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Suits, Slacks, and Heels: Do People Who Dress up for Work Really Earn More Money?

TV Shows like Mad Men and even The Office do a good job of showing us two types of traditional office dress codes. In Mad Men, you have the high-earning advertising execs with their flashy 1960s suits and ties, heels and skirts, living a life of luxury. In The Office, we see the stereotypical corporate employee of the early 2000s, sporting poorly fitting button-up shirts and slacks, and struggling to survive in a stuffy office culture.
Businessman Fixing Cufflinks his Suit
Image Credit: champja/Getty Images

Considering the difference in dress codes between characters on each show—business formal on Mad Men and business casual on The Office—I always guessed these employees probably would have earned wildly different salaries if we were comparing them today. To put this theory to the test, PayScale surveyed over thirty thousand workers to find out whether employees with strict dress codes really do earn more than those with less-strict dress codes. For the purpose of this report, dress codes have been defined as

  • Business Formal: Tie and jacket for men, pant- or skirt-suit for women.
  • Business Casual: No jeans, sneakers, flip flops.
  • Casual: The Zuckerberg – anything goes within reason.

The Highest Earning Workers Tend to Have Business Formal Dress Codes

PayScale data on this topic boils down to a few key points. Essentially, the more money you make, the more likely it is that you will have a business formal dress code at your place of work. (On the flip side, workers who wear specific uniforms are likely to earn a much lower salary.)

But Having a Fancy Dress Code Doesn’t Guarantee You a High Salary

But as shown in the above income bracket chart, wearing a suit and tie to work doesn’t necessarily mean you’re earning a higher salary than your friend who might be wearing flip flops, hoodies and shorts to work, though it is likely. The moral of the story? You can have a high salary without dressing up, but you could also have a really low salary and still have to dress up like you’re earning a high one.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Tell Us What You Think!

Do you think dress code affects how much you’re paid? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter!


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