Let’s say your office requires business-casual attire. Since the weather has been heating up, you might be strongly considering rolling your sleeves up while you’re on the job. It’s been a long week, and you’re ready to relax. Not to mention, rolling your sleeves up is much more fashionable than wearing a tie with a short-sleeved shirt. The guidelines aren’t always clear on whether the rolled-up look is appropriate, leaving the question unsettled. Can I roll my sleeves up for business casual?
The short answer is yes; you can roll your sleeves up for business casual. With consideration of your environment and the occasion, rolling sleeves is perfectly acceptable. Not to mention, it’s often a much more comfortable way to close out a long day at the office.
Conversely, your office–or the event you’re attending–might land on the more formal end of the business-casual spectrum, where you might find yourself regularly networking with important people. In that case, it might not be the best idea to roll your sleeves up.
Since the roll-up can be risky, I’m going to lay out all of the essential factors that you should consider before rolling your sleeves up at your next business casual occasion.
Should You Roll Your Sleeves Up?
Everybody loves a good roll—and I don’t just mean bread rolls.
In the modern age, more and more men are looking to roll up their sleeves–often for comfort, but even for style purposes. The gentleman’s behavior consensus in the past has been to leave your sleeve unrolled, especially when trying to woo the ladies. In a general sense, rolled sleeves can leave a significant impression.
But is that custom still necessary? Who said showing a bit of forearm was unprofessional?
History shows that it was typically considered poor etiquette to roll your sleeves up. I mean, even in old-timey movies, we watched men roll sleeves just before knocking someone out in a parking lot.
Regardless, it was rarely even considered because men would wear their overcoats constantly when out in public–even in the dead of summer. So, there wasn’t much point in rolling them up.
As time went on, we began to see younger men losing their jackets to defy the trends of their fathers. And next thing you know, Hollywood stars like James Dean were rolling their sleeves up. Soon enough, the look was considered masculine and even tough.
Today, we roll our sleeves up for various reasons, including to save our sleeves from getting dirty, to cool down, and, of course, to look cool.
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The Dos And Don’ts Of Rolling Up Your Sleeves
Fashion etiquette in today’s society finds it acceptable to roll your sleeves up. Typically, it’s best to roll them just below the elbow to let your muscles breathe or barely above the elbow when faced with some kind of manual labor.
However, is it okay to roll your sleeves up in a business-casual setting?
To help answer the question for yourself and your situation, there are a few factors to consider before stepping into the world of rolled sleeves—from which you may never want to return.
Take A Look At Who’s Around
One of the vital considerations that you should take into account before just diving into the roll-up game is who you’ll be connecting with while wearing your business-casual outfit with the sleeves rolled up.
Think about this: have you ever seen one of your superiors roll his sleeves up while at work?
If the answer to that question is no, then it might be best to play it safe and leave them unrolled. But, if the answer is yes, then you’re in a whole different ball game.
If your boss is rolling his sleeves up daily, then you’re more than likely safe to do so yourself.
That being said, if you’re meeting an important client at work tomorrow, keep it professional by avoiding the sleeve roll.
On the other hand, if your work or event environment is typically more casual than professional, and most of your colleagues are also your close buds, you should be safe to take the plunge and roll them up. It’s also perfectly acceptable to roll your sleeves up in your office alone with the door closed—even in more of a professional workplace. Just remember to roll them down again when you leave.
Consider The Timing
Timing is also a dependable indicator of whether a roll-up is appropriate.
For example, if you’re about to head into a meeting with your supervisor to discuss a raise, it’s best to avoid being too casual and leave your sleeves unrolled.
Similarly, if you’re at an event that requires networking and introductions with people who could benefit your professional life, avoid the roll.
Also remember to generally avoid rolling up your sleeves at formal or somber events, such as weddings and funerals.
But, if it’s the end of the workday and you’re about to head home—or you’ve already stayed late to finish up some work—don’t be shy. You can absolutely roll up your sleeves. Not to mention, if you’re shooting the breeze with your friends or coworkers outside of a formal environment, a roll-up would certainly be appropriate.
Mastering The Roll
The suitability of rolling up your sleeves is also considerably affected by how well it is done. Like I said before, a sleeve roll can have a major impact on how your counterparts perceive you.
To keep it on the business-casual side instead of the completely-casual side, mastering the proper roll is essential to your reputation.
There are a few particular don’ts of rolling up sleeves that you’ll need to keep in mind to avoid looking like a goof.
Firstly, unless you’re trying to be a cast member on Miami Vice, never roll up your jacket sleeves. Likewise, avoid just shoving the sleeves up—you’ll just be shoving them up for the remainder of the afternoon, and you’ll never get the office receptionist’s number like that.
The good news is that mastering the rolled-up sleeve is far less intimidating than staring a necktie in the face and attempting to make a perfect knot out of it.
There is a classic approach to rolling sleeves, which involves merely turning the cuff over and over on itself until it reaches just below the elbow. This fold is not highly recommended for more formal environments as it’s less elegant than other methods. The Italian fold is fancier, especially when done on a dress shirt with a contrasting inner cuff (think Cam on Modern Family).
To achieve this fold, unbutton your sleeves and fold them once—long enough to reach an inch higher than your elbow. Then, roll smaller sections until there is an inch of the cuff poking out of the roll, and voila!
The third method is the quickest and most casual option. It requires unbuttoning your sleeves and doing a basic roll until it reaches the elbow. This option is typically only best done to avoid getting sauce on your sleeves during lunch.
Can I Roll Up My Sleeves For An Interview?
To play it safe, no. There is rarely a job or educational interview when rolling your sleeves up would be acceptable—unless you’re hoping for a rejection. Regardless of the job for which you’re interviewing, it’s essential to look your best and reflect your hard-working attitude.
Even if it’s hotter than the Sahara, it’s best to avoid rolling up your sleeves at all costs during important interviews as it will likely leave a far too casual impression.
Nobody wants to be the guy who didn’t get the job because he looked sloppy; interview attire is much better received when it’s formal. Furthermore, you’ll want to invest in a nice-fitting, long-sleeved button-down that is well-pressed.
The detail of your shirt can make a world of difference.
So, there you have it. In most circumstances, rolling your sleeves up for business-casual dress is perfectly appropriate.
Most people in modern society can certainly appreciate a nicely folded sleeve. Especially today, when business-casual dress codes are lenient and tend to sway toward the casual side more often than not.
Rolling up not only keeps you cool in warmer climates but also can add plenty of flair to a bland workday outfit.
However, to ensure that you’re going about things in the best way, keep an eye out for various factors that could draw a significant line between acceptable and not when opting for the roll-up. And remember, always avoid rolling your sleeves for an interview.
I hope you’ve come to an undoubted decision about whether or not to roll your sleeves at your next business-casual function. Just remember, if you’re ever in doubt, it’s probably best to keep your sleeves down rather than rolling them up.
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