Is What You Wear To Work Up To [Dress] Code?

Casual dress codes may cause clothing confusion for many professionals, new research from staffing firm OfficeTeam shows.

Although 56 percent of employees surveyed said they prefer to wear more relaxed work attire, four in 10 (41 percent) admitted they’re at least sometimes unsure about whether clothing is office-appropriate. Nearly half (48 percent) would choose to eliminate uncertainty altogether by donning a uniform.    

Workers were asked, “Which office dress code do you prefer?” Their responses:

Very formal (suit and tie)


Somewhat formal (dress slacks or skirt with button-down shirt)


Somewhat casual (khakis and polo shirt or sweater)


Very casual (jeans and T-shirt)



Additional findings:

  • Those ages 18 to 34 (56 percent) have the greatest preference for formal dress codes. They’re also most commonly unsure if their clothing is appropriate (54 percent) and the age group with the largest number of respondents interested in wearing a uniform (59 percent).
  • More men (54 percent) prefer formal attire than women (30 percent).
  • Nearly half of men (48 percent) are at least sometimes confused about whether their apparel is OK for work, compared to 31 percent of women.
  • Most employees (86 percent) reported they like casual dress codes because they can wear more comfortable clothes.

About one in four respondents (23 percent) said their company policy isn’t always clear about what attire is acceptable.

Employees were also asked to reveal something they’ve considered wearing to work but were unsure whether it was appropriate. Here are some of their responses:

  • An off-the-shoulder (“cold shoulder”) top
  • Leggings
  • A Hawaiian shirt
  • Flip-flops
  • A baseball hat
  • Jeans
  • Pajamas
  • Fishnet stockings
  • A tight sweater
  • Capri pants
  • A track suit
  • A low-cut top
  • Dressy sandals
  • A hockey jersey
  • Shorts
  • Cargo pants
  • A political T-shirt
  • Colored jeans
  • A tank top
  • Tennis shoes
  • A short skirt
  • A sheer top

“As work attire skews more casual, the rules about acceptable office wear aren’t always clear-cut,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “Besides following official company policies, employees should pay attention to the wardrobes of managers and colleagues. If you’re uncertain about whether it’s OK to wear something to work, it’s best to play it safe by skipping it.”

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