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Boomers Aren’t That Into Dressing for Success

Older workers are less likely to see clothing choices as a big factor in promotions

Older adult sitting at an office on his phone

Tom Merton/Getty Images

Just 22 percent of boomer workers think a person’s choice of office clothing is a significant factor in his or her chances of promotion.

En español | Though they started working in an era when jackets, ties, tailored dresses or skirt suits were customary for office workers, most boomers don’t put much stock in the notion of dressing for success, according to a new poll.

The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. office workers, conducted on behalf of staffing firm OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company, found that those 55 and older spent an average of just seven minutes each morning choosing what to wear to work, less time than millennials (13 minutes) and Gen Xers (10 minutes).

Moreover, only 22 percent of boomer workers think a person’s choice of office clothing significantly influences his or her chances of promotion. Fifty-four percent see it as somewhat important, while 24 percent say it doesn’t matter at all. In contrast, nearly half of the millennials surveyed — 47 percent — said they see clothing as a significant factor in advancement, while 36 percent of Gen Xers take that view.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that boomers are ditching their pinstripes and power ties. Sixty-two percent of the generation still maintain a separate wardrobe to wear during working hours. But that’s a lower share than millennials (69 percent) or Gen Xers (67 percent).

In a 2017 Robert Half poll, boomers indicated that they preferred more casual office dress codes. Forty-three percent said that khaki slacks and a polo shirt or sweater should be acceptable at work, while 28 percent saw dress slacks or a skirt and a button-down shirt as fine. Only 1 percent thought formal business attire, such as suits and ties for men, should be required by companies. 

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