Not Your Father's Dress Codes

November 21, 2007 ( - Just over half of offices still have a dress code in place - but the parameters of that code have undergone change, according to a new survey.

At one time, wearing jeans to the office was considered a special privilege or part of a weekly “casual day,” but jeans today are considered acceptable “business casual” attire, according to 45% of 407 administrative professionals responding to a survey by office product company Quill Corporation. Only about a third (35.6%) of respondents work for companies that still have a designated casual day.

The Quill survey found that only about 56% of respondents indicated that their office strictly or somewhat enforces an office dress code. Still, 85.3% of respondents think that a professional office should have a dress code – perhaps not surprisingly a comparable 87.5% believe that a dress code affects the environment of an office. Dress code or not, apparently most are attired within the bounds of “decency”, since only about one-in-ten of administrative professionals have witnessed a co-worker being sent home from work to change clothes.

Approved Attire

The most common attire regarded as business casual are khaki pants (78.4%) and polo/golf shirts (76.2%), while for women, Capri pants also scored relatively high as acceptable business attire (56.3%) – as did sun dresses (45%). For footwear, 79.4% of women indicated that they wear open-toed shoes to work – and more than a third (37.3%) wear flip-flops to work. Only 3.7% of men wear flip-flops to work, and only 8.4% wear sandals, according to the survey.

The consensus among women respondents was that professional attire on the job helps them command more respect and that sloppily dressed women are perceived as also doing sloppy work. Male respondents, in general, welcomed the relaxation of dress codes regarding suits and ties, but still consider a professional demeanor to be reflected in proper attire.

More than 21% of respondents to the Quill poll said their supervisor adhered to a different dress code than the one to which they have to conform.

Executive Perspective

Although the Quill survey looked at the perspective of administrative professionals, the results echoed a recent survey that found that more than 60% of executives say business casual is now their standard office dress code and about 42.2% said more and more companies are moving towards business casual. About 22% of the executives polled said the definition of “business casual” is now stretching to include even more casual attire, such as jeans, according to (see Survey: Executives See Business Casual as Standard Dress Code ).