How To Roll Up Sleeves with Button Tabs: Look Formal and Trim

 roll tab sleeve shirts

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It seems so simple and yet so complicated at the same time. Every man wants to know how to roll up sleeves with button tabs. Well, I’m here to tell you a secret: it depends. So many factors go into this process that you really need a step by step guide to what it all depends on. For example, is your shirt made out of cotton or polyester; is it wool or silk? Are your sleeves half sleeves or full length? And so much more. The whole point of this article is to walk you through the tough stuff.

Two basic strategies exist for rolling up sleeves with butt on tabs. The neat fold in a stiff shirt and the gentle, but big, roll, with a soft and loose shirt. The neat fold is classic, and it is probably what your dad and your grandfather did with their sleeves. But times have changed. Now we wear silk shirts, Hawaiian shirts, quarter sleeves, and so much more. The strategies now need a bit of a gray area. And the shades of gray depending on a few factors.


The fabric your shirt is made of will have a huge impact on how to roll up your sleeves. It might sound simple: unbutton sleeve at wrist button tab, fold sleeves up, done. Right?


  1. Silk
    1. If you have a silk shirt, your shirt will not fold neatly up. Silk needs to be rolled up past the elbow and hinged there. The fabric is prone to slip and slide and fold right back down. You need an anchor; that’s where your elbow comes in.
    2. With silk, you need to unbutton your button tab and gently roll the sleeve up the forearm. You want the roll to be a big fold, not a tiny fold. This is not a taquito, and you’re not wrapping anything. Use your thumb length to guide you as you roll. Folding in neat cuffs is not an option because the fabric is too ethereal to remain in a stiff fold. Once you get to your elbow, an anchor that roll right at your inner elbow. Then you will have to let your arms do the work to keep your shirt in place.
  2. Cotton
    1. So here we have the opposite extreme. The greatest thing about cotton is just how stiff it can get while still remaining soft. A nicely starched and ironed cotton shirt will hold a hold excellently.
    2. Begin as you always will, by unbuttoning the sleeve tab. Then you will, once again, let your thumb length be your guide as you neatly fold up your sleeve. With this shirt, you can stop just under your elbow. The stiffness in the fabric should keep the shirt in place on your forearm, though if you didn’t fold your sleeve properly, you may find it slipping back down to your wrist. If this happens, start over, working your way neatly up.
  3. Polyester Blends
    1. Poly blends are a kind of in between in the shirt world, and you never know what you’re going to get. You will have to play it by ear with these shirts and feel for stiffness. If you have a stiffer fabric, follow the cotton strategy. If you have a looser, softer, more forgiving fabric, go with the silk roll.

Sleeve Size and Button Style

Another important factor to consider when figuring out how to roll sleeves on a button up shirt is the size of the sleeve and the placement of the button. What would be really great is if they simply made more of those three-quarter sleeves that button just below the elbow. Who really needs full-length sleeves these days anyway? But I digress.

  1. Large Sleeves
    1. If you have larger sleeves, perhaps because you have larger arms, you will want to be sure to fold nice big folds to get up your forearms. You may find yourself, even with a cotton shirt, with the same problem that silk shirts have. Too wide, and the sleeves will just fall right back down. What you can do in this case is fold the sleeve over once to form a pleat and then begin to fold up. Or you could not unbutton your cuff at all and simply fold up.
  2. Small Sleeves
    1. The alternative to extra large cuffs is smaller cuffs. Sometimes with these ones, it feels impossible to roll them up at all. Metrosexuals about with tighter fitting shirt sleeves now that show off definition. This style is great for sex appeal, not so much for rolling up sleeves. You can try to go with a halfway fold. Simply unbutton the tab and fold medium sized fold partway up your forearm, as high as you can get it. The tightness of the shirt should take care of the rest.
  3. Extra Buttons
    1. What is really nice is when you get a shirt that has figured this all out for you. Often now you will find a dress shirt with an extra button on the far end of the cuff so that when you roll your sleeve up, you simply fasten the button in place again and you’re set. These roll tab sleeve shirts take all the guesswork out of folding up your shirt sleeves. Perhaps what you can do moving forward is simply only purchase shirts willing to do the folding and staying in place work for you. No brainer.

To Roll or Not to Roll

Ultimately this comes down to style and occasion. If you are at a wedding and the night is waning and all the men are rolling up their sleeves, join the crowd. Go with what you know about the material of your shirt and fold or roll accordingly.

On the other hand, you may just find yourself removing your dress shirt altogether and just dancing to Bruno Mars in your undershirt. You never know, it could be that kind of wedding. One thing is for sure, whatever you do, you must do with confidence.

Of course, if there are any issues on how to roll up sleeves with button tabs, be sure to take another look at this article.


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