Expect to see a lot more purple or salmon-colored hair as you get your caffeine fix from Starbucks.
On Monday, the coffee chain announced its new dress code, which lets employees—dubbed “partners”—show off their style with brightly colored hair, ties, scarves and even fedoras.
Under the dress code, employees can wear shirts and pants (including shorts, jeans and skirts or dresses with tights) in a “range of subdued colors.”
Some of the things staff are now actively encouraged to wear include selvedge denim, saggy beanies and cuffed jeans. A neckerchief, worn any way in a fun colour. You are also allowed to wear visors and flatcaps. (It’s worth remembering that Starbucks is a predominantly indoor establishment.) It’s quite a step change given that, until recently, employees were limited to black or white shirts and khaki or black bottoms. They weren’t allowed to dye their hair weird colours, and they definitely weren’t allowed to wear fedoras. Happily, they can now do both, while continuing to call you – Jess – “Jeff”, despite having written it correctly the cup.
Fedoras, Panamas and Newsboys are all OK. But backward-facing baseball caps — a la Justin Bieber — are still a no-no, as are sweatshirt hoodies. Why?
“We do think it sends the wrong vibe. We want to look neat,” says [Starbucks store manager Mario] Leon, noting that the company aims to project a business-casual image.
The full list of options can be seen in the company’s Lookbook, which opens with the following message:
We’re inviting you to bring your personal taste and handcrafted style to work. As ambassadors of the Starbucks brand, you should feel proud of your own look as you tie on the green apron.
Our Dress Code reflects the professionalism you bring to your craft, the commitment to making every moment right and the inclusive welcome at the heart of our brand.
We hope this Dress Code Lookbook gets you excited to open your closets and have fun.
It’s a fascinating document, and not just because of the somewhat mind-boggling level of precision and detail about what’s okay to wear. It also reveals something about the kind of workplace Starbucks is trying to be and the kind of vibe it is trying to create for its customers.
In a press release, Starbucks said that the new dress code can already be seen in action in one of its New York City locations:
Some partners (employees) have already been wearing clothing that fits the new dress code guidelines. Customers coming into the Starbucks at the 47th & Broadway store in Manhattan last September immediately detected something different. Rather than the familiar solid black, white and khaki clothing underneath green aprons, baristas were decked out in a range of colors and outfits that reflected their own personal tastes.
Visitors to the store were caught slightly off guard by the change, but they welcomed the new style, according to Starbucks store manager Mario Leon.
“Customers noticed right away,” Leon said. “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.’ They said, ‘We like it. We’re happy to see that you can wear expressive clothing to show who you are.'”
The Broadway coffeehouse and select Reserve stores that spotlight small-batch coffees, as well as the Reserve® Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle, are forerunners for all company stores in the U.S. and Canada as Starbucks updates its North America dress code beginning now.
“This new dress code is what partners have in their closets,” Leon added. “It just makes it so much easier. It just makes so much sense.”
Starbucks’ executives in the U.S. and Canada said in the company’s press release that the changes were welcome:
“I believe these changes work well with our iconic green apron and also complement the passion partners bring to our coffee and their craft,” said Cosimo LaPorta, executive vice president, U.S. Retail Store Operations. “We want partners to be as proud of their look as they are when they tie on their green apron.”
“Our success is rooted in our continual innovation and customization in every aspect of our business and this also applies to offering the best partner experience we can,” said Rossann Williams, president, Starbucks Canada. “We are responding to what our partners have told us and are confident this will uplift the Starbucks brand, partner and customer experience.”
Excited employees flocked to Twitter and promised to show off with dresses, hats and fresh-dyed hair:
— Dess (@desic737) July 25, 2016
I’m the happiest I could possibly be at 6am on a Monday because Starbucks’ dress code FINALLY allows fun hair colors🤗
— KT ????? (@heyitskatie21) July 25, 2016
BLESS the starbucks dress code update, finna dye my hair blue just now 😩😩😩
— babygirl (@XIIIPwnsYou) July 25, 2016
I am very okay with this new dress code👍🏼 you go Starbucks
— Ashlyn Gill (@AshlynGilll) July 25, 2016
there’s a new starbucks dress code and i can wear fedoras at work now
“here is your latte, m’lady”
— rocks (@ross__ocampo) July 25, 2016
Starbucks changed their dress code and I’m sitting here crying bc work just got more enjoyable 😍😭❤️
— john-knee (@jonniepasmore01) July 25, 2016
In October 2014, Starbucks changed its dress code and allowed staff to show tattoos and piercings, which was also met with wide approval from both employees and consumers.
So, why is Starbucks embracing hipster style and encouraging staff to show off individual style?
This reporter has seen firsthand how tiny tweaks like this can make a difference in keeping workers happy. I once attended an all-staff meeting at a Virginia Best Buy store in which the team was getting marching orders for an upcoming Black Friday sale. Their boss told them about a tiny, temporary change to the dress code — they could wear “comfortable shoes” for the long holiday weekend, a change from the usual policy that required black, closed-toed shoes that are not slip-ons. This drew actual cheers from the staff. Back in 2015, I remember watching as Walmart executives told an arena packed with store employees that they were relaxing the dress code to include black and khaki-colored denim. The applause and shouts of approval were thunderous.
But the dress code for any retailer is not just a talent strategy: It’s also about telegraphing a certain feeling to customers. And by allowing more personalized attire, Starbucks seems to be doing something that is in keeping with a broader strategic trend in retail these days. Mega-chains across a variety of shopping categories are trying to make individual stores reflect their local neighborhoods. This is why you see West Elm selling goods from local artisans in its stores, and why Whole Foods Market is teaming with local sellers and giving them space in some of its stores. It’s also why Nike is decking out its stores with banners of nearby high school football teams or artwork by local photographers.
What do you think about Starbucks’ new dress code, Ragan readers? How do you think this might change the look of other organizations’ staff?