Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Getting distracted, dismissing Obama talk, and rolling down your sleeves

Working jacket cuffs — how does one roll them up stylishly? I feel that if I roll them up while wearing a long sleeve shirt, there’s too much shirt cuff showing. But I don’t want to roll my shirt sleeve up as well; that’d just look silly, especially in the morning. I come to you with this since you’ve said you love your working buttons. And if I can have just an ounce of that Labash sprezzatura, I’ll be a happy man. — SPAZaturra

Dearest Spaz, as you correctly state, there is no greater fan of working buttons/buttonholes than me. I won’t buy a jacket or suit without insisting on their inclusion. They are not only desirable, from a utility standpoint, in providing extra breathing room for the massive musculature of my forearms, particularly when I wear French cuffs. But leaving one unbuttoned on both sleeves is like sending a Bat Signal to fellow aesthetes, one which says, “I might look devil-may-care, but I didn’t buy this suit down at the Nordstrom Rack. I had it made, albeit, by a guy who keeps fabric swatches in his trunk and has you mail the check to a P.O. box. … Still, I am a refined gentleman of taste and means.”

That said, never, ever roll up the sleeves on your suit jacket. It’s perfectly acceptable to take off your jacket, and to roll up your shirt sleeves, as politicians do when they tour what’s left of Midwestern factories, while pretending that they understand blue collar hopes and dreams. But unless you want to look like Rick Springfield during the Jesse’s Girl era, Jon Cryer during the John Hughes years or Kirk Cameron in pretty much any photo he’s ever taken, leave the sleeves where they belong — down. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. “But the buttons unbutton, and therefore I must use them,” you protest. No, you mustn’t. I don’t know what else you’re into. Just for illustration’s sake, you might like wearing jaguar-fur man-thongs underneath your suit. Doesn’t mean you go traipsing around the streets, showing them off. The quiet confidence they afford you is internal reward enough. Same with working buttons. They’re there for you, not everyone else. Some secrets derive their power from remaining untold.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.