How We Roll

Editor’s Note: Chris Collins sends hilarious emails, is a very good guy, and sent in this piece about sleeve rolling, for which we are grateful.

To roll up or not? 

Your shirt sleeves, and the ‘whether to’ or ‘if at all’ discussion about when they can and should be rolled up is either an interesting discussion on sartorial practices and decorum, or just a bunch of trad inspired folk arguing about nothing. Is the argument to roll or not roll comparable to Dennis Leary’s best line about high end art in The Thomas Crown Affair, it’s just “…swirls of paint that are really only important to some very silly rich people.” Well, of course it is, but this is what we do in our world. We decide how the rules of our style should be applied today based on how we believe they were applied in a time many of us did not experience first-hand. 

There are no images of my forebears to which I can refer as I search for rebelliousness in my family trad lineage. The yearbooks and evidence have been carefully shielded to protect the unnamed and forgotten. I have prim and proper photos of my ancestors’ college years at UVA and Dartmouth, but nothing so scandalous as a rolled sleeve or heaven forbid a loosened tie. So, I choose to make my own rules for when and if I can roll up the sleeves of my CCBD (cotton cloth button down – not all my BDs are made from regulation oxford cloth. 

I hear you out there screaming ANARCHIST, pagan, poser…but I am unafraid!

I have mostly lived my life in the Southeastern US – where at present it is uncomfortably warm during the day, and usually is more than 120 days a year, which are easily spread across six months of time. Therefore, despite working in an airconditioned office, the sun bakes my side of our building, which when combined with my office being at the end of the AC trunk line and the propensity for those who gather in my office to constantly exhale, the space does warm up. So, as I see it, I have two choices; loosen the tie, or roll up the sleeves. I have chosen the latter, and for me this is acceptable.

However, for others this may not be the case. My professional life affords me the opportunity to set the pace, rather than constantly toe someone else’s line (for clarity’s sake, there are occasions when I do have to toe the line for the firm’s owner, but it’s only 99% of the time, the rest is my well-deserved freedom). But for many others, there likely exists an unwritten code at your office for either the time of day or situation that permits, or possibly requires, rolled up sleeves. Is, ‘Thou may, but only if’ your workplace rule?

Another question is this, are there latent puritan work-ethic overtones to the message you send by “rolling up your sleeves.” And, better still, is this yet just another chauvinistic phrase used to emphasize the importance and dominance of men in the workplace, because historically women did not wear OCBDs to the office? Personally, I don’t think it’s any of these…sometimes I just write stuff like this to see what kind of revolution I can start and drive traffic to my other platforms… (ain’t nothing happening until something gets sold!)

I suspect rules stating ‘thou shalt never roll’ likely only exist in establishments that charge fees for a service they provided by the hour or are outcome based, their service(s) are expensive, and they are legal. I suspect that for the remainder of us, to roll or not, is a decision of personal choice based on the society of your workplace dictating what is an acceptable level of sleeve comportment and what is not, and the outside temperature. 

I wear long sleeve shirts to work because there is no such thing as a short-sleeve-dress-shirt. Oh, I know there are places to find them. They are sold in stores at the counter providing tickets to the next Loch Ness viewing and moon rocks. I own a lot of LSBDs (long-sleeve button downs). Every shirt I own with buttons from its bottom to the neck is a BD. Yes, I own SSBDs, I have a fantastic pink OCSSBD I swiped from my father’s closet. Before you judge me, he does not need six pink OCSSBDs – no one does. Besides, I only had two, so now I’m up to three. Anyway, I am usually wearing a LSBD with rolled sleeves, I’m wearing one as I compose this satirical take on ‘To roll, or not’. A LSBD is 100% flexible, it can be a buttoned up-buttoned down or casual – depending on size, fit, color, stripes, stains, and other individual criteria.

I roll my sleeves to cook, because I would never cook with buttoned sleeves – do you know how hard it is to get the splatter from sautéing onions and mushrooms in olive oil and butter out of your cuffs? Let me tell you, it is not easy. A worn WOCBD (see IS acronym chart for clarity) is a perfect chef’s coat, and it is likely already monogramed for that extra panache in the kitchen. I keep one in my travel bag for weekend getaways – white goes with whatever I’m wearing in the kitchen, or not wearing if I may be so bold. But be careful, seriously, grease splatter is a thing.

Back at the office, lifting those boxes in which reams of paper are delivered, those things have dust and grime all over the side of them. Who needs to carry that residue around on their shirt all day? If you’re going show-off how much you can dead-lift without being in the gym, go ahead and roll up your sleeve I say, let the guns out a little. The Afternoon Roll shows you are still committed to the cause, as you carry your afternoon coffee (bourbon) through the building. But do not get me started on needing to hide your tattoos – you are the one who decided to mark up God’s perfect masterpiece by drawing on yourself with permanent marker injected under your skin. Be proud of that strange image on your inside forearm – you wanted it there!

In the end, for each of us, To roll or Not is a personal choice based on your geography, the type of office (or not) where you spend your days, the social mores of your club, time of day, whether you are cooking a red sauce or a white sauce, the height of the flame on your grill, and whether or not you have spectacular wrist jewelry to display. For me, the rules are simply this, be comfortable in your armor, enjoy your style, own your appearance, and shave for church.

  • Chris Collins

21 Comments on "How We Roll"

  1. An excellent treatise – I myself am prone to roll the sleeves on my (mostly) OCBD on hot, humid days. My personal rule, though: no more than three rolls – the modified sleeve length should still be below the elbow.

    • Phil –

      Yes, three roll max – odd and primary numbers are best for the most important things..Wives, sleeve rolls, quantity of ties, and club memberships.

  2. whiskeydent | July 20, 2023 at 12:04 pm |

    I too live in a warmish place; the Weather Channel has forecast high temperatures above 100 degrees for the next 1,000 days. So yes, I routinely roll my LBD (linen button down).

    However, you have overlooked another major issue: if one rolls up one’s sleeves, does one roll up the sleeves to below or above one’s elbow? Though it is difficult — perhaps even impossible — to argue with any style that Paul Newman chooses (as shown in the photo), I nonetheless take exception to going above the elbow in most instances. This is largely because I’m not Paul Newman, even on my best days, but I also believe that below the elbow signals that you work inside or going above signals that you work outside (gasp!) or are engaged in some outdoor activity.

    So I have decided that in business-casual or social situations (bars), it’s proper to roll three times, which keeps the sleeve below the elbow. If one is working on a drilling rig in Midland, or hunting buffalo in Africa or riding a camel across the Sahara or fishing for black marlin in the Caribbean, it is permissible to roll up above the elbow.

    • Agreed completely with the three rolls. I’m only up more than that level when I’m changing the spark plugs on the Jag or crabbing by hand.

    • NaturalShoulder | July 20, 2023 at 8:31 pm |

      I, too, am suffering from the oppressive Texas heat with no end in sight. I do roll up sleeves on days in office when not in suit or coat and tie and stop rolling prior to elbow. Never counted number of rolls which has now piqued curiosity and I will count tomorrow.

  3. It’s good to be the king.

  4. Some much needed levity, along with a number of highly relevant sartorial points. Thank you!

    Kind Regards,


  5. keith Filbert | July 20, 2023 at 8:57 pm |

    Another question; how do you roll? I typically roll my cuff back and up my arm. However, I knew some gents in my youth who would tuck that unbuttoned cuff under and into their sleeve; usually once, sometimes twice. I think the height of the roll would depend on the amount of articulation one needs. Writing briefs or typing something up is much different than painting a wall or moving things about your space.
    Thanks for the fun read.


    • Keith – I am an outside roll fan, not the inside. As described by others, I am also a 3 roll max –

  6. Great post, Chris! I really enjoyed reading this. I do roll my sleeves, but I always had the opposite problem in my office. Which is it ok to wear a shetland in the office in the summer? Spoiler alert, I did.

    • Thank you – I’m a fan.

      Personally, I would avoid the shetland because I love my ties. BUT…this is why we have such fun here – all the different riffs on the same chord.

  7. Charlottesville | July 21, 2023 at 11:02 am |

    Thanks for the most enjoyable read, Chris. I appreciate the welcome does of humor and look forward to more posts from you.

    As for the sleeve roll, I cast my lot with Whiskeydent and PhilipM: maximum of three rolls, and always below the elbow, pace* Mr. Newman who could make anything look great. Today’s home office shirt is a Brooks Brothers pink stripped seersucker button down with sleeves rolled two turns, or a BBPSSSBDWSRTT. This initial thing is getting confusing.

    * In the Latin sense. Sorry, no italics available for the comments.

    • Charlottesville, thank you for the review.

      I’m a huge fan of your namesake town. I have visited my father’s alma mater on numerous occasions, members of the Scott family has been friends of my parents for decades, and as my mother delicately shared with me and others one evening, “I was made there”.


  8. James Bandy | July 21, 2023 at 12:52 pm |

    3 turns of the sleeves that hit just below the elbow. Anyone see R.F.K., Jr. sporting a blue OCBD at Wednesday’s congressional hearing?

    • James. I did see him. I’ve been following his efforts with interest.

      I am of the opinion his father’s death was the seminal event

  9. The Amazing Tom | July 21, 2023 at 1:14 pm |

    The BB 346 store always carried half sleeve OCBD’s. I like Ralph’s half sleeve LBD.

  10. All I can get is two rolls, over the elbow is impossible. A trad fit would help with that.

  11. I always roll up the sleeves of my vintage gant OCBDs when I sit down at my desk at work in a government department in Wellington, New Zealand. It seems to signal to my brain it’s time to knuckle down.

Comments are closed.