Rolling up your sleeves. It's a fitting metaphor for getting stuff done because of its roots in literally protecting your shirt during activity. It's a practice reserved for when you're shifting out of the formal occasion that requires a button-up shirt, but you're not yet going to change into casual clothes: dinner after work at a restaurant with family, lunch at the pub with co-workers, traveling on business, in the later hours of a wedding reception.
When you strip it down to its elements, there's really not much to the process of rolling your sleeves. But remember that clothing is nonverbal communication, and when you make intentional decisions about you wear, you project purpose. So if you're going to roll your sleeves, don't just shove 'em up your arm… do it with confidence!
Read on for your three main options for rolling up your sleeves.
1. How to Roll Up Sleeves: the Quick Roll
As the name suggests, this is the simplest method of rolling up your sleeves at a moment's notice: unbutton your wrist button, but keep the gauntlet button engaged. Then, fold at the seam of the cuff and sleeve, then fold once more to cover the cuff. It's practical and classy: it shifts enough of your sleeve to prevent it from getting dirty or wet in light activity, but because 2/3 of your arms are still covered, it still communicates the respectfulness that a formal button-up conveys.
2. How to Roll Up Sleeves: The Working Roll
This is a variation on the quick roll, but because you're exposing more of your arms, it's better for doing heavier activity without stripping down to your undershirt. You can aim for just below the elbow, or go full-on “sun's out, guns out” up to your mid-bicep like the US Marines' warm-month uniform protocol. Like the quick roll, unbutton your wrist and gauntlet buttons and begin your fold just above the seam, rolling three times for below the elbow or four for the mid-bicep. (Beginning the fold above the seam helps spread out the material so your final roll isn't so fat.)
3. How to Roll Up Sleeves: The Master Fold
This is a really classy alternative for the quick roll and doesn't get quite as thick as the working roll, and it's versatile because you can adjust it to whatever height you'd like. (It especially looks nice if you've got a contrasting color on inside of your cuff.)
It has more of a learning curve than the other two rolls, but it doesn't take too much practice to get it down. Beginning with both buttons undone, make your first fold just an inch below your elbow. Next, make the second turn by bringing the first fold to edge of the cuff, allowing a sliver of it to show.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
1. Keep your sleeves even. It defeats the purpose of being intentional with your clothes if your sleeves are rolled to different heights.
2. Roll your shirt sleeves only. I know some dudes are out there rolling their blazer and sweater sleeves, but it's best to leave that alone. If you're going to be in a situation where you need to roll your sleeves, you'll need to remove your jacket.
3. Roll your sleeves back down as soon as you can, and definitely don't hang your shirt back up with the sleeves rolled. You don't want to make more work for yourself later by creating hardcore wrinkles.