Americans would sacrifice $5,000 to have a casual dress code at work, study finds

More than ever, people expect a casual dress code as part of their job.
casual dress code
The ability to wear jeans at work is worth a lot to American employees!Getty Images

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/ Source: TODAY
By Chrissy Callahan

How much is a casual dress code worth to today's workforce? Quite a bit of money, apparently.

According to a new study by Randstad US, an employment and recruitment agency, 33% of workers would prefer an informal dress code over an extra $5,000 in salary. And that same percentage of workers would even consider quitting their job or turning down a job offer if a casual dress code wasn't on the table.

The survey polled 1,204 employees between the ages of 18 and 65+ across the country, and explored Americans' views on workplace fashion.

Stuffy, formal workwear has definitely been on its way out for quite some time, and casual dress seems to be the new normal in many workplaces. In fact, a combined 79% of people polled said the dress code at their current job is either business casual (26%), casual (33%) or non-existent/no dress code (20%).

Traci Fiatte, CEO of non-technical staffing at Randstad US, told TODAY Style she's seen a shift toward a more casual dress code in the past few years.

"It made sense to wear a suit to work when it was a place you went from 9 to 5, but the rise of remote work means that’s no longer the case. That’s why I think a casual workplace dress code is a pretty accurate reflection of how work actually gets done nowadays; it’s a good middle ground between the very casual clothing we’d wear to work at home and the suits of the past," she said.

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Casual, but not too casual

Workers enjoy wearing jeans on the job, but there are still some casual items they feel are too inappropriate for the office. Seventy-three percent of respondents said ripped jeans are a no-no, while 56% frowned upon leggings.

They also have mixed feelings about heels. Fifty percent of respondents said ultrahigh heels (over 3 inches) look unprofessional, and 40% look down on open-toed shoes of any kind.

"The downside is, there’s a difference between casual and comfortable, and inappropriate. When you give someone the flexibility to choose their own idea of casual clothing, they may not align with the company’s idea. That’s where a clear dress code policy comes in," Fiatte said.

Business attire still has its place

Even though employees enjoy casual attire, they still consider job interviews to be sacred.

Sixty-five percent say you should wear a suit during an interview even if the company's dress code is casual. Surprisingly, 42% say they’d rather be "20 minutes late to an interview than show up looking disheveled or underdressed."

"I was shocked (by this statistic). Neither option is great, but showing up significantly late is so egregious, you wouldn’t get that job even if you were wearing Armani or Chanel. Great fashion doesn’t cancel out tardiness," Fiatte said.

And besides, some employees simply enjoy getting dressed up for work. Sixty-three percent of workers aged 18-35 say it boosts their confidence and performance, but only 51 percent of workers aged 35-64 feel that way.

Many industries are becoming more accepting of casual dress, but there are still a few where the traditional formal dress code is the norm.

"The primary industry where I see casual dress isn’t encouraged is law, especially big law. I’ve also noticed regional trends: People who work in urban areas in the Northeast tend to dress in a more traditionally professional way than in other areas of the country, especially the West Coast," Fiatte said.