Knowing how to roll shirt sleeves makes a considerable difference in the silhouette of your outfit.
It can keep a level of formality in hotter weather. Or it can take your outfit to business casual.
This simple art – which takes a few minutes to master – makes a world of difference to your appearance and the social signals you send. (And it can also make your arms appear larger!)
In this article, I'll show you how to roll up shirt sleeves in five different ways:
You will also find:
Let's start with a bit of context…
What Does It Mean When A Guy Rolls Up His Sleeves?
Historically, men have rolled up their shirt sleeves in preparation for work (or an occasional fight) because the 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 fold their sleeves before landing a punch!
Men also rolled up sleeves at the end of a long day as they headed for a drink.
In the modern world – the act of rolling sleeves has evolved into a style statement.
The way you roll your sleeves indicates:
- Cooling off in hot weather – rolling up sleeves allows air to flow over more of your skin directly.
- A relaxed attitude at the end of a hard day's work – rolled-up sleeves can dress down a formal outfit.
- Preparation for physical labor – rolled-up shirt sleeves are the universal symbol to indicate men at work.
While some may argue that there is one particular right way to roll up your shirt sleeves, I suggest several methods, and depending on the situation you find yourself in – one of them will be better than the rest.
Should Your Sleeve Stop Above Or Below The Elbow?
The simple answer is: above the elbow if you're about to do work. And below the elbow, if you're cooling off.
How To Roll Up Shirt Sleeves
For these methods, the first step is to undo the buttons on the cuff and gauntlet of your shirt. You'll find a gauntlet button halfway up the sleeve opening on most good shirts.
The gaps are there to allow for proper sleeve-rolling and cuff-ironing – if they're long enough to serve their purpose, they'll be too long to stay closed without a button.
Sleeve Rolling Method #1 The Master Roll
How do you roll a master sleeve?
- Roll up the sleeve to about two widths of the cuff, then smooth any creases or folds in the fabric.
- Roll from the bottom end of the sleeve once more to cover the cuff, leaving only the top end of the cuff exposed.
- If the inside of the cuff has a contrasting color or design, show just a hint of it and cover the rest.
- Hold the top edge of the cuff and pull down to undo the fold.
Modern sartorialists accept the master roll as the preferred way to roll up sleeves. But I find many men have never heard of it.
Pro Tip: This is how to roll up sleeves when your shirt has a contrasting lining or design pattern on the inside of the cuff. The striking contrast is visible ONLY when you use the master roll. Show off the chambray inner cuffs on your flannel shirt.
This method is my favorite for the following reasons:
- It's the least restrictive. It gets the sleeve entirely out of the way – allowing for natural arm movement.
- The sleeves are locked in place and won't come undone as the day progresses.
Unrolling the sleeve is simple and quick.
- It keeps the whole appearance neat and in place.
Sleeve Rolling Method #2 AIFA Roll
How to roll the AIFA roll?
- Fold the bottom of the sleeve once, about the width of the cuff.
- Using a similar width, repeat a second time with the folded cuff.
- Avoid smoothing the fabric. The AIFA Roll is supposed to look casual and effortless.
The AIFA Roll screams casual. This one is the most straightforward technique to fold your shirt sleeve.
It 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.
The AIFA Roll is suitable for men who have short and narrow arms. Rolling your sleeves using this technique will make your arms look proportional to the rest of your body.
This roll ends below the elbow and is perfect for a day out with the family. The only setback is that it comes undone quite easily.
Sleeve Rolling Method #3 The Basic Roll
How to roll the the Basic Sleeve Roll?
- 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.
Also called the ‘Beginner Roll,' this method is the intuitive way to roll sleeves. If you've ever watched someone who hasn't been around people who know how to roll up sleeves, you'll see them use the Basic Roll.
Depending on the shirt and fit, the Basic Roll can be time-consuming. It restricts your hand movements and is difficult to undo.
The Basic sleeve roll is suitable when your shirt sleeves are considerably wider than your arms. The extra fabric allows for the third fold.
Some casual shirts feature a button or thin strip of fabric on the inside of the sleeve to secure a Basic Roll.
Sleeve Rolling Method #4 The High Roller
How to roll the High Roller?
- Lay your shirt down on a flat surface.
- Fold your sleeve about a cuff width.
- Follow the same step a second time, covering the folded portion of the cuff.
- Roll the sleeve a third and fourth time to cover the entire cuff.
- The High Roller works best with semi-casual or informal shirts.
Do you have upper arms worth displaying? Then consider yourself a high roller when it comes to how to roll up sleeves.
This method suits men with big biceps and tattoos on their arms. The sleeves are rolled well above the elbows.
It's also great for manual work and gives you a laidback look.
On more fitted shirts, this technique looks like you have a bagel stuck on your biceps. The Master Roll is better suited for fitted formal shirts.
Sleeve Rolling Method #5 The Garter Roll
How do I use a garter to roll sleeves?
- 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 metal sleeve band.
- You can also use a strong rubber band. Ensure the band hides in the shirt sleeve folds.
Shirt arm clips are an elegant alternative to sleeve garters. This variation of the garter looks like a tie clip and is a good piece of jewelry that sits vertically on your arm. Roll your sleeves up following the Master Roll method, then insert the arm clip facing out.
Garters and arm clips are great props for conversation starters at parties.
Over time, the shirt sleeve tends to lose its elasticity; they tend to unroll and create frustration, especially if you are doing something important, like helping the wife with the dishes.
New York restaurant waiters in the 1960s found an intelligent solution. They worked out how to roll up sleeves and secure them with a sleeve band or sleeve garter, holding 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.
Sleeve garters are generally elastic, but you can also find metal and silk ones in various colors and patterns.
Garters will make your sleeve-rolling a whole lot easier and give you a retro and unique look.
How Do You Make Rolled Up Sleeves Look Good?
- Ensure that the rolled length on each arm is the same.
- The sleeves should stop above the elbow if you're about to do work.
- Roll your sleeves below the elbow if you're cooling off.
- Iron or press your shirt before rolling the sleeves to remove any creases.
If you find yourself rolling your shirt sleeves either because they are too short or long, my advice would be to find a good tailor.
When Can You Wear Rolled Sleeves With A Tie?
In general, avoid wearing rolled sleeves with a tie. These are two contradictory style elements. Rolled sleeves indicate the casual style, while a tie leans more towards a formal style. But I can think of two occasions when it's appropriate to roll up your sleeves when wearing a tie.
- When you want to prevent them from being damaged or getting dirty, so if you're going to be working with your hands – moving office equipment or anything that could tear your sleeves or get them dirty – roll up your sleeves and get to work. And you don't even have to take off your tie.
- When you want to signal that you're off work or it's time to relax – especially if you're the boss and others take their cue from you; in that case, you're not just going to roll up your sleeves, but you're also going to loosen your tie. Take your jacket off.
Shortening your shirt sleeves can be fun, irrespective of the season. Experiment with the various methods listed above and mix it up, so you are not stuck with the same styles.
The length of your shirt sleeves can impact the whole outfit, so you must get it right.