There’s a lot to be said when you put a shirt on, and how you wear your sleeves is a massive factor in the style you’re trying to achieve. A friend and I had a discussion about this recently when we commented on the formality of another man’s outfit in the middle of a hot day. We attributed this formality to the nature of his sleeves – buttoned up and worn down.
It appears that wearing your sleeves properly, whether it is on a business shirt or casual dress shirt, intuitively suggests a level of thought was applied to the outfit above and beyond simply selecting the shirt. Once upon a time everyone purchased long sleeved shirts for the purpose of rolling them up. The rolled up sleeve has always been associated with a level of casualness however rolled up sleeves today suggest an even greater level of ‘deliberate casualness’.
Whether this is a reflection on the state of men’s style in general or a personal choice, men who choose to wear their sleeves down and buttoned are wearing them that way to communicate a message. That message may be to show they’ve accepted the formality of an event, to communicate the seriousness of their demeanour or simply to say ‘this outfit works better like this and I know it’.
Sleeves rolled up should be a rarity in the modern man’s over all look and be reserved for niche situations including: if you’re so in tune with men’s style you know ever minor nuance to do with rolling a sleeve, at any event to do with boating, when retiring from a black tie event for a cigar and whisky with best mate, at an outdoor luncheon/picnic in a public park or family members backyard, in a coastal European city or if practical necessity calls for sleeves to be rolled up (changing a tire, barbequing, using a table saw, washing your Staffordshire Terrier etc). Weather conditions may also call for a practical sleeve roll but should really be judged prior to the event and a suitable weight shirt should be chosen for said weather conditions.
For those that can’t effortlessly roll a sleeve to evoke the level of style you wish you had the best idea would be to avoid it all together. If you simply must roll up your sleeves for a reason outside the ones listed above let it be known that it will transpose your previous message – you inherently become more casual. If you are confident that the time is right for this (somewhat like the black tie example) then by all means roll up your sleeves, but in doing so you are communicating as clear a message as you did when you entered with your sleeves worn properly.