?
Or is he getting serious and down to business?
Or…. is he just cooling off?
Historically men have rolled up their shirt sleeves in preparation for work (or an occasional fight) as clothing was expensive and they didn’t want to damage it.
Watch any old Western film and notice how men take that extra moment to carefully fold their sleeves before landing a punch!
Sleeves would also be rolled up at the end of a long day as men headed to the bar for a drink with their mates.
In the modern world – the act of rolling sleeves has evolved into a style statement.
Men fold their shirt sleeves to indicate a relaxed mood, for freedom of movement or simply to bare their arms.
I’m going to give you a five methods to roll sleeves below. You can decide for yourself after reading this article which method suits you best.
Before you roll your sleeves – remember to undo the buttons on the cuff and gauntlet of your shirt.
Also, let me answer a question about rolling up sleeves – should the sleeve stop above or below the elbow?
The simple answer would be – 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.
Many people haven’t heard of the AIFA method to roll shirt sleeves. It involves a simple and it also adheres to the rule of thirds – a design principle that has implications in men’s style too. In the AIFA roll, the sleeves expose only a third of your arm. This ratio is visually appealing according to the rule of thirds.
- One fold, about the width of the cuff.
- Then a second fold of similar width.
My arms are not terribly big or long – so the AIFA roll makes my arms look proportional to the rest of my body.
This roll is below the elbow and is more of a casual fashion statement. Perfect for a day out with the family – with a dress shirt and your favorite denims.
2. The Basic Roll – The Intuitive Way To Roll Up Shirt Sleeves
This roll is how it sounds – very basic. If you’ve ever watched someone who hasn’t been around people who roll their sleeves, you’ll see them use the basic roll.
Depending on the shirt and fit – the basic roll is time consuming. It can restrict your hand movements and is difficult to undo.
However – it’s the most intuitive way to roll sleeves:
- Using the cuff as a measuring point, fold the cuff once.
- Repeat the first step several times, tugging at the fabric to make sure it is straight and smooth.
- Roll up until you go past the elbow.
Most often used by men with big biceps and tattoos on their arms, the sleeves are rolled well above the elbows.
- Lay your shirt down on a flat surface.
- Slip your hand into the sleeve through the wrist opening. Pinch the fabric half-way up the sleeve.
- With your other hand, roll the sleeve fabric inside out up to the shoulder seam. Flatten out the sleeve.
- Roll the sleeve half way to the bottom of the turned out cuff.
- Roll the sleeve a third time to cover the entire cuff. You can leave the top part of the cuff exposed if it has a contrasting color or design.
The High Roller works best with semi-casual or informal shirts. The Master Roll is better suited for fitted formal shirts.
4. The Master Roll – My Favorite Way To Roll Up Shirt Sleeves
My favorite way to roll shirt sleeves, and one I find many men have never heard of!
You’ll notice that some shirts have a contrasting color detail or design pattern under the cuff, which is visible only when you use the master roll.
- Roll the sleeves up to about two widths of the cuff
- Smooth the fabric, taking out folds.
- Roll the bottom once more – covering the cuff and leaving just the top of it exposed.
- If there is a contrasting color or design on the cuff – show just a hint of it.
- To undo the fold – simply hold the edge of the cuff and pull down.
The master roll is the least constrictive method of folding shirt sleeves.
It gets the sleeve completely out of the way – allowing for natural arm movement. It keeps the whole appearance neat and in place.
Modern sartorialists accept the master roll as the preferred way to roll up sleeves.
Over time – the shirt sleeve tends to lose its elasticity. They tend to unroll and create some frustration especially if you are doing something important. Like helping the wife with the dishes.
New York restaurant waiters in the 1960’s came up with the smart idea of securing their shirt sleeves with a sleeve band. A sleeve band or sleeve garter holds the folded sleeve firmly in place.
The sleeve band disappeared for a few decades and regained popularity after soccer player David Beckham used them to give his sleeves a slim and neat appearance. Here’s how you can use one..
- Secure the upper part of your shirt sleeve using a sleeve band.
- Pull the shirt up few inches to hide the sleeve band under the shirt folds.
A bonus option is to secure a master roll using a sleek and smart sleeve band.
It works really well to secure and keep your folded cuff in place. A strong rubber band can also be used, but ensure the band is hidden in the shirt sleeve folds.
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