Tattoos are in, pink hair is out.
That’s part of the new employee dress code implemented Monday at Starbucks in Canada on the heels of an announcement overhauling employee policies from the Seattle-based coffee giant last week.
In a nod to the changing fashion tastes of its young clientele, the chain will now allow baristas to display tasteful tattoos (meaning no swear words or hateful messages) while serving beverages, and as long as they’re not located on the face or throat. Nose studs are now permitted but nose rings are not. And the two earrings per ear maximum remains in effect.
“We know it’s important for our partners (employees) to be able to express their individuality more freely and show their tattoos,” said Starbucks’ Canada spokesperson Carly Suppa.
“We also know it’s important to share in successes as a company and a big part of that is investing in a partner (employee) experience that reflects our company mission and values,” she said in an e-mail.
To that end, Starbucks is relaxing the rules to allow untucked shirts — so long as the mid-section is covered — black jeans, tan khakis, colorful scarves, some patterned neckties and bowties, and shorts and skirts, which should hang no less than four inches above the knee.
However, citing food safety regulations, servers and supervisors will no longer be allowed to wear watches, bracelets or rings with stones (such as wedding rings), although they may wear plain wedding bands.
And some other rules remain unchanged, including not being allowed to dye hair in “unnatural colours” such as pink, purple, blue or green, the guidelines say.
“They just see where their niche is. It was problematic for them to have this dress code when their clients are a little bit counter-culture,” noted University of Ottawa sociology professor Diane Pacom, who specializes in youth and pop culture research.
She said it also helps the chain attract and retain staff in an industry that is known for its very high turnover rate.
And due to intense competition in the fast food business, “they have no other option at this point than to acquire a more lax approach to the dress code. It’s a marketing thing,” she added.
The change also comes just months after a Starbucks employee in the U.S. started a petition to alter the company’s tattoo policy, which got 25,000 signatures. The java behemoth said it had begun to review its dress code soon after.
In 2013, McDonald’s Canada revised its dress code policy driven by employee feedback to permit stud piercings on the face area, including the eyebrow, nose, lip and tongue, along with “non-offensive” visible tattoos. Restaurant crew uniforms were also redesigned to be more simple and modern, a spokesperson said. And the burger chain offers additional headwear options from a hat, visor, headband, chef hat or hijab.
“I think Starbucks always wants to be cutting edge,” said image consultant Diane Craig, president and founder of Toronto-based Corporate Class Inc.
“It doesn’t take away from their ability to be conscientious, professional and polite to customers. Starbucks has to do this if they want to develop a relationship with young people,” she said.