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Will a smart dress code hold back UK tech growth?



Silicon Valley titans are known for dressing like students, at least if you don’t check the tags. Mark Zuckerberg wears the same faded grey t-shirt everyday (albeit a $300 one) and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey layers a leather jacket over another (designer) t-shirt.

But in the UK, deniers of Silicon Roundabout are still buttoned up, and it might be strangling tech growth here. 

The UK has 1.64 million tech workers and many of them are constrained by a smart dress code—in force in nearly half of all UK offices. 10% of men ad 7% of women work in offices with strict business dress codes, mandating dark suits, while another third of both men and women commute to workplaces with “relaxed business” dress codes. Only the rest of us are free to don “smart casual” or jeans.

But companies requiring ties and suits might be at risk of losing staff to the shop down the street which permits sweats. A recent survey from fashion aggregator Style Compare found that 29% of IT workers have considered ditching a job because of the stifling dress code.

That’s particularly true among millennials, who made up 28% of those surveyed. They associate casual dress with innovation, iconoclasm and hipness—all enviable qualities in tech spaces. Suits and ties invoke images of older, out-of-touch leaders like Alan Sugar and Donald Trump—men who repeatedly put their feet in their mouths on Dorsey’s Twitter.

Dress codes have become such a flashpoint in offices that the government has got involved. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), a non-departmental public body, has advised that employers directly consult with staff about the dress code and determine what would be acceptable to both parties. That may mean allowing trainers every day of the week to retain your brightest tech staff.

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