The Best Dressed and Most Casual Cities In the United States

What comes to mind when you think about the words "Best Dressed"? How does one even define such a subjective term? Here at Dress Code Finder, we did some analysis and came up with an answer. By studying our vast database of restaurant dress codes, we zeroed in on what we believe are the 5 Best Dressed Cities in the United States as well as the country's 5 Most Casual Cities.

Here's how it breaks down (be sure to scroll down and see how we came up with this list).

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Best Dressed and Most Casual Cities In the United States

If you're not sure, here's an explanation of what dress codes mean.

How We Came Up With This List

We started with the hypothesis that cities with a large percentage of fine dining restaurants - or even restaurants with a 'business casual' or better dress code - were cities where well-dressed people congregated. Put another way: If a city has a high percentage of restaurants that require patrons to dress-up, that must be a city with a lot of well-dressed people.

We set about to create a weighted score for each city in our sample set1 that would reward cities with a lot of fine dining and penalize cities with a lot of casual restaurants. As you can see from the data, there are a couple of interesting results:

  1. New York is generally regarded as the most fashionable city in the United States, yet it didn't make our top 10.
  2. Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami - three other cities that have a strong presence in the US fashion scene - didn't rank any higher than 8th.

We wondered, 'How can this be?' What list of best-dressed cities could exclude these capitals of fashion?

Diving into the numbers, the problem is that most big cities have a substantial percentage of casual eateries. For every exclusive restaurant in NYC, for example, there are dozens of diners, pizza places, and neighborhood cafes. While it's true that the fashion world loves New York City, the average New York City resident seems to prefer casual dining over a restaurant that has some sort of formal dress code.

After determining which cities were best dressed and which were most casual, we decided to compare our data to some other data points2 including:

  • average median age
  • average median income
  • average property values
  • average annual temperature

We hoped to find a patter or correlation between these different data points, perhaps to try and explain our data a little more thoroughly.

Interestingly enough, we noticed a definite trend: cities with higher average median income and older residents (average median age) were much more likely to find themselves at the top of our 'best dressed' list. Conversely, cities with a younger population and a lower average median income were more likely to be on the 'most casual' part of our list.

While this finding may seem obvious - older people with money do seem to dress better - it's always nice to have some science that reinforces a commonly held stereotype.

Of course, there is an outlier - Sonoma, California. For some reason, people in Sonoma are just as mature and well-to-do as people in our 5 Best Dressed cities, yet they prefer casual dining. Go figure.

What Fashion Bloggers Had To Say

When New York City and L.A. didn't make our Best Dressed list, we expected that fashion bloggers would find fault with our data. So, we asked them for comments. Here's one particularly good criticism of our graphic:

"Best Dressed" is something that is subjective and not something that can be derived from quantitative data...a city with a higher ratio of fine dining restaurants doesn't indicate a better dressed population. I think the more relevant parameter would be the population's expenses in clothing & fashion-related consumption. - Max Law,

A great point to be sure. Again, we felt that cities with a high percentage of restaurants that have a formal dress code were likely to have a higher percentage of well-dressed people, but clothing expenses - or even better, fashionable clothing expenses - would be a better indicator.

Other fashion bloggers felt that the definition of 'best dressed' isn't as useful as it once was:

The definition of well-dressed has changed. It's now a cross between simply 'getting dressed' and 'should I do a little more because of the occasion'. It's pathetic. - Glenyse at
Being well-dressed is not always convergent with being formal. Naturally, you can be well-dressed in a stylish pair of jeans but it depends on the fit, the quality and of course what it's complemented with. Yoga pants and tracksuits will never be stylish, but some designers have been recently trying to change our minds in this matter. - Gabriela at

One blogger offered some insight that supported our findings on the Most Casual cities:

Based on my travel experiences, it doesn't surprise me that Sonoma, Boulder and Oakland are dubbed casual cities. That jibes with my experiences in those western cities where people lean toward active lifestyles in the outdoors. It makes sense that people might dress more casually. - Crystal Hammon,

Last but certainly not least, one fashion blogger offered his support for restaurant dress codes, reaffirming that fine dining is indeed a fine experience.

Restaurants asking to wear jackets and ties brings good thoughts. It brings a peace of mind as to of what kind of people you will be socializing within the restaurant and also it shows the class of the restaurant. - Brian Harris,


  1. Our sample set excluded cities with fewer than 57 restaurants. Why 57? Why not.
  2. We used 2010 US Census data whenever possible, only we had to dip into 2008 data for a couple of cities (neither of which ended up at the top or bottom of our list).

Infographic designed by Spork Marketing.

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The Best Dressed and Most Casual Cities in the United States by Dress Code Finder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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