There are so many questions about sleeve lengths. “How do I know if the sleeves are too long, too short? Should I roll them up, leave them down, or just wear short sleeves to avoid the issue all together?” You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers….
How do I know if the sleeves are too long, too short?
A long sleeve length should end at the wrist bone when the arm is bent (at the base of the pinky/ring fingers). The shirt sleeve cuff should show 1/2” below a jacket sleeve. The cuff should also touch or cover your watch whenever you wear it. Wearing it too long, may appear childish, as if you're wearing your dad's shirt that you haven't quite grown into. Too short, and you may communicate a lack of attention to detail as if you've outgrown your clothes and haven't bothered to replace them with the correct size. Yes, you could roll the sleeves up but if you're investing in a good quality dress shirt you want it to be as versatile as possible. You'll want the option of a proper fitting sleeve.
You may already have a preference on this, if not, it’s helpful to understand the message communicated by each one. In general, the more skin you show, the more casual the message becomes. Short-sleeved sport shirts may appear more youthful, more approachable and relaxed because the more skin you show, the more casual the message becomes. The long sleeved version may have a more refined appearance, communicating knowledge, experience, and leadership. (Of course the color, fabric and pattern will also influence the message conveyed.)
Fashion forward short sleeves will have 1” or less of ease around the bicep and end 2-3" above the elbow. This creates a fuller, more athletic appearing bicep. Sleeves in the image below are longer and more traditional, better suited for a boxier shirt shape.
Cuff your sleeves 1-2” wide and roll anywhere from 2” below the elbow to just above the elbow. Fabric generally gets too bulky to roll up to the bicep, unless it’s extremely light-weight. For the relaxed 50s look, pictured above, higher is better. Or roll up the sleeves on the short sleeve shirt.
Short sleeve? Long sleeve? Not sure how persuasive you’ll need to be that day? When in doubt, go for the long sleeve and roll up the sleeves to relax the look when needed. Notice that an unbuttoned collar also visually relaxes the appearance as opposed to the collar buttoned up to the neck. (See images above.) Yes, clothing communicates before you even say word. To get your specific non-verbal communication strategy that will lead to your version of success, contact me HERE.
Image consultant and personal stylist. Dani is happily married, the mother of 3 hip kids, and owner of an young pup named Josie Wales.