How to Roll Shirt Sleeves

November 26th, 2013

We received three separate inquiries last week from guys who developed holes at the elbows of their dress shirts. So I thought we should address this common issue that affects a lot of guys in the business world.

shirt 16 blow out edit

Why does this happen? 

The elbow is a primary tension point on a shirt. The fabric can become weak in this area, especially if you’re sitting at a computer for hours at a time. The problem can be more severe for larger guys, guys with sharp elbows, or guys who wear their shirts very slim. In some cases elbows can blow-out on brand new shirts after only a few wears.

There is a simple solution to this problem. When sitting at a desk for long periods of time (using a keyboard, answering phones, etc.) roll your sleeves up past the elbows. This will eliminate any strain on that area of the shirt.

How do I stop it from happening?

Two ways I recommend rolling sleeves for a day at the desk:

1. Flip & Pull


i. Flip the cuff neatly

ii. Flip the cuff neatly again

iii. Slide the double-folded cuff over the elbow

iv. Continue taking over the world

2. Invert & Tuck


i. Grab the sleeve by the edge of the cuff

ii. Pull the edge up toward the shoulder, inverting the sleeve above the elbow

iii. Begin tucking the inverted sleeve at the lower bicep level

iv. Adjust until the cuff is cleanly tucked, with the edge just peeking out so you can grab it later

The “invert & tuck” is my preferred method of rolling sleeves for two reasons. 1) I like the look of the sleeves pulled high up, giving a small preview of the gun show. 2) It’s very quick to roll them, and even quicker to pull them down (just pull on the edge of the cuff peeking out). The disadvantage of this roll is that it will wrinkle the sleeve more than flipping the cuff, but that doesn’t bother me. Elbow creases are only natural.


So what about my old shirts – is there a way to fix them?

You should be able to have the holes sutured by your local tailor/seamstress with minimal scarring (who looks closely at your elbows anyway?). If someone does ask, just have a cool story ready.

Sometimes the tear needs a little additional fabric to be fixed properly. A crafty client of mine once had his tailor shorten his blown-out shirts by a 1/2″ or so (he tucks them in anyway) and use the cut-off fabric to patch the holes. I think he also removed the pocket on a shirt and used that fabric for a small patch.



Hope this helps fellas!

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford

  • frabn

    I’ve already lost 5 shirts this year to elbow blow out…frustrating as hell.

  • Antony Levine

    Just learned something new about rolling up my sleeves. Very cool.

  • Kristoffer

    Typically blown out elbows are due to shirts sleeves that are too short.

  • Shotcaller

    The invert & tuck is how we used to roll our BDU sleeves up when I was in the military. Looks neater, I like it more than the first one.

    • Dan Trepanier

      That’s cool, I did not know that.

  • Adam E

    Let’s be honest, all of those excuses for elbow blowouts are BS (95% of the time). I have sharp elbows, but have never blown out a single button up.. (I’ve frayed a few sweaters in the elbows, but my button ups fail elsewhere before the elbows…). The real reason that guys rip the elbows of their shirts is falling on their face/arse… Either for reasons such as alcohol, or as I witnessed on my Canadian commute this morning, slipping on snow/ice/slush and eating it.

    Either way, good tips on fixing, and good tips on the roll. I am always shocked at how many people don’t know the invert and tuck technique. I use it almost exclusively, and always get asked how do you do it… Personally if it were a dress shirt I would trash and replace, if it were something softer an a bit more casual, I’d likely patch it. In terms of emergency fixes, at all times in my office, I have a spare shirt (spills, stains, etc.), and a sewing kit (I also supplement the kit with some double sided tape and safety pins).

    • AVienot

      Have to disagree with you, although I’m sure that is the case for many people. For my favorite dress shirts for work (one’s I wear 1,2 times per month) the elbows failing is the only reason I’ve had to retire 4 of them. I’m 6’5″ with some pointy ‘bows but and felt a need to take the counterpoint on this one.

  • adrian

    great post! I encounter this problem all the time. thank you

  • BougieHippie

    The funny thing about this post is I literally was teaching some of the guys at work the different ways to roll up a shirt or oversized jacket/coat.

    Also, if you’re having hole problems 1. stop whatever it is you’re overdressing for to need and button down on while using your elbows.

    2. If it’s a shirt worth keep elbow patch are very much in vogue now. Just ask your mom to sew them on or but the iron-on version.

    3. Throw them away. Men’s dress shirts are always on sale. This isn’t the great depression you no longer have to wear things till they disintegrate.

  • Stephen C.

    I submitted this question a while ago – so happy to have a real solution!

  • SL

    I don’t think I’ve ever had this happen to me (luckily), but then again I almost always roll up my sleeves.

    Good post though, I like the use of the pictures, very helpful

  • TJ

    Love these posts, Dan… Thanks for sharing!

  • Tom

    A quick fix…buy some fuseable interface and fuse it over the aligned edges inside the sleeve with a hot iron. It will at least get you through a meeting or two.