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Topic: Pulled back sleeves
Message: Posted by: bsears (Dec 21, 2004 12:28PM)
I'm wondering if anyone has any strong feelings about working in a sport coat or suit and pulling the sleeves back?

This is the way I've done it for 10+ years. There is no doubt that it increses the level of deception. (I do mostly sleight of hand). But I've heard from a few people that it is very unfashionable. Well, I'm a magician, not a model, and nearly every show I do someone comments how "impossible" it is that I don't use my sleeves.

Seems worth it to me, just thought I'd throw it out there...
Message: Posted by: Jim Wilder (Dec 21, 2004 09:05PM)
When I have occasionally worked in a jacket, I pull the sleeves back. It, in my own mind, helps ease the audience into accepting that the magic is not dependant on my sleeves.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Dec 27, 2004 10:05PM)
When you see me with pushed up sleeves it is usually to hide something. However, I do something else for closeup that is along the same lines. I put whatever is in my hands down on the table and take off my wrist watch. Then I put the watch on the table, pick up the props and start the real trick. It shows that there is nothing there without having to say it directly. Putting the watch back on also let's people know that the show is over. (At trade shows in particular, changing audiences can be important. It gives them a cue.)

Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: bsears (Dec 28, 2004 01:13PM)
Bob - Maybe I missed your point. Could you explain how taking off your watch shows that you don't or won't use your sleeves?
Message: Posted by: Tyler_Magician (Dec 28, 2004 01:19PM)
Taking off your watch when doing magic is kind of like washing the dishes. Someone standing near you knows that you are going to wash the dishes because you are taking off your watch. After you are done, you put the watch back on and the person knows that you are done washing.
When you pull your sleeves up, it seems that you are more intimate with your audience. They can act natural because you are more of a normal person. With your sleeves down, you seem like a man than is a magician and they act like they don;t know you as much. I'm confusing myself here.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Dec 28, 2004 09:15PM)

To take the watch off my hands have to be empty. The audience needs to see that. In the process of taking the watch off, the audience has really seen that neither sleeve has anything to hide either.

Watch your audience. With no chatter, they will really look you over and burn your sleeves and hands in the process. Remember it isn't the magician who needs convincing. It is the audience that is looking for the trick.

A magicianís credibility is based on what he shows the audience much more than what he tells the audience. They frankly wonít see you as honest and the value of what you say is very small when it comes to trust.

After over forty years in the business, I see no value in telling the audience that there is nothing up my sleeve. (As a point of honor with me, often there are body loads all over me.) Iím an entertainer, not a court witness. (Iíve been paid very well for both, but I do not mix them.)

Among educated adults, pushing up the sleeves on a formal or business suit does indeed mark me as a busboy or waiter rather than an entertainer. It doesnít fit my magic. Iím nearly sixty, not sixteen. (But I didnít do it then either. When I started in the 1960s, only foreign magicians did that in America. Then it was essentially South American entertains that did that. By the late 1970s they quit it too.) It was also one of those little things that marked you as a nightclub magician and not a corporate magician. The dollars are very different.

However, whatever you do still depends on your audience, the venue and the scope of your experience and ability. It has to fit. I don't like to see coat sleeves pulled up to expose shirt sleeves. There are times (usually trade shows and sales meetings) when I wear a golf shirt under a coat. Then there are no shirt sleeves to show. I think that looks better.


Magic By Sander


Lucy and I are in the Gainsville / Ocala area this week and we will be back for the end of February. That is as close as we will get to you until October. Any chance we will get to meet you?
Message: Posted by: David Neighbors (Dec 29, 2004 10:25AM)
I all ways Pull up My sleeves Or Roll them up if I am Just In a vest! And have done so for the last 40 years! Sounds Good to me!

Best David Neighbors
The Coinjurer
Message: Posted by: bsears (Dec 30, 2004 12:00PM)
Bob - I see your point, but, for me, the sleeves go back because DURING the show if something vanishes, changes, or whatever, the spectators will often think of the sleeve. I can't blame them, really, it is the easiest explaination and its sooooo close to the hand. So I roll them up. (and sometimes get confused for the manager - not the waiter - waiters don't wear suit/sport coats usually).
Message: Posted by: BlackShadow (Jan 5, 2005 09:58PM)
I think it looks better if you wear tighter fitting sleeves and something like a waiscoat. For street performing anyway, but it could be smart enough for a resteraunt too. A waistcoat is good because it gives you pockets without the bulk of sleeves and a jacket as possible explanation for vanishes etc. So, if your sleights don't require it, why leave that explanation hanging?

I also wear dark clothing. I'm a goth in any case so that's what I wear, but dark clothes give a good contrast for the props. Green and red silks or sponges look great against a black background but not so good against pale flesh. If you have darker skin, that's a natural advantage in this situation.
Message: Posted by: philblackmore (Jan 9, 2005 07:12PM)
Does it look smarter to have shirt sleeves rolled up or to have the sleeves cut off at the elbow and sewn so you have short sleeves?
I am going to be wearing a dress shirt (either with a bow-tie or neru/mandarin collar) under a waistcoat. What do you think? Short sleeves or rolled up?
Message: Posted by: bsears (Jan 10, 2005 12:56PM)
I think short sleeves can look OK in a vest, though I prefer to "roll" them. I saw a mentalist do a lecture at a convention and he had a short sleeved tux shirt on, by itself. I know, it sounds horrible, but it looked good on him. In fact, there were questions from the audience wondering where they could buy one! (it was custom made)

In a jacket, I have gone from "rolled up" to "pushed back" myself.
Message: Posted by: fccfp (Jan 13, 2005 01:39PM)
As Bob said, people do not generally push there sleeves back when wearing dress clothes.

However, you must do what works for you and fits your style. A lot may depend on the venue and the character you are creating.

I will show up to out door perf in my tux because that is "the uniform". I quickly shed the jacket and work in my vest w/ open collar dress shirt. If it is hot I will roll up my sleeves when setting up to do the handcuff release. I think that is natural since I am having volunteers put the cuffs on me. Once up, they stay up. As I get ready for the finale, which is a photo op, the jacket will come back (along with the cape. I usually don't bother rolling the sleeves back down at that point.

When I was a lot younger (& thinner) I worked a summer barbecue in a bathing suit just because the person hiring me said he did not think I could do it. (We won't talk about where I hid my body loads here in a family oriented forum.

On occasion when doing close up I have taken off my cuff links and rolled the shirt cuffs back over the jacket sleeves. I think it created a dramatic effect in that I was still neatly dreesed but the sleeves where higher than usual. I got the idea from seeing Sammy Davis Jr. do it in a tux on the old Merv Griffen show. (boy am I dating myself now).
Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Jan 13, 2005 02:35PM)
Sleight-of-hand onstage or on a platform - yes.
Same at a close-up table - no.
Escape artists - yes.
Mentalists - NEVER.

Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (Jan 18, 2005 01:22PM)
Don't proctologists roll up their sleeves as well? Yeow!

I think it really depends on how you are performing. If the audience is engaged at a puzzle level, then it is probably necessary to fool them.
Message: Posted by: bsears (Jan 19, 2005 11:54AM)
Clifford: Its ALWAYS a good idea to fool them.
Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (Jan 21, 2005 06:40PM)
Uh, no. It's necessary to entertain them. No one likes to be a fool.
Message: Posted by: bsears (Jan 24, 2005 05:23PM)
I do it nicely, of course :)
Message: Posted by: redbull (Jan 25, 2005 01:07AM)
I am a huge believer in always working with sleeves rolled up for any sort of sleighht of hand magic. You will NEVER see me do an effect without my sleeves rolled up.

As for your sport coat. It's not the most stylish thing in the world but I have had to roll up my sport coat sleeves during some performances. I would suggest perhaps only rolling up your sleeves before those magic moments when the sleight could happen. So right before you place the coin in your hand to make it vanish, you roll up your sleeves, then make the coin vanish. Not only would it tell your audience that you don't use your sleeves but it will also say, "watch close, something magical is about to happen."
Message: Posted by: bsears (Jan 25, 2005 12:37PM)
Redbull: True!
Message: Posted by: TommyTheTremendous (Feb 1, 2005 01:43AM)
In my opinion, I think it is funny to see someone say that I have something up my sleeves. I hate working with sleeves because they can get in the way. If I want to hide something, I will do it somewhere where no one would expect it. The viewers should know that if the performer already knows the audience will probably blame a hidden object on his or her sleeves, than why hide it there? Just my 2 cents on sleeves.
Message: Posted by: silver (Feb 1, 2005 03:56PM)
Well, I do magic in a T-shirt that has my name printed on the front and my homepage address on the back. It's a black T-shirt and of course with short sleeves. People always tell me that they like me wearing a T-shirt with short sleeves because of them they know that there is nothing to hide. Since I am a female magician it's a little different anyway as we normally don't wear jackets.
Message: Posted by: Review King (Feb 12, 2005 03:24AM)
Roll them baby's up! Plus, doing so allows for lot of misdirection/steals/holding out, etc.

Roll 'em up and roll 'em down!
Message: Posted by: Daniel Faith (Feb 24, 2005 05:41PM)
This is all of function of your image and character.
Ask yourself if this fits you.
I know of many pros that roll their sleeves up.
I feel it's a personal thing.
Message: Posted by: MagicbyCarlo (Feb 26, 2005 02:11PM)
I roll or pull my sleeves back depending on what I'm wearing and situation. In my platform/stage show, the sleeves of my jacket and shirt come back when I perform the Malini Egg Bag (3rd or 4th piece in my act, depending on the show) and stay that way until the end of the show.

In close-up, I will pull them back for coins across or 3-fly. If I'm working a party in formal wear they may stay rolled back. If I'm doing my dress casual (jacket and Crew-neck short sleeve shirt) I will go with pulling them back as needed. I always try to make the look a neat as possible and have even toyed with the idea of altering the jacket sleeves to accommodate quicker rolling and un-rolling.

Rolling up your sleeves also subliminally says ďIím going to work now, so pay attention.Ē So I like to make it part of the prelude rather than just starting with the sleeves rolled up. Of course if you use your sleeves you probably wonít roll them up.
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Feb 26, 2005 02:25PM)
Walk into a true "high society event" with touir sleeves rolled up and you are now equivalent in their eyes to the bus boy. Of course, is a particular moment is best delivered by eliminating the sleeves, do it for that moment, but no longer. It is no longer the 1980's. The rolled up sleeve look is "out."

I have been at locales with a client where a magician has been present. As soon as they saw their outfit, they rolled their eyes and said, "ugh, not a magician." Interestingly, I have worked for them for several years.

If you want to be a commodity, follow the stereotype.

If you want to be taken seriously by top level executives, look and act like they do. Red jackets, sequined buttons saying "magic" and rolled up sleeves must go.
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Feb 26, 2005 08:58PM)
Please forgive the typos. Cut and pasted the pre-edited version into the forum. Cannot edit now.
Message: Posted by: bsears (Feb 28, 2005 02:37PM)
Truthteller - I see your point, but, sleeves or not, I never want to look too much like the people I'm performing for. Its important for me to stand out as the entertainment.

Also, I've noticed lately a number of pros who make sure to get their sleeves out of the way before doing slieght of hand. (check it out at the next convention or when you see a magician on TV). No sense in spending all that time learning good magic just to have someone dismiss it all with "he must be using his sleeves!"

But to each his own.
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Feb 28, 2005 04:33PM)
See, I think being "the entertainment" is not always the most flattering position to be in. I would rather be seen as an equal, or better, of those whom I am brought in to share my skills. The "entertainment" to a Fortune 500 CEO is someone who is dismissed. Do you wish to be dissmissed?
Message: Posted by: ithomson (Mar 1, 2005 08:17AM)

Personally, I feel very uncomfortable rolling my shirt sleeves up over my jacket sleeves. So if I feel the need, and I'm performing a long-ish set for a table, I sometimes take my jacket off to hang over a customer's chair, then roll my shirt-sleeves up to my forearms. This takes a small amount of time, which I try to use to get to know my customers.

As an alternative, I often get customers to hold my wrists instead of rolling my sleeves. This way they know nothing can get past their hands. However, once when doing this I did have a customer take advantage by holding another part of my anatomy, but I guess that could be seen as an added bonus.

Message: Posted by: bsears (Mar 1, 2005 11:46AM)
I've never felt looked down upon as being the "entertainment"; quite the opposite.

Personally, I try and look like a magician. Sometimes I wear a top hat. Often a vest, a flashy jacket, tie or shirt, maybe a tux. That way when someone looks over they don't say "is that someone from marketing doing card tricks?"

Its showbusiness guys. Nothing wrong with looking the part.
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Mar 1, 2005 02:32PM)
I respect that. But I ask you to compare what a "magician" makes versus a "consultant" or "speaker" or "insert your name here". Consider which is invited to sit at the head table. We all make our own choices. A "magician" is an interchangeable commodity and will be bounded by the market rate and social attitudes towards his or her ilk.
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Mar 1, 2005 03:44PM)
On 2004-12-21 13:28, bsears wrote:
I'm wondering if anyone has any strong feelings about working in a sport coat or suit and pulling the sleeves back?

This is the way I've done it for 10+ years. There is no doubt that it increses the level of deception. (I do mostly sleight of hand). But I've heard from a few people that it is very unfashionable. Well, I'm a magician, not a model, and nearly every show I do someone comments how "impossible" it is that I don't use my sleeves.

Seems worth it to me, just thought I'd throw it out there...

I see nothing wrong with working in a sports coat, pulling suit sleeves up, wearing a vest or T-shirt. Depends on for who and where.

As far as pulling the sleeves up to increase the level of deception goes, maybe yes, maybe no.
Spectators who like to solve magic mysteries may not think a vanished item was sleeved but instead begin focusing on other possible methods. Maybe even the method you're using. Just a thought.

Those who are there to be entertained could probably care less.
Message: Posted by: MagicbyCarlo (Mar 5, 2005 02:01AM)
On 2005-02-28 17:33, truthteller wrote:
See, I think being "the entertainment" is not always the most flattering position to be in. I would rather be seen as an equal, or better, of those whom I am brought in to share my skills. The "entertainment" to a Fortune 500 CEO is someone who is dismissed. Do you wish to be dissmissed?
Hey Brad, are they dismissing me with a big fat check? Then, yes please, I love the service industry :winker:
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Mar 8, 2005 02:36PM)
I contend that the check is fatter when you are the guru, the star, the "name." Shoot for the moon, not the bush.
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Mar 8, 2005 09:39PM)
Brad, one can be "the entertainment" and still be "the star." It's all in the perception of the client. If one present's ones'self as a professional, a specialist and someone unique that could NOT be duplicated or bought somewhere else for cheaper, then you will go much farther.

Remember, we spend at least as much time honing out skills as many licensed professionals in other fields (at least we should) and have skills that are expremely rare in the total population. While one should not come across as some kind of prima donna, one should act like and expect the respect that a true professional should have as their due.

I've worked with some of the largest corporations in the world - Siemans, Akzo-Nobel (the makers of dynamite and the Nobel Peace Prize came from their founder), McDonald's, the Social Security Administration, Discover Card services and even Oprah Winfrey and have never been treated as "just" the entertainment.

Perhaps it's in how one makes a presentation to the client and how one acts. If one acts as a professional who is worthy of respect, yet able to meet the client's needs in a polite and friendly manner - or refuse those demands that may be impossible in a polite and professional manner, then one will usually be treated with that respect and professionalism that one puts forward.

Maybe it's me, but I always have been treated either like a long-lost member of the family or as a working professional who should be assisted in any way available, if needed. Then, of course, I show very little need by making their interactions with me as easy as possible for them.

That pulls a good paycheck, return engagements and a lot less stress for all involved.

But there are a few people out there who will try to see how far you can be pushed. To handle such instances politely and, especially, to make the pushy client believe that they are actually even more important for having helped YOU is the mark, in my eyes, of a true professional.

Other people's mileage may vary, obviously.

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Mar 8, 2005 09:56PM)
Lee, I agree. And I think there is a difference in dressing/acting professionally and looking like a baffoon (sp?). Let's face it, most magicians cannot handle themselves in polite company. Their "always on" "laugh at every moment - at anyone's expense" attitude has relegated us socially one step above the mime. To choose to don the trappings of the stereotype, I fear, is placing oneself intentionally in a negative light. I feel that such trappings as pulled back sleeves while wearing a jacket (except perhaps for the very moment of making a magical effect), ties and vests with playing cards on them, "character hats" (unless one is a street performer) and the like demean us socially and are liable to be met with a "God, I hope he doesn't come over here."

However, a well dressed man or woman who carries themselves with confidence and civility will be welcomed into the cocktail circle as "one of us."

One of the most flattering quotes I have received was, "This is so much better than magic." I think that says a lot about people's perceptions of what "magic" is.
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Mar 9, 2005 01:33AM)
Not so sure I agree completely on the slightly odd dress issue. Many performers dress in a manner that is rather odd, to say the lease and pull down some remarkable paychecks and are regarded as major stars, whether it's comedy or magic. One needs look no further than the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Lance Burton, or the Amazing Jonathan to see that the odd can work. None of them dress in what one could call "office normal" couture.

The trick is to be appropriate to either your character or the sales venue. Let's face it, on one episode of the Blue Collar TV show, Larry the Cable Guy, who usually wears a battered ball cap, a plaid shirt with the sleeves ripped off, battered blue jeans and work boots, showed up in a business suit, playing a cop. He cleans up really well and would have been able to handle himself, from a visual standpoint, in any office from Wall Street to Fleet Street.

The trick, to me, is knowing when to do what and how.

Let's face it, Mac King, one of the more successful performers in Vegas, is NOT what you'd call a GQ fashion plate when he's performing, neither is Chris Angel. But Mac has been working steadily in Vegas for a long time and Angel has just nailed down a TV series.

To me, it seems that there is a way to handle the people and still maintain professionalism while being true to one's character and art. But, for many, it's a tough call and, to some, impossible as they have little idea of where the boundaries are and when it is and is not appropriate to challange them.

The performer who has that knowledge should be able to open almost any door.

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Mar 9, 2005 02:44AM)
Each magician you have mentioned is a stage performer and there is a different sort of theatrical expectation there. However, the key I agree is knowing your venue and clientelle. I still contend that pulled back sleeves as a fashion statement is seen as "de classe" in upscale performing environments.
Message: Posted by: bsears (Mar 10, 2005 10:34AM)
I think its important to stand out a bit in the crowd. In a good way, of course.
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Mar 10, 2005 10:20PM)
Truthteller, for other examples, let's try Cellini, Chris Capeheart, Eddie Tullock, Don Alan and Steven Burgoon for close up examples. None of them wear what could be called street-normal wear, yet people welcome them upon their approach with open arms. Their dress ranges from Don Alan's western dressy on Magic Ranch, to Burgoon's rather odd attire to Chris Capeheart's red coat and miniature live bunny.


Because they are genuinely nice guys, know how to make the approach and still have the "performer's persona" going for them from a coture standpoint.

While I agree tht often the people who wear the ties with playing cards on them are often not the most socially adept people on the planet, there are those who wear them and who are - Matt, Charlie and Jimmy Schulein would be good examples - Heba Haba Al, would be another. Doc Eason, while well dressed, still has the affectations of the bowler hat and the suspenders (braces for our friends in the UK), so, it really comes down, in large part to the personality, much more than the slightly outlandish clothes.

I remember doing a show at an Armory for a women's group about a decade ago. I was wearing my tux at the time and got no fewer that six requests for butter, ketchup and getting a table bussed on my around the tables as the wait staff were all wearing tuxes as well.

Sometimes, it pays to look a little different.

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Message: Posted by: Brad Lancaster (Mar 11, 2005 12:11AM)
Lee,in my opinion you've said it all!
Message: Posted by: truthteller (Mar 14, 2005 10:54PM)

I agree that the tux is not the way to go. Not only do you look like a bus boy, but it is magic cliche. Nevertheless I find you are referencing the dress of Alan on TV and two well known street performers. Corporate entertainment and society functions are a different game. As I understand it, Don was a coat and tie man at the hospitality suits.

Of course, personality go a long way. But let's consider the first impression.

You are in a multi-million dollar home. Most people are wearing Armani or better. Everyone is pressed and neatly dressed.

Into the room walks a man in a bright blue coat, sleeves rolled up, and a flashing rabbit in hat pin.

Is the first thought, "Oh, I wonder how unique and charming that fellow is going to be. Let's give him the chance to win us over and show us his originality?"

Or,"Oh a magician. We had one at our daughter's third birthday party. I think he was drunk."

If our image suggests a "type" we will be defined by that "type." I believe that the associations MANY people have of our TYPE are negative. Why start with your foot in a hole?

How much better to look like one of them. Introduce yourself. SHow you have a charming personalty while winning them over - which I agree is crucial - and then introduce the magic.

According to your own post, Lee, this would work. The personality is what sells them. SO make sure the first thing they fix upon is the personality, not the stereo type.
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Mar 15, 2005 08:15PM)
Agreed, however, doing something that stands out slightly from the normal attire of the crowd is still a good way to delineate to the audience that you are not just someone coming up to them at a function and interrupting to do a few tricks. There are way too many Uncle Alberts out there who do that at these events who are most emphatically not professionals, nor are their prsentations of a professional calibre.

This is why I suggested the "slightly off the center of the bell curve of fashion" approach rather than the "way down at the tacky end of the bell curve" approach of the guy with the blinkie pin and the loud colors. Unless one is doing an obnoxious character (ala "Rent-a-Nerd" and yes, there are such companies out there that do that to people), one should still be slightly off center, fashion-wise, but it should probably be either further up into the rarified areas of clothing style or something laterally comparable to the crowd, but which still has a slightly "different" look to it, without being tacky, nerdish or just plain creepy (unless it's Halloween, then all bets are off).

I use, for many occasions, a waistcoat (vest for those of us the the US) that's a very muted brocade depiction of the Day and Night theme from a famous woodcut. The colors are muted, but the design and make is superb and I get lots of comments on the vest, such as where I got it, how did I find it and where can I get one? from both men and women. It's something that gets noticed, but is not flashy - a fashion statement, rather than a fashion emergency.

To me, the real key is meeting the client's expectations and, perhaps, exceeding them slightly - which is why I always ask what the dress code for any event is going to be and ask about costuming and dress for myself for the evening, getting prior apporval first, if needs be.

Excellent posts!

Lee Darrow, C.H.