June 20, 2012

How Many Employers Require Formal Attire

I work in the high tech industry where 'business casual' is standard and 'anything goes' is often accepted.   Generally high tech companies have pretty minimal dress standards.   My wife used to work in a finance job where more formal business dress is pretty much the standard.   Most of my family worked in construction and their dress code was more about safety features like steel toe boots.

It is my experience and opinion that formal business attire is usually not a common requirement at most jobs.   The only places I see people wearing suits are banks and maybe a car lot.   I'm sure there are other jobs where people wear suits but they seem pretty few.    This may vary some geographically as well since I'm sure that some cities are more likely to favor formal attire and some places are more casual in general.

As is my wont, I went to find some real data on the topic.   I couldn't find a lot of information saying how common formal versus casual attire really is in work places.  I did find a couple reports.  

This article from the Business Research Lab has results showing that only 9% of workers in their survey have a formal attire dress code at work.   Their data was from 2003 so its a bit old now, but I don't think things would have changed radically in the past 10 years.

% of employers with different dress codes

Typical business attire = 9%
Business casual = 50%
Very casual = 41%

They say that 'very casual' includes jeans and t-shirts.    I assume that 'typical business attire' means suits and such.  These numbers match my expectations. 

Salary.com also had a survey about dress codes and they report that 40% of employees didn't have dress codes at work.   I don't see a date on that article though so I'm not sure when that data is from.  

I'm not sure if the two results over lap or not.   Its possible the first survey is only among companies that have a dress code or it could be that companies without a formal dress code mostly have very casual or some business casual attire.


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