18% of millennials wouldn’t work for an organisation with a formal dress code policy, according to a study of 2,000 UK adults by Style Compare. The survey also revealed that 18-24 year olds are the most likely to be subject to the strictest office dress codes.

Dress codes differ depending on sector, with some enforcing more traditional dress codes than others.

  • 32% of people who work in call centres have considered quitting because of their employer’s rules on clothing, the highest of any job type in the study.
  • The science and pharmaceuticals sector is at risk of losing talent due to dress codes too. 31% of workers in that sector say they’ve considered quitting their job because of them. The figure is 29% among I.T workers.
  • People working in the media and online sector are equally unhappy at being told what to wear, but are less likely to quit their job over it.
  • 27% working in that sector said they’d be happier if their employer just relaxed their dress code.
  • The insurance sector is the strictest when it comes to employee dress, with 28% of workers subject to the strictest type of dress code.
  • Publishing and journalism has the most relaxed approach, with 67% of workers saying they can wear what they like.

What do millennials wear to work?

Dress code type Description Millennials (18-34)
Business Very strict – suits and ties for men, ‘smart business wear for women’ 10.17%
Relaxed business Quite strict – ties optional for men, but exposed shoulders or open-toe shoes not permitted for women 29.69%
Smart casual Moderately strict – smart denim permitted, exposed shoulders not encouraged 20.78%
Casual Relaxed – no trainers or ripped denim 15.91%
No dress code Very relaxed – wear what you like 14.72%
Undefined No guidance given 8.74%


Professor Sir Cary Cooper, CBE, an occupational health expert, thinks dress codes have little benefit overall.

“There’s very little evidence that these policies have any benefit on well-being, productivity or how an organisation is perceived from the outside.

“These policies have the capacity to discriminate against almost everyone. They cause stress, discomfort and  – as the research suggests – they have the potential to put talented people off from working for an organisation. These downsides come at negligible benefit to the employer.”

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