The baristas have spoken, and Starbucks is listening: The company says it's loosening its dress code for in-store employees. Yes, the green aprons remain, but you may begin noticing more personal flair underneath.
A company announcement invites baristas "to shine as individuals while continuing to present a clean, neat and professional appearance."
No longer must Starbucks employees choose between plain black and white tops. The company says "a range of shirt colors" and subtle patterns are now permitted — though it's still a pretty narrow range, in subdued tones you might call "drabby chic" (think grays, navys and browns).
The company has also loosened up on hair color. "In the past it had to be natural hair color," a spokesperson tells us — no purple, pink or neon hair allowed. Now, employees can feel free to let the rainbow shine in their mane.
Mario Leon, a Starbucks store manager in Manhattan, says his baristas are pumped about the changes. The company, he says, is "looking to boost morale and make us feel like not cookie-cutter, but more like an individual."
To top it off, baristas are now encouraged to wear hats that fit their style.
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 Leon, noting that the company aims to project a business-casual image.
"You are the face of our beloved brand," the company's dress code states. "You're expected to present a clean, neat and professional appearance," which includes wearing clothes that are "clean, hemmed, wrinkle-free and in good repair."
So, it's clear that the new "relaxed" dress code still has plenty of rules. Here are a few that caught our attention.
For shirts or tops: The 2014 dress code said "shirts with collars, turtlenecks or mock turtlenecks are the rule." Now, crew necks and V-necks are OK — but plunging necklines and exposed shoulders are still verboten, and only the top two buttons of a shirt can be open. As noted, hoodies are a no-go — that restriction is not new.
Hats: Fedoras, bowlers and plain, solid-color baseball caps are all OK. But if you're looking to sashay into work wearing a big old floppy brim, channeling Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (or Jennifer Lopez circa early 2000s), you're out of luck. Also out: Bieber-style backwards ball caps, bucket hats, cowboy hats or ball caps with sports team logos.
Accents: "Choose items that harmonize rather than clash with your outfit or distract from your apron," the guidance reads. This means ties and scarfs are OK, but they can't be "too busy" or "too large and long."
The image of the approved scarf reminds me of the flight attendant look. But if the scarf interferes with the apron, that's a problem. After all, I can see how a loose scarf could splash hot coffee and pose a burn threat.
Jewelry, tattoos and piercings: Starbucks amended its policy that restricted visible tattoos back in 2014. The current policy states that "visible tattoos on face and neck are not allowed." Other visible tattoos are OK "as long as they don't contain obscene, profane, racist, sexual or objectionable words or imagery," the Look Book states. As for earrings, they should be "small or moderately sized." A small nose stud is allowed, but tongue studs are forbidden.
If only Starbucks employees were similarly rule-bound when it comes to getting the spelling of customer names right.
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Starbucks is relaxing its dress policy at employees' request. It's letting its baristas show a little more flair, like purple hair. But NPR's Allison Aubrey reports there's still a lot that is not allowed.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: When it comes to a dress code, Starbucks has run a pretty tight ship.
MARIO LEON: Starbucks has a dress code to keep partners looking neat and business casual.
AUBREY: That's Mario Leon. He manages a Starbucks at the corner of 47th and Broadway in Manhattan. He explains the company gives employees a 15-page dress code that stipulates everything from shirt color to shoe styles. But after pushback from employees, a few rules are being relaxed. Take hair dye - until now, only natural colors were allowed. This meant no purple or pink do's. But now the prohibition has been lifted. And Leon says the changes are good for baristas and company management.
LEON: They're looking to boost morale and make us feel like not cookie-cutter, but more like an individual.
AUBREY: Baristas are now encouraged to wear hats that fit their style. Fedoras, panamas and newsboys - all OK, but this does not mean that anything goes. There are still plenty of rules - no baggy pants or leggings, no wrinkled shirts or tongue studs, and no neon-colored socks or ties. Backwards-facing baseball caps are still a violation of dress code, as are sweatshirt hoodies. I asked Leon why.
LEON: It's not a food safety thing, and we do think it sends the wrong vibe. We want to look neat. You know, we don't want to dilute it that much.
AUBREY: The coffee drinkers I spoke to outside of a Starbucks in D.C. were surprised to learn the baristas had such a dress code. But customer Ralph Freeman (ph) says it makes sense.
RALPH FREEMAN: I can understand that. I mean, I think that's fine. You're in food services.
AUBREY: He says at work, people need to dress the part. But not everyone agrees.
KUNLEE BODMOS: I feel more relaxed when I'm casual, so I don't see a value to it.
AUBREY: Coffee drinker Kunlee Bodmos (ph) says purple hair, hoodies or neon socks? He doesn't care. Just serve his coffee hot and get his name right on the cup. Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.