Another look at the new Starbucks dress code.

At the end of July, Starbucks announced major changes to their barista dress code. Up until the July 25th dress code change, store baristas had to wear shirts with a collar and were limited to black, white, and under some circumstances khaki.

Now you might be seeing patterns, plaids, navy blue, brown, gray, denim, beanies, and more at Starbucks.

It hasn’t even been a month yet with the new Starbucks dress code, but I wondered what you’re seeing inside stores. A few partners emailed me photos and I took a few photos of my neighborhood baristas when visiting Starbucks.

You’re still seeing lots of solids:

10 Aug 2016 - Sam 7th and Pike Starbucks

jason p at 4th and Union Starbucks 28July2016

Stripes are popping up in stores!

IMG_6040 michigan new dress code

IMG_20160728_181746 jenni brush in new dress code

20160728_122305 barista megs





The conversations about the new dress code have been really interesting to me. Even things that I thought wouldn’t spark a lot of conversation ended up with lots of comments. Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted some of these photos of Facebook and the conversations flowed.

Look at this photo of Zack wearing a “Henley” style shirt:

20160808_081053 zack showing off the new dress code

When I took this photo, I thought that Zack looked totally cute in a gray “Henley” style t-shirt and beanie. The thing with the new dress code is that it is really open to interpretation. On Facebook, one Orange County (California) store manager commented that she wasn’t sure if that shirt violated the rule about “no t-shirts”. (The rule is no solid white t-shirts. I’m not sure about solid gray t-shirts). A Henley t-shirt is a specific style of t-shirt and it’s listed as acceptable in the new Starbucks dress code. Understandably though, it could cause confusion asking store managers (and other store supervisors or assistant store managers) to distinguish between a Henley and a normal t-shirt. A Henley is characterized by one or two buttons at the neck. My experience has been that it’s often long-sleeved and in some kind of textured fabric, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be long-sleeved or waffle-textured. Another person commented that it look like someone “off the streets” just started serving coffee, meaning as if any person just walked in the front door and started being a barista.

And here is another example of a shirt without a collar:

image1 - lexus in new dress code


As far as I am concerned, all the above pictures look great! They’re all great examples of the new dress code!


As I mentioned above, I’d been thinking about doing a follow up article on the dress code for a while, and periodically posting some photos to Facebook. The conversations that came out of dress code photos were totally interesting. What does a shift supervisor do if 3 partners come to work, all out of dress code? The shift made the comment, “What am I supposed to do? Close my store?” And the interpretation of what is a “t-shirt” or what’s the right color or not too busy of a pattern is pretty subjective. From the customer perspective, what happens when you notice someone who looks out of sync with everyone else? The consensus was generally that if everything else went fine, you do nothing. Even for myself, when I was working on the Cold Brew with Lemonade article, I got my drink at a drive-thru location near the Starbucks headquarters. I couldn’t help but notice that the partner at the drive-thru was wearing an extremely sheer white shirt. The shirt was so sheer, I could clearly see her loud pink bra underneath. However, I said nothing about it and did nothing about it. Everything else was perfect. The partners were friendly. I quickly got my beverage. It tasted great. Just as I dislike it when partners turn into police officers at the register with customers, it’s not my job to police Starbucks dress code. If my experience had been terrible, I might have mentioned it in the context of, “on top of it all, I could see the barista’s pink bra!” But even then, I’m not sure I would say anything.

The perspective is totally different for partners. Shift supervisors and above do have to worry what their store partners look like. From the perspective of partners I heard conversations like feeling it was totally unfair that one person gets written up for jeans being too light, yet another person gets to wear a shirt that is totally not in compliance with the dress code. (My own personal opinion is that I’m no fan of the barista-sheriff mentality. Even if I were, hypothetically, a store manager, something would have to be way off before I’d think about an actual write-up. I still fundamentally believe that the mission statement of Starbucks encourages both great partner-customer experiences, creating enthusiastically satisfied experiences, and great partner to partner experiences. Just as Starbucks expects that you’ll be kind and forgiving and give your customers the benefit of the doubt, so I believe partners should do the same with each other.)

The next photo is of a partner who is wildly out of dress code:

image california starbucks

I did not take the photo of the barista in the red sweat pants and halter top. I do not know what store that is. I do know the person who did take the photo (and I don’t even want to know what store) so I know it’s a real photo and it’s a California store. The above photo created tons of conversation. What in the world do you do if a partner shows up to work in that outfit? That is not even close to being in dress code. Do you put that person to work in the back of house? Do you send them home? Do you write them up? (Maybe that would be a write up!) Again, from the customer perspective, I’d do nothing if every other aspect of my experience was great. The conversations that came out of that photos were incredible. There were even conversations about taking photos of people in stores. And that conversation developed and grew too. Frankly, I genuinely believe that our society’s idea of when you might end up in a photo is changing and evolving. Whereas 15 years ago, taking that photo would seem totally weird (because you would need a camera) in the year 2016, this is becoming the norm. I recognize that many people don’t like this. But just because you dislike it, doesn’t mean that society isn’t changing around you. I think this area of thinking is in flux. We’re not going to reach a consensus here so please don’t comment on the actual taking of the photograph.

(As a corollary to the above conversation, I have often said that if you are a partner and you choose to work at certain high profile Starbucks locations such as 1912 Pike Place, the Roastery, maybe downtown Disney Starbucks, perhaps New York’s Time Square store, then you should fully expect that you’ll be in a million photos.)

Feel free to weigh in. What are you seeing in your stores when it comes to the new dress code?

Thank you to the many people who contributed photos to this article.

Lastly, comments that insult, attack, bait, or otherwise are posted to vex and annoy maybe subject to deletion.


Related Posts


  • Jonathan Bayne, Esq.

    I liked the professionalism that came with white/khaki, black/white, black/black. Reminds me of when they overhauled the Coffee Master programme to include all management even though many could have cared less about coffee in general. Coffee Masters got watered down & so has the service in the process. I still have all of the different Black Apron designs & my favourite is still the coffee bean because it had some uniqueness to it. I recently saw a Barista the other day wearing “bootie shorts”/daisy dukes. Not exactly something I wanted to see outside of a dive bar or greasy spoon. Service was the same as a greasy spoon. I’m all for change, but they need to reel in some of the obvious club wear.

  • Colin

    I think it is great that Starbucks is allowing their baristas to express more personality in their dress! Great article and pictures!

  • Shawnee Ryan

    We are in Partner Appreciation Week. Depending on when it was taken, that red outfit may have been part of a themed dress up day that often occurs during PAW.

  • Josh Duguid

    As a former manager I am torn on this issue. On one hand it’s silly to nit pick and micromanage dress code, as most of the time it’s relatively pointless. I think it’s great that partners are now to free to express themselves more (unnatural hair colours! Yay!).

    The issue with the new dress code is that it’s too vauge, leaving too much room for interpretation. In my experience, workers in any job will always push the limits. If you do not have clearly defined boundaries, you might as well not have any.

    What I’m afraid of (and am already seeing in some of the lower performing stores in my area), is that partners will just use this as an excuse to dress less professionally. I’m already seeing booty shorts, yoga pants, logo tees and what look suspiciously like sweatpants on partners.

    Call me old fashioned but I don’t want to be served food/drink from someone who looks like they just rolled out of bed! Customers equate the quality and sanitary level of your product by the employees. If a worker (at any food service location) can’t be bothered to dress up for work, I automatically ask myself if their back room is clean, or if their food is being prepared safely, or if they are diligent in washing their hands.

    I’m NOT saying that if you wear a beany you’re a slob, but if I owned a company I wouldn’t want to risk any of my customers getting that impression.

  • LaurenKom

    Step one if someone comes to work out of dress code is to tell them. Assume positive intent. Perhaps share with the partner that the next time they show up out of dress code, the partner will be sent home and/or subject to corrective action. At Starbucks, it’s about the relationship between the managers and the partners – so I think any time you move straight to a “write up” before having a conversation and simply informing the partner of what’s wrong, you’re not honoring our culture. (Also, PRSC will probably not back you up.)

    I don’t really know what a Henley is, and agree that there is a lot more subjectivity now. But really, if we’re assuming the best in others, and having open, honest conversations, dress code is just another policy.

  • Melody

    I just want to say thanks for the good comments. All good food for thought. I’m with Lauren though – assume positive intent in the dress code too.

  • Blaine Huizinga

    Just wanted to say, the gray Henley he is wearing is not a T-shirt. T-shirts have short sleeves and are not allowed by the dress code. Women’s blouses and button downs with short sleeves are allowed, even crew-neck shirts with 3/4 sleeves like Raglans. I pulled the definition for reference:

    a short-sleeved casual top, generally made of cotton, having the shape of a T when spread out flat.

  • Rene Lynn

    I dress down most days at my job but every once in a while I’m asked to meet with customers so I always have s shawl on hand to dress up my outfit. For the stores worried about having to send everyone on a shift home because they aren’t dressed properly, would it work to have them have 1 set of approved shirts/tops for those instances?

Leave a Comment


Join the mailing list to receive a weekly email with new posts: