Staff presentation is as important as the ambience of your restaurant, bar, or café. Just how important is it? According to Starbucks, very. Starbucks upper management recently decided that employees’ personal style is important enough to warrant a new uniform policy that allows greater individual expression by baristas.
The New Dress Code for Starbucks Employees
In a move that marks a departure from a traditionally conservative and corporate aesthetic, Starbucks is letting employees show up to work looking—and feeling—more like themselves. It would seem that the satisfaction of their employees has become as crucial as customer satisfaction, one of the reasons for the company’s staggering success.
Cosimo LaPorta, executive vice president of US Retail Store Operations, made clear how deeply rooted the decision was in employees’ (referred to as “partners”) happiness. “I believe these changes work well with our iconic green apron and also complement the passion partners bring to our coffee and their craft….We want partners to be as proud of their look as they are when they tie on their green apron.”
To ease into the new uniform, the company released a lookbook that demonstrates how to integrate personal style at work. Green aprons will still be worn, but employees are no longer restricted to wearing black shirts and black caps. Instead, Starbucks baristas can wear different shirt styles and even don accent pieces like scarves.
Even So, Personal Style Does Not Supersede the Clean Corporate Aesthetic
To be clear, the changes in dress code still do not overtake the concept of a company uniform. Scraggly hemlines, wrinkled shirts, and hoodies are not allowed, for the main reason that they look messy. In its corporate announcement, Starbucks invited its partners “to shine as individuals while continuing to present a clean, neat and professional appearance.”
So what are the changes?
Visible tattoos are allowed. Discreet and small tattoo doodles are a big trend among millennials, and just as trendy is placing them on distinctly visible areas of the skin, like the forearm. Their prevalence among the younger generation has transformed tattoos from acts of rebellion to acts of sartorial expression. So it makes sense that Starbucks has lifted its ban on visible tattoos. We can imagine how difficult it became to justify the rejection of qualified candidates on the basis of innocuous tattoos.
Naturally, there are limitations. The Starbucks lookbook states that visible tattoos are permitted as long as “they don’t contain obscene, profane, racist, sexual, or objectionable words or imagery.”
Employees can accessorize with accent pieces. Hats like fedoras, newsboys, and baseball caps can be worn. “Small or moderately sized” earrings and nose piercings are permitted, although tongue piercings are still verboten. Then there are the scarves! Baristas can pull out their favorite scarves and ties for work, so long as they are simple in design and not too long.
Dyed hair is allowed. And we mean all colors. Neon pink, blue, and rainbow ombre are perfectly acceptable according to the new dress code.
Is this a sign of how Starbucks plans to grow in the future?
Starbucks’ new dress code is notable for a company that, whether you’re in Shanghai or Atlanta, has a distinct feeling of sameness—and subsequently of familiarity. The decision to adapt its dress code to include modern dress styles heralds a new chapter for the coffee chain conglomerate.
This could be a subtle way for Starbucks to ingrain itself further into its communities. With more than 24,000 stores, Starbucks may be making a decision to lose its corporate feel and dig into the local feelings of each location. It could be that Starbucks wants to evolve from corporate coffee shop into your authentic neighborhood coffee shop.
Regardless of intentions, it is wonderful to see a corporate company put the needs of its employees at the forefront.