Reporter's Notebook
Starbucks dress code lets workers’ freak flag fly

Starbucks dress code lets workers’ freak flag fly

This post is part of the Reporter's Notebook blog.

Starbucks baristas can now wear their fedoras to work, but they must continue to leave their tongue studs at home.

The Seattle-based coffeehouse operator on Monday loosened its dress code to allow employees more flexibility in what they choose to wear under their green aprons, or on their heads.

The goal is to allow baristas to shine as individuals, the company said, while continuing to present a clean, neat and professional appearance.

The result, however, is a dress code that’s somewhat complicated to navigate.

Previously, workers were asked to wear solid black, white and khaki clothes underneath Starbucks’ signature green aprons. 

Last September, however, the new dress code was tested at a Starbucks in Manhattan, where baristas began sporting a range of colors within a pre-approved palette and outfits that reflected their own personal tastes, the company said.

“Customers noticed right away,” said unit manager Mario Leon, in a statement. “They actually thought that something was wrong. They would ask me, ‘Why are you guys all out of uniform?’ And we just told them, ‘No, this is the new uniform for this store.’”

Customers liked it, said Leon. They were happy to see workers expressing themselves.

Starbucks’ new dress code was rolled out across the U.S. and Canada starting Monday. Photo: Starbucks

So the chain rolled out the new dress code across company locations in the U.S. and Canada starting Monday.

Employees can wear a range of shirt colors, including gray, navy, dark denim and brown. Muted and subdued patterns are okay, but brightly colored plaids should be left at home.

Shorts, skirts, dresses and pants are allowed, as are dark-wash jeans.

Shirts can be worn untucked, but they must cover the midsection when bending down or reaching overhead. And generally shirts should not be longer than the pants’ back pocket, according to the company’s new lookbook

Not okay are promotional tee shirts, sweatshirts, hooded shirts, cap-sleeve or short-sleeve tee shirts. 

Oh, and no plunging necklines. Shoulders should not be exposed. And shirts should have no more than two buttons open.

Pants should not have holes, even deliberate designer ones, and they should not be worn too droopy, showing underpants. No sweatpants or athletic leggings. And we really, really hope that includes jeggings.

Baristas are invited to make a statement with hair color, but the color has to be permanent or semi-permanent, in keeping with food safety standards. No glitter hair or chalk. 

Even if it’s purple or canary yellow, long hair must be tied back so it doesn’t come into contact with food or drink.

Starbucks now allows employees to wear hats with their logo, but the bill must always be worn forward. Photo: Starbucks

Classy head gear like beanies, fedoras and other “suitable hats” are also welcome. Some states require hats, and Starbucks also will provide a hat with logo, but the bill must always be worn forward.

Workers, however, must leave hats with any sports affiliation, extra floppy hats with wide brims and cowboy hats at home.

“This new dress code is what partners have in their closets,” said Leon. “It just makes it so much easier. It just makes so much sense.”

But wait, there’s more.

As before, Starbucks workers must keep their fingernails clean and well manicured, with no nail polish or artificial coverings of any kind.

There are rules about jewelry: earrings must be small or moderately sized, and no more than two per ear. Small ear gauges are allowed, and a small nose stud is allowed, but no tongue studs.

Tattoos are great, but not on the face or neck, and not if they say anything obscene, profane, racist, sexual or objectionable.

And shoes must be close-toed, close-heeled and flat. The coffeehouse chain doesn’t require slip-resistant soles, but they are strongly recommended to reduce the risk of slips or falls.

As we move closer to a contentious presidential campaign, Starbucks also notes that certain company-issued pins or buttons can be worn. But the chain does not allow buttons advocating any political, religious or personal issue.

One “reasonably sized” and placed button or pin that identifies a particular labor organization or support for that organization is allowed, however. 

This is important to note, given trouble In-N-Out Burger faced recently after asking an employee not to wear a “Fight for $15” button. 

Starbucks has long been known for its acceptance of personal style. Photo: Starbucks

Starbucks also notes that exemptions to the dress code can be made where required by law to accommodate “sincerely held” religious beliefs or disability. 

Starbucks has long been known for its acceptance of personal style, going back to 2014 when the chain lifted a ban on visible body artwork.

Soon, Starbucks employees will be able to afford more tattoos and new clothes. The chain is giving workers a 5-percent pay raise in October.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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