The Starbucks Dress Code: If you could change just one thing…

I’m going to talk about the Starbucks dress code.  Let’s establish some ground rules, and an understanding before I go any further:  We will not reach an agreement.  We will NOT get to a place of consensus.  There are valid arguments from many different points of view.  There is NOT one right answer.  I will absolutely and quickly delete any comment that descends into disrespectful conversation, or emotional finger pointing, or name calling.  If you can’t talk intelligently in the comments, don’t bother.  And last but not least, you may not agree with my opinions, and that is okay too.  I’m not trying to please every single person.  And who knows, perhaps the fact that I get a few people angry is a good thing.  It says something about the content.  There. I got that out of the way.

I suspect the Starbucks dress code may be one of the more heated and controversial topics.  And again, note the entire paragraph rant above:  I expect people to not slam each other in the comments.  Remember: Reasonable minds may differ.

I started thinking about this blog article from the perspective of what could (or would) partners want to change?  I sent out a simple tweet which said: I am writing a blog article about the #Starbucks dress code. If u could change ONLY ONE thing, what would it be? Or would u make no change?

Here’s what I heard on twitter:

I’ve attached a couple of images describing the dress code  from older Starbucks training materials.  While the attached images may be a little dated, I don’t believe that the dress code has gone through any substantial change since then (at least as far as I know).  One thing to know is that a small number of stores have an “elevated dress code” which is stricter than the normal dress code.  It’s my understanding that Olive Way, Brewery Blocks, 15th Avenue Coffee, Madison Park, and Issaquah Meadows all have a requirement of an “elevated dress code” which means an all black attire, no open-toed shoes, and no sleeveless shirts.  I have heard that the stores following “elevated dress code” have a rule that partners cannot wear the black “coffee gear” official Starbucks-branded polos, which seems a little silly to me.  I have seen many many partners wearing the black polos from the coffee gear store, and they look quite  nice!  (Someone please correct me if I’ve got the “elevated dress code” wrong.)

So if you could change just ONE thing, what would it be?

I realize that is such a tough question.  Everybody has a different idea about what is tasteful.  I admit, I personally am not ready for full arms of tattoos, or multiple huge metallic piercings in the face.  In fact, I’m also the kind of person that once in a while will mention to clients that when you sit before a judge, please wear conservative attire, turn off your cell phone, and please don’t chew gum at either the plaintiff or defense table.

At least in my area, it seems like one of the least enforced dress code rules, is the rule about gem stone studs in the nose.  Lots of people have tiny nose studs.  It seems like it would be the single easiest change to the dress code, and would make a difference to many partners.

As to tattoos, I can’t think of anything more difficult.  Despite what many think, we really do not live in a world where everyone wants to see tattoos.  I have occasionally thought that an easy way to make a small change to the Starbucks tattoo policy would be to have a ‘dollar bill’ test.  If the exposed area of the tattoo is no larger than a dollar bill, it is fine.  So basically,  I like the dress code the way it is right now.  If I could change anything to try and make partners have a more rewarding and comfortable experience, I would first consider allowing a nose stud.  After that, I would see no harm in having a jeans day on a regular basis too.  And I am not married to the idea that shirts must be tucked in either.  But in any event, I said ONE thing, so I picked the nose stud, since I already see that dress code rule overlooked on a regular basis.

I guess I do think that the dress code could be relaxed a little. You’ve seen some of my thoughts on that.  It’s your turn now.



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  • purple1

    Melody somehow I did not get the impression it was a local health code because they were all wearing the same SB hats and from what I got from the SM (although a very brief chat) it seemed to be a SB order. I joked with him and asked if they were going to give out different colored hats for different seasons, etc. and he said he hoped they would have visors for the summer because these hats now were quite warm. It would be an interesting question to ask and when I get a chance I might ask the SM.

  • Melody

    Just totally laughed out loud. I am sitting in a Starbucks downtown playing wwf. 3 handsome smart and wonderful young men working. GREAT guys. And one of them says to me out of the blue “Melody what do you think? Would it be in dress code if we all came to work in kilts?”

  • becca

    YES it would be, provided they were not more than 10cm’s above the knee…

  • Rayne

    I didn’t realise there was a no tattoo rule. I’ve seen several staff members at different Starbucks locations with visible tattoos. I’ve also seen staff wearing untucked Starbucks T-shirts.

  • Delaney

    That tattoo rule seems really strange to me. I’m attempting to get a job at Starbucks and most of the people I know who work there are tattooed and pierced. I would be incredible angry if my two visible tattoos kept me from getting a job there. I have a line about the width of a standard Sharpie line down my forearm from me elbow to my wrist and a black band about a quarter inch wide around the middle finger on my right hand. What could possibly be the problem with that? Piercings make a little more sense, it can be a sanitation issue. I also have a septum piercing but wouldn’t be offended in the slightest if I had to remove it for work.

  • Rayne

    Unfortunately, people with any form of hand tattoo cannot work at Starbucks. You’re not even allowed to wear a ring or band-aid to cover small finger tattoos. It’s a silly and unnecessary rule.

  • Jennifer

    Your comment about the ring cover-up is not true. As long as a tattoo can be covered, it is acceptable. This thread has been going for a long time, and I have seen many posts that are not true. If you have a tattoo, or extreme facial or ear jewelry, be prepared to cover it up or remove it while on shift. It is the policy. If you do not like it, do not apply to work at Starbucks. There are many other coffee shops and stores that allow all types of dress and body modifications, choose one of them.
    I am amazed at how many people have come on here to complain about Starbucks’s corporate culture, but are eager to work there because of things as simple as a paycheck, to insurance, 401k, stocks, discounts, free coffee, clean workplaces, opportunity for advancement…I could go on.
    Quit complaining. Cover up, or work somewhere else.

  • Michael

    Hi my name is Michael, I am a Barista at Starbucks coffee company with about 2 and a half years experience, I am pretty seasoned. I have been trying to move up with the company for a while now, and today I followed up with my manager and was thinking about talking to the district manager as well, seeing as she was present. When I addressed the situation with my manager she said that I need to take a few steps back and that we will talk about it. She mentioned to me that my DM stated, “Do you realize you have a partner on the floor with tattoos visible and a dirty apron.” As I thought about this, I was a bit taken back, and was thinking, well, did she realize that I’ve been making drinks, doing dishes, and that my apron is bound to get dirty. My tattoo had been poking out of my long sleeve shirt when I was handing her the change, therefore they peaked out when i extended my arm. I’m just starting to wonder if Im not getting promoted because of my tattoos, when I thought performance is whats key. I strive to demonstrate excellence in the work place, for the customers and my co-workers, I love my job here which many dont say, but I feel a bit harassed about my tattoos. Never by a customer, who in fact, Tell me to roll up my sleeve to show them the art, but harassed by the upperhand. The tattoo rule is a bit ridiculous, I understand if the work is offensive, but if its not gang related, drug paraphernalia, naked girls, etc. then id like to really know the big deal if a worker is working diligently.

  • Independentthinker

    I’m a former downtown Seattle barista. I myself have a small tattoo on my wrist and never covered it up because it’s in a place you don’t usually see. I worked at high profile store and I had one shift supervisor who got on me about it so I covered it with a bracelet or band aid when I worked with him (honestly, I think a band aid there looks more suspicious, but maybe that’s just me). In my two years in Seattle, I’ve noticed that the majority of people working for Starbucks are in their 20s and a very large number of people in their 20s in Seattle have tattoos, piercings and unnatural hair colors. Non-offensive body modifications are a much more widely accepted thing these days, and I think it’s totally outdated to make that against dress code. Melody, maybe Starbucks hasn’t reconsidered they’re dress code policy in a while and should revisit this. Maybe the location of the district should be a factor, maybe area managers should be able to choose if their stores can allow hair colors, tattoos and/or piercings. Downtown Seattle is very liberal and accepting. Rural Midwest, maybe not. Starbucks is a huge company and should consider making changes and exceptions based on the region. Melody, maybe you would know how to get the ball in motion to have corporate rethink their policies.

  • tattoosrgross

    I am glad that they don’t allow tattoos to show. Frankly I don’t like to look at them and think that they look low rent and unclean. Why is it the most people with tattoos have very little money, but can scrape up the money to spend on tattoos. Nose piercings are gross as well. I can not stop envisioning what is going on up the nose when someone has a cold or allergies. Don’t want to see it around food. The dress code is there for a reason. If you don’t like it, don’t work there. There are plenty of people that need jobs and would gladly cover up a tattoo, clean up and be professional to get promoted.

  • Lauren

    I’m a former Caribou coffee employee who’s store got shut down this past week. I don’t understand the “polo” policy….we wore any black or white collared shirt and nice jeans, black pants, or khaki. We looked professional, acted professional and it didn’t take away from the feel of the store. I just got hired at a Starbucks down the road from where I used to work….so I’m just really nervous.

  • Someone

    Just an FYI for all who would are upset about not being allowed to have any piercings. NATIONAL health codes state that the only a person is allowed to wear while working with food is a plain band such as a wedding band. It is not a starbucks policy it is a health code that all food establishments are required to uphold. The tattoo policy is a Starbucks policy & one that SHOULD be modified to allow some management discretion.

  • Gia

    Well it all depends on who’s your manager, in the store i work at it’s soooo laid-back, we don’t have to cover tattoos or piercings (i have a facial dermal and an arm-tattoo) almost everyone have writs tattoos as well, as the dress code itself, i’ve seen girls with colored shits with whole different kind of neck (V neck, round neck, etc) leggins and shirt with a logo its also allowed. I think the manager cares more about the performance. I don’t think its right to wear just anything but i agree with tattoos being allowed as soon as they aren’t offensive, this is a whole new age and people have the right to express themselves. my store is also located in one of the fanciest malls in the whole city

  • Krista Myke

    I would like to change the issue with tattoos/piercings/different coloured hair. I think that since we’re living in the 21st century and starbucks pays (where I live) just slightly over minimum wage, that we need to embrace this culture in the same way all others are embraced. Starbucks doesn’t care about ethnicity, sexual orientation etc… but I cannot hire someone who has a neck tattoo???? what if they’re the best person for the job??? it makes me very uncomfortable to tell people we are an equal opportunity employer when this is just not truly the case

  • wyld

    Good day to you dear Melody, I don’t know if you remember me from starbucksgossip and v2v days of yore but I was led to this old entry when my assistant manager insisted that only dress pants are acceptable and I had to immediately go out and buy new pants to replace my cargos in black and khaki, and my semi-questionable ean-style-but-velvet-not-denim pants. I was hoping your copy of old dress code would include corduroys being acceptable as I recall reading but I don’t see it in that version, alas. Howard is coming to Toronto in just a few days so I have of course been thinking of you and every time that you report you get that fangirl eyes glaze over if you see him ^_^ <3

  • Melody

    @Wyld – Long time no see. A lot has changed for since that era of V2V which was 2008. Even the way I see Starbucks, and a number of things about the brand has changed. I will say, at this point, I am simply very thankful for the many partners in downtown Seattle (and everywhere) who pour so much every day into their to make the experience great for customers. And, I’m thankful for the many readers, and thankful for comments too – it’s a way of connecting with people.

    Come back and check out more articles on this blog!

  • Nell

    I have multiple facial piercings. One eyebrow, one nose, and my bridge. I was hired after being told I could wear retainers in[clear ones] and 3 months after I started, we got a new store manager who pointed out that retainers aren’t actually allowed. I have to take out the eyebrow and nose ring, but my bridge will heal up over the course of 3 hours[I did try once], so I have to wear a bandaid in the middle of my face.
    Not only do I think it looks a helluve a lot less professional, it’s extremely uncomfortable over an 8 hour shift.
    I would either want the rule about piercings or unnatural hair colors changed. In fact, I’m almost positive I’m fully capable of doing my job with blue hair and piercings in. It’s almost like it’s NOT A PROBLEM.
    Rant over.

  • wisewoman9900

    Hello. I am about to have an interview for a Starbucks barista job in two days. The problem is I do not fit the Starbucks Profile and I’m terrified I won’t get the job. I need extra money to pay my mortgage. So here’s my issue. I’m 60+, I have longish very white hair and it’s curly. I have not worked in the conventional workforce for at least 2 decades. No I do not have tats or piercings. It’s the hair that troubles me. I do NOT want to cut it. It grows very slowly and I look like I am 90+ in short hair (yeah, I tie it back when I’m working in my cat sanctuary in the summer). I took one glance in the mirror when my hair was in a pony tail and ran screaming from the room. My shape is not fantastic any more although I’m not overweight but I refuse to tuck in my shirt. Maybe the apron will cover up the ravages of age and nature so I probably can live with that. But I’m so afraid that they will take one look at me and decide that they do not hire dead people. Do they age discriminate? It’s bad pay but the Starbucks is only a mile from my house which means less gas spent, more money for me. So, what have I been doing for the last 25 years? I am an online psychic in a private chat room working for an online psychic reading company. I asked the cards that question – am I appropriate for this job and they all fell on the floor. Not a good sign. So you see, I’m not up to date on dress code. The last time I did dress code was when I was doing in-person readings at a Christmas party for a group of petroleum millionaires (they tipped very well, especially when they had a few quarts of brandy under their money belts). The dress was gypsy style with lots of jangles.

    My main worry aside from the fact that I have sort of been living off planet with about 20 cats is, do I have a snowball’s chance in you know where of getting the job and will they take a sheep shears to my hair? At this point I am willing to sell my soul for $7.40 an hour but not cut my hair or wear it pulled back and look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Any comments/information will be appreciated.

  • Erin

    I would change the tattoo policy. It doesn’t have to be taken away completely but we shouldn’t be fired or discriminated against for having visible tattoos. If there are tattoos that are known to be offensive or are gang related then covering them is understandable, but if it’s hot out or dishes need to be washed and someone wants to roll up their sleeves to do them they should be able to. The nose stud can easily fall out of your nose into someone’s drink it’s unsanitary and completely violates the policy of having jewelry at work.

  • Pia

    I’ve never understood why companies, especially a company like Starbucks which caters to a lot of college kids, has a policy against tattoos (unless they are facial tattoos or offensive tattoos because this could be extremely distracting or offensive) and hair color. I almost understand covering up tattoos, but hair color? Honestly, if I can make a good cup of coffee with brown hair, or blond hair, I can make you the same good cup of coffee with green or blue hair.

  • K.H.

    I just got hired at Starbucks and I am super thrilled to start but I am dreading the tucked in shirt bit. It’s the easiest to boot. I have worked in coffee shops for the past 5-6 years and we are always bending over and lifting our arms, so I absolutely understanding making sure no midriffs, love handles, cracks or whale tails fall out, but I think there are so many simple solutions out there other than tucking (long button downs or long undershirts). Plus, I think it’s counterproductive to have your shirt tucked in because it will mostly untuck constantly and you have to fix it to keep it looking nice (which means shoving your hand down your pants constantly…). Not only is it uncomfortable, but it is not flattering or convenient attire or all body figures. (I, personally, also am conflicted with not being able to have any kind of flair and having to dress so, honestly, ‘manly’… not that I’m that girly– I like scarves and long flowy tops– but tucked polos and curves do not got together.) I get unity and how it is easier to monitor appropriate professional conduct with such a strict dress code, but I also think it may not be as welcoming (or inspiring, as their motto states) as other coffee shops. It is valid that their dress code does not align with how progressive they promote themselves. We’ll see…

  • Preston

    I have a tattoo on the inside of my forearm. It is two sentences in the languages of my two ethnicities. The tattoo is meaningful without being distracting, profane, ugly, etc. If there are not already, I think there needs to be exceptions to a dress code that doesn’t allow visible tattoos. Maybe ‘with management approval’ would be sufficient and fair. Workplaces might as well change their tattoo dress code soon as I guarantee it will inevitably change within the next 5 years since tattoos are a more generally accepted and popular form of expression in the modern world.

  • Invidiabue

    Our local Starbucks has begun having their employees wear hats. I loved making their drinks at Barnes & Noble and I got very excited because I have two very tasteful streaks of blue in my hair (my bangs–like Rogue, but with black and blue) and with the hats, all I need to do is clip them up inside the hat and it’s covered! I applied. At the interview, I was told that I still cannot have my hair this way. NO, NOT EVEN IF IT IS COVERED. The interview stopped and of course I decided not to change it, since my hair is as important to me as a tattoo. I hope that puts the tattoo complaint in perspective. As long as it’s not on your face, neck, or hands (5% of your body), you are allowed to cover it. It’s very easy, just like my hair, and I would have been happy to, if it meant doing what I love and excel at, and being part of the company. I am a fantastic barista and employee and I was stunned that the choice to have a tattoo gets more respect than the choice to have a classy application of unnatural hair color, and it cost them one of the best people they could hire. Extremely disappointed.

    Note: I understand that it’s a corporate rule and local manager’s don’t want to get reamed.

  • Shelby

    I just started working at a new Starbucks because I moved. The last Starbucks I worked at told me I wouldn’t be able to wear a nose ring, which I wasn’t happy about, but it’s whatever. The Starbucks I recently started working at is telling me that I am not allowed to have any jewelry, not even studs in my ears. My manager even tried to tell me that even if studs were allowed, my diamond studs aren’t actually studs… I then attempted to take out the studs, which don’t come out because the back is stuck on them, and she basically wants me to cut them off… we’re talking $1000 diamonds my grandma gave me as a gift. If this isn’t ridiculous I don’t know what is.

  • KH

    Shelby, that can’t be legal… The partner apron book or portal should be able to back you up on that. I was told no bigger than an inch so studs should absolutely be fine.

  • Shelby

    KH, I am going to talk to another higher-up manager about this. The Starbucks I work at is located inside a target, but they go by Starbucks standards. I am being forced out of Starbucks and put into cashiering at Target, which I’m not happy about. I am a good employee and I know what I’m doing, which is something they really need. The fact that they’re making me leave due to piercings I can’t get out of my ears bugs me to no end.

  • Vic

    Tattoos are offensive to me and if I am going to spend my money, I need to be serve proper, I do not want to be serve by a server that looks like a criminal. I do not think that any tattoos are acceptable.

  • Starbucks Baristas Fight To Show Tattoos

    […] or khaki trousers, shorts or skirts, according to copies of the employee manual posted on the blog Starbucks Melody. Hair and nails must be kept clean. Facial hair must be neatly trimmed. Perfumes and aftershave […]

    • joseph

      What is the standard uniform of shift supervisor?is it a white polo shirt and khaki pants or is it the same black with the barista?

    • DS

      If they allow tats the should allow wedding rings plain and simple starbucks need to get their act together. I left for better pay and a place where I can say im proud to work at.

    • Anna

      Allowing colored hair so long as it was kept nicely!!

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