Trad Mannerisms: The Politician’s Roll


“Politicians are always taking off their jackets and rolling up their sleeves and pretending to help build a house somewhere. It’s that getting-things-done look.” – Glenn O’Brien

Back in 11th grade I took AP Psychology based on the recommendation of my upperclassmen friends. Not to simply take it for college credit or to learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy, but to laugh and engage with the great Mr. Norman. This magnetizing 6’2″ 220lb head honcho-kinda fella earned a reputation for being hilariously quick witted, and was beloved by all of his students. His amusing teaching methods always kept us on our toes. “Kelly, name some examples of basic physiological needs [while staring at Thomas].” I wouldn’t argue that tricky bastard had us trained like Pavlov’s dogs by the end of the semester, always ready to reply. And if you fell asleep from exerting yourself at that God awful early morning swim practice, he’d call your name out mid-lecture and keep talking as if nothing happened. (My friend accidentally copied my name down more than a few times as he took notes.) Mr. Norman was fun to listen to and hang out with after class, and he had all of us Honor Society members drawn in to him like you would to Mr. Porter.

Mr. Norman worked in banking prior to becoming a public school teacher, majoring at Duke University in what I believe was Economics. At least it was safe to assume because every day in class, he always wore a white or blue OCBD- Brooks Brothers actually, now that I can identify from memory, and had his sleeves rolled up in something he probably picked up during his finance days: the Banker’s Roll, or also known as the Politician’s Roll.

It’s simple to describe and you’ve already seen me do it countless times in My Porn Stash posts. The Politician’s Roll is the trad gentleman’s way of rolling up his sleeves. You simply unbutton the sleeve placket and roll the cuff back twice. That’s it.

Why name it after a Politician or Banker? This elegant way of rolling your sleeve works well for White Collared men. It doesn’t expose your whole forearm, which can appear too informal, and it gives the sense that you are wrangling away in the mud getting your hands dirty as you sign that contract with your Mont Blanc fountain pen. It’s why you see your governor or senator roll roll up his or her sleeves every time they attend a town hall meeting. To connect to the people while still looking professional.

I find myself employing the Politician’s Roll as the default way I wear a long sleeved shirt. Wearing a shirt with the sleeves buttoned and without a jacket or blazer looks stiff and uptight. It’s why cool guy Jim Halpert always sports the Politician…

…And geeky Alan Harper refuses to roll up his grossly fitting plaid shirts.

Our Lord Almighty Brooks Brothers does not offer a second button on their sleeve placket on dress shirts. It is how I was able to notice Mr. Norman’s Brethren OCBDs. (Other brands also lack the second button but it’s safe to assume Brooks Brothers when spotting in the wild). It is assumed that a dress shirt will always stay buttoned under a suit jacket, thus having no need for additional buttons. Here is my houndstooth BB Dress OCBD with a streamlined placket.

Oppositely is a Brooks Sport OCBD with a second button, signifying a less dressier occasion.

I roll my sleeves whenever I have a standalone shirt, no matter the occasion. If it’s formal enough to button your sleeves, then it’s formal enough to have accompanying outerwear any way. And when it’s time to take off your dinner jacket to dance with the pretty lady, then its time to roll your sleeves back up once again.

This looks like I’m selling you insurance.

While a Politician’s Roll looks calm, collected, and loose. I take note from Jim Halpert and slide my hands in my pockets when I am standing. This gives off a sense of casual innocence, as long as you keep from having poor posture and smiling at the camera.

Looks good from the behind too. The folded cuffs leave a crisp texture.

From time to time I would roll back my sleeves the usual way up to the elbow. I do this when I’m going for an urban prep look. Justin Timberlake is a good example in Friends With Benefits, where rightly so he plays a GQ fashion editor.

Of course, there is the chance of actually doing work. Here is my outfit from a field trip to a local art museum to get my Da Vinci on and sketch cast sculptures. I wanted to appear slightly Bohemian with my drawing pad and charcoal covered fingers, sans the over sized wayfarers and black knit cap.

This roll is a little more complex than simply rolling the cuff up three or four times. As described by GQ Magazine:

You slide the unbuttoned cuff back past past your elbow.

And then take the bottom edge and roll it up once. You can leave the top of the cuff peeking out for a disheveled impromptu visual, or tuck it in for a sleeker gusto.

Go forth and get your hands dirty! Just make sure to wash up before dinner.