Tradition To Trend: Why Do Bartenders Wear Armbands?

why do bartenders wear armbands
Joe | Last Updated: August 4, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

You walk into a bar filled with the vibrant energy of patrons mingling, laughter echoing, and the clinking of glasses.

Amidst this lively atmosphere, you have noticed an intriguing accessory on the arms of bartenders — a distinct armband.

This small but notable accessory has sparked curiosity and speculation among you and your friends. What purpose does it serve?

Is it merely a fashion statement or does it hold a deeper significance? Both are very reasonable questions that we’re going to answer today.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at bartender attire and specifically the accessory that many wear around their arms to put an end to the speculation and answer the common question; Why do bartenders wear armbands?

So, whether you’re a curious customer looking for answers or an aspiring bartender seeking to understand the traditions that surround your future profession, keep reading to learn all there is about bartenders’ armbands.

Let’s get into it…

Why Do Bartenders Wear Armbands?

Whilst not as common today, the main reason bartenders wear armbands, also known as sleeve garters, is to keep shirt sleeves in place and prevent them from falling into drinks or getting dirty while working.

Bartenders sometimes wear one-size-fits-all dress shirts which can have long and baggy sleeves, therefore, armbands help keep the sleeves out of their way while working.

Not only does a baggy sleeve slow bartenders down when creating drinks, but it’s gross if their sleeve finds its way into a customer’s drink and the drink would need to be remade.

Some bartenders who want to evoke a classic or old-fashioned look may choose to wear sleeve garters as part of their attire.

This style choice can contribute to creating a nostalgic atmosphere or a specific theme in the establishment.

why do bartenders wear armbands
Image by Hotel du Vin & Bistro

With popular TV shows such as Peaky Blinders and new retro-themed bars popping up all over the world, it’s brought sleeve garters back into fashion to fit in with the vintage aesthetic.

Another popular reason why some bartenders choose to wear armbands is to store a bar tool on their sleeve as opposed to their back pocket.

Bartenders that find themselves serving bottles regularly may choose to keep a bottle opener attached to their arm via an armband.

This can allow them to serve customers faster without having to locate the bottle opener every time or pull it from their back pocket.

>> Read more: Can bartenders have beards?

Do Sleeve Garters Have Any Significance In Bartending?

Sleeve garters have historical significance in the bartending profession, but their practical use has diminished over time.

Originally, sleeve garters were worn by bartenders and other professionals to keep their shirt sleeves in place and prevent them from getting wet or dirty while working.

They were particularly useful when bartenders would roll up their sleeves while washing glasses or handling ingredients.

While sleeve garters are less commonly used for their original purpose today, they can still hold symbolic significance or be worn for aesthetic reasons in certain situations.

They look cool too, with many bartenders choosing to wear sleeve garters simply for the look.

I used to wear sleeve garters when I worked in a high-end cocktail bar in Australia simply for the look, but I would keep bar tools in there too.

Maybe I just looked like an old-fashioned twit, who knows?

>> Read more: Why do bartenders open cans?

Do All Bartenders Wear Sleeve Garters?

No, not all bartenders wear sleeve garters. They are not universally worn or required in the bartending profession and their significance and use can vary depending on the specific establishment, dress code policies, or the personal preferences of the bartender.

As time goes on, bartender attire is becoming more and more relaxed in most establishments, therefore, it’s not required for bartenders to wear sleeve garters.

Today, the majority of bartenders do not wear sleeve garters as part of their standard uniform.

Bartending uniforms typically consist of a well-groomed appearance, often including a clean shirt or blouse, appropriate pants or skirts, and comfortable footwear.

why do bartenders wear armbands
Photo by Tamilles Esposito

The specific dress code and uniform requirements can vary depending on the establishment, ranging from casual to formal attire.

However, it’s worth noting that in some specialized or themed bars or for certain events, bartenders might choose to wear sleeve garters as a fashion statement or to enhance a specific atmosphere.

Some bartenders who have a personal preference for vintage or retro styles may opt to wear sleeve garters as a stylistic choice. But overall, sleeve garters are not a standard or universal accessory in the bartending profession.

>> Read more: What to wear to a bartending interview

How To Wear Sleeve Garters

To wear sleeve garters as a bartender, start by selecting the appropriate sleeve garters that fit comfortably around your upper arm.

Look for ones that have enough elasticity to hold your sleeves in place without being too tight or uncomfortable. Adjustable sleeve garters are a good option as they can accommodate different arm sizes.

Perfect for the jacked bartender gym bros!

Before putting on the sleeve garters, roll up your sleeves to the desired length. Make sure the sleeves are neatly folded and positioned just above your elbow.

This will prevent them from getting in the way while you work and give you a polished appearance.

why do bartenders wear armbands
Image by tannaz

Once your sleeves are rolled up, slide the sleeve garters onto your upper arms, just above the rolled-up portion of your sleeves.

Adjust them to a comfortable tightness that will keep your sleeves in place throughout your shift without restricting your movement or causing discomfort.

Ensure that the sleeve garters are positioned evenly on both arms for a balanced look.

They should hold your sleeves securely, preventing them from falling down or getting in the way while you perform your bartending tasks.

>> Read more: How to learn bartending

Final Thoughts

To sum up, some bartenders choose to wear armbands or sleeve garters to protect their sleeves from getting in the way or falling into customers’ drinks.

Whilst they aren’t as popular now as there were in the past, they are still a staple of bartending attire with many bartenders choosing to wear them to give off the old-school bartending look.

As time goes on, bartending attire is becoming more relaxed in some establishments, but bars that are themed or holding events may still require their bartenders to wear sleeve garters.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you now have a better understanding of why bartenders wear armbands and the significance of this cool accessory.

If you do want to take your bartending attire to the next level and impress your manager, give them a try!

Catch you in the next one.