Human Resources Survey Results
Is casual dress dead?

This survey was conducted from March 8 through March 27, 2003.

We receive many inquiries about casual dress code. Of late, some of these inquiries have run along the following lines:

"Isn’t it true that the move toward more casual dress code has ended, and company dress codes are becoming less casual?"

The answer appears to be "no." In an Internet poll we conducted between March 8 2003 and March 20 2003, almost half of respondents said the dress code where they work has not changed in the past two years. Among those who said it had changed, those who said it had become more casual outnumbered those who said it had become less casual by a ratio of more than three to one.

How does your workplace's dress code compare to how it was two years ago?

Those who wear typical business attire to work appear to have reached equilibrium in terms of their companies’ dress code changes, with about as many saying things have become more casual as say things have become less casual. Among business casual wearers, those who say things have become more casual outnumber those who say it has become less casual by about a three to one margin. Among very casual wearers, the ratio of those who say things have become more casual to those who say things have become less casual is seven to one.

Hmmmmm.
A small percentage of those who say things are very casual also say things are less casual than two years ago, making us ponder, what were they wearing before? Bathrobes?

 Most casual attireallowed by employer on most days of the week
TotalVery casualBusiness CasualTypical Business Attire

How does your workplace's dress code compare to how it was two years ago?

Sample Size43517821740
More casual than two years ago39.5%40.4%42.4%20.0%
Less casual than two years ago11.5%5.6%14.3%22.5%
About the same as two years ago49.0%53.9%43.3%57.5%

Just under one in ten respondents say they must wear typical business attire to work. Half say they are allowed to wear business casual, with the remainder saying they can wear very casual clothing.

What is the most casual type of attire your employer lets you wear to work on most days of the week?

The story here, though, is in the changes these groups would like to see. Most people said they are happy with the current dress code. A slightly larger group said they wanted more casual dress than less casual dress than currently allowed.

What change would you like to see in your employer's dress code?

However, the results differed dramatically depending upon the current dress code in place.

More than three fourths of the very casual group said no changes are needed in the dress code policy. However, among those who would like to see a change, those saying it should be less casual outnumbered those saying it should be more casual by a two to one margin.

The more formal the current dress code, the more casual employee want it to be. While the majority of the Business Casual group said that no change in dress code is needed, those who want a more casual dress code outnumbered those who want a less casual dress code by more than two to one. Among employees who must wear formal business attire, almost half said they wanted more casual dress, compared to eight percent who wanted more formal dress.(I suppose this last group consists of people who need something to do with the tuxedos and evening gowns that they haven’t worn for a while.)

 Most casual attireallowed by employer on most days of the week
TotalVery casualBusiness CasualTypical Business Attire

What change would you like to see in your employer's dress code?

Sample Size43317721739
No change needed64.9%76.8%59.0%43.6%
Make it more casual21.5%7.3%28.1%48.7%
Make it less casual13.6%15.8%12.9%7.7%

Summary

Contrary to the belief held by some, the end of casual dress codes has not come. Some people said their employers have made the dress code less casual than it was previously, but many more said it has become more casual.

Most people are happy with the current dress code at their places of work. Among those who are not, more people want to see things become more casual than want to see it become more formal. This finding is strongest among those who say they must wear formal business attire to work.