Rolled up sleeves do and don’ts

Rolled up sleeves do and don’ts

Q. Is there an actual etiquette to when you should or should not roll up your sleeves? Is there a proper specific way to roll up your sleeves?

A. The answer to whether or not to roll up your sleeves is:

  1. Yes, when you are in an informal setting;
  2. Yes, if the function/activity is informal; and
  3. Maybe, in other instances depending upon how friendly you are with the others who are there.

Rolled sleeves originated in military uniforms. During warm weather, Marines in non-combat areas often dressed in desert camouflage and rolled up their sleeves to keep cool. Historically, the act of rolling up one’s sleeves outside the military, has either been a sign of “getting down to business” or of the exact opposite, when relaxing. These days, this look has become a much larger part of the way many men dress.

Rolling one’s sleeves is not just a sign of work activity; it may be an on-purpose style statement. Some men roll their sleeves to protect good clothing from damage (especially when doing dirty work). Some do it to be cooler in warm weather. Others feel less constricted.

Finally, many men simply like the look for the non-staid, non-stuffy image it projects.

All of this said, this is fine if you’re sitting down with a group of friends or work colleagues late in the day; but if you’re at an important event or making a formal statement, you should stay with a formal approach. Rolled sleeves can be a tricky look to pull off. A serious businessman, professional, or politician should present himself like one. Instead, it could seem that he’s working hard at perception.

As to your question about fashion etiquette: The dreadful combination of a necktie with a short-sleeved shirt is a look that no well-dressed man would ever wear. Rolled-up sleeves, on the other hand, can work either with or without a tie.

While my personal preference is for only rolling your sleeves when you are not wearing a tie, both are accepted business-casual looks.

Mastering the roll-up is not as challenging as knotting a necktie properly. Most men choose the most basic approach: turn the cuff over and over until you hit the elbow. The simplest way to do this is to unbutton the cuff of an ironed shirt and also unbutton the sleeve placket button. Then turn the sleeve up two times, using the width of the cuff as your guide.

There is one basic question to ask yourself before wearing it at work: Have you ever seen a male superior (or the highest ranking male boss) dressed that way?

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