Did you know that Starbucks employees have worn their iconic green aprons since 1987?
The traditional green apron with the mermaid logo is the signature Starbucks design, but Starbucks baristas also wear other colors on specific occasions. So, what do they all mean?
Every Starbucks barista gets a green apron, but only coffee masters wear the black one. Red aprons are worn during the Christmas holidays. Only the Dutch wear orange aprons, while barista champions wear purple. Light blue stands for Frappuccino happy hour.
In the rest of this article, I will reveal the mystery behind each apron color and explain how they came into use.
I’ll also discuss the Starbucks dress code, which determines what employees can wear under the apron.
What the Starbucks apron colors mean in 2023
Below, I’ll go over the apron colors you can expect to see when you’re going out for a cup of joe at Starbucks:
Green is the color of the standard apron; the moment you get a job at Starbucks, this is the color you’ll get.
Basically, beginners and the majority of baristas wear green aprons, and while they’re good at making coffee, they’re usually not coffee experts or skilled professionals (this is why black aprons exist).
Interestingly, the first baristas at Starbucks didn’t wear green aprons. Back in 1971, when Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle, the dress code was nothing like today.
Employees wore dull brown aprons that did a great job hiding coffee stains in the same color, but Starbucks had to pull some marketing tricks to attract more customers.
They had to stand out and look different. In the late ‘80s, the company decided it needed rebranding.
The new Starbucks identity found inspiration in the Italian coffeehouses, where employees aimed at achieving a more professional look by wearing white button-up shirts and black bow ties.
The legendary green apron gave the finishing touch to this “European look.”
The company quickly got tired of this style and finally decided to go for a more relaxed look, both for the outfits and the store ambiance, but the green apron never went out of style.
Why green is the signature Starbucks color
Starbucks employees may wear different colors on special occasions, but green is their signature color. Why green?
Green is appealing to most customers because it usually has a very calming effect on people. It “invites” people to the store to spend money on the famous, elaborate Starbucks drinks.
The famous coffee chain uses forest green, a very dark shade that rarely goes unnoticed. Green also symbolizes the raw coffee bean that is roasted and turned into delicious Starbucks coffee.
Can you wear accessories on Starbucks aprons?
Sometimes, Starbucks allows employees to make their aprons more stylish by wearing apron pins.
However, those pins shouldn’t express any ideas that are too personal or overtly political. Employees can use them to show they belong to a specific group, e.g., certified barista trainers.
Pins should be attached firmly to the apron, so they don’t accidentally end up in someone’s drink.
Not everyone gets to wear the black Starbucks apron; this one has to be earned the hard way. If someone is wearing a black apron, they are a coffee master.
Being a coffee master isn’t an easy task. Before they earn this title, baristas need at least one year of work experience at Starbucks.
In addition, baristas have to get special recommendations from their senior managers to apply for the coffee master program.
The program is basically a course where baristas learn the specifics of the coffee-making profession. There’s a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge involved, such as:
- Coffee brewing and preparation.
- Understanding how different temperatures affect the coffee taste.
- Recognizing different aromas of coffee.
- Answering questions about the history of Starbucks coffee.
The company pays baristas to take the training, but they shouldn’t expect an increase in salary once they become coffee masters.
Unfortunately, Starbucks Coffee Masters earn the same pay as ordinary baristas.
If you ever see a coffee master at your local Starbucks, remember they’re passionate about their job and have a lot of theoretical knowledge about this profession.
So make sure to ask them a question or two about coffee — I’m sure they’ll be happy to answer.
And if you want more information about what it takes to be Starbucks Coffee Master, have a look at this in-depth article!
Red aprons appear during Christmas time, as the colors green and red often represent Christmas festivities.
By wearing red aprons, Starbucks employees take part in the jolly spirit of the holiday season.
Baristas usually start putting them on sometime in November or December and take them off on New Year’s Day. Once the festive season ends, they put their green aprons back on.
The Christmas season at Starbucks begins as soon as baristas get their Christmas apparel (i.e., red aprons).
At this time, they also serve delicious holiday-themed drinks. For more on this, check out my article on Starbucks holiday drinks.
Now, let’s see what secret meanings are hidden behind the less typical apron colors like orange, purple, light blue, and yellow.
If you ever want to see orange Starbucks aprons in real life, you’ll have to go to the Netherlands.
Orange is the country’s official color because of the royal family’s name (The House of Orange-Nassau).
All across the country, the Dutch wear orange on April 27 to celebrate King’s Day, and this tradition doesn’t skip Starbucks either.
There are times when Starbucks offers its tasty Frappuccinos at half price. They call this “the Frappuccino happy hour.”
For example, you can get 50% off a Frappuccino between 3 pm and 5 pm. Frappuccinos are some of the most popular drinks at Starbucks.
Frappuccinos are delicious and easy to make, so if you don’t feel like stepping out to get one from Starbucks, you can check out my recipe to learn how to make a Frappuccino at home — and it tastes just as good as the store-bought one.
The color purple is reserved for international barista champions. Although Starbucks is an American brand, it has outlets across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, collectively known as the EMEA.
Every year, the EMEA representatives organize The Starbucks Barista Championship, where baristas show off their coffee-making knowledge and skills.
Occasionally, you’ll see Starbucks baristas wearing yellow aprons while serving tea.
These yellow aprons are meant to promote the wide range of Teavana teas, which are made from various herbal blends and are sold at Starbucks.
What embroidery on Starbucks aprons represents
Some Starbucks stores allow employees to embroider their names on aprons instead of wearing name tags.
However, you’ll often see embroideries like the American flag or a mortarboard on green Starbucks aprons. Let’s see what they stand for.
If you come across a barista with sign language characters on their apron, know they can speak sign language.
In 2018, Starbucks opened its first Signing Store in Washington, DC. The inspiration came from a similar project in Malaysia.
Starbucks wanted to hire people with hearing problems like deafness who speak ASL (American Sign Language).
The ASL project has become very popular with customers who also use sign language.
If you want to visit one of Starbucks’ signing stores but can’t speak ASL, don’t worry; you can also use notes or specially designed menus to order your drink.
Wearing an embroidered American flag on a green apron is a small token of appreciation for the US Army.
A lot of baristas have spouses serving in the Army. Some baristas have served in the US Army and want to show their patriotism through Starbucks aprons.
Working for Starbucks comes with lots of different benefits.
One of them is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP).
Starbucks employees who haven’t gone to college, but wish to do so, can apply for this program and have Starbucks pay for their college tuition at Arizona State University (ASU).
Those who successfully complete their studies through SCAP usually embroider a mortarboard on their aprons.
Starbucks doesn’t force its employees to only study programs like economy or marketing (which would benefit the business).
It allows successful SCAP applicants to choose any online course offered at ASU that they are interested in.
What Starbucks employees wear under their aprons
Wearing Starbucks aprons is part and parcel of the employee dress code at the coffee shop chain.
They give you two green aprons when they hire you, and when the holidays begin, they give you two red aprons.
Safety is a priority for Starbucks. This is one of the reasons why the dress code exists. Baristas always have to wear clothes that cover their skin.
Handling hot coffee and other warm beverages can be quite dangerous, and their clothes are there to protect them from getting burnt.
Starbucks stores recognize each employee as unique, but the dress code exists to make them look a bit more like a unified collective.
By making them respect the dress code, Starbucks also promotes its image through employees’ style choices. Here’s what the dress code looks like in 2023:
Starbucks encourages its employees to wear neutral colors like:
- Navy blue
Solid colors are the way to go for tops because these colors don’t clash with green aprons; they actually bring out this famous Starbucks color.
Wild patterns and graphics are a no-go for clothing.
Starbucks allows employees to wear different hairstyles as long as their hair is kept away from their faces and doesn’t interfere with their work.
The good news is that all hair colors are allowed. It’s also fine to wear baseball hats, beanies, turbans, and headscarves.
Starbucks allows jeans, jeggings, and pants in neutral colors that I already listed. White tops are okay, but white pants or jeans are off-limits.
Yoga pants or gym bottoms like leggings are strongly discouraged. These clothes are made from lighter materials, and baristas who wear them could get burnt more easily.
For this reason, they also prohibit wearing ripped jeans or any type of clothes with holes.
Tops of all kinds are acceptable if they don’t expose the shoulders, stomach, and back.
Employees can wear blouses, shirts, T-shirts, and turtlenecks, but hoodies aren’t allowed. Solid colors are the way to go, and white is also allowed.
When choosing their shoes, Starbucks employees have a lot of options. The dress code allows all shoe types except open-toed shoes or anything with heels.
A good idea would be to get waterproof shoes (possibly leather or another type of waterproof material), as employees often have to mop the floor and can easily get their socks or feet wet.
Style choices that Starbucks doesn’t allow
There are a few other things that Starbucks employees have to keep in mind regarding the dress code:
- Tattoos on the neck and face are absolutely forbidden. It’s okay to have tattoos on other body parts, but they shouldn’t be racist, profane, vulgar, or offensive in any way.
- Face piercings are acceptable if they aren’t too big.
- Jewelry or accessories like bracelets, watches, fancy rings or dangly necklaces are not allowed. Earrings are okay, but they have to be small.
- Plain wedding bands are acceptable.
- Long nails or nail polish are not allowed for sanitary reasons. Nail polish could chip off and fall into a customer’s drink.
- Glitter on the face, arms, or hair is not allowed.
The dress code is pretty strict, but some rules may vary from store to store.
If you work at Starbucks but need clarification on whether you can wear something to work, it’s best to check with your senior manager or observe what your colleagues are wearing.
Starbucks aprons come in different colors, which represent the following things:
- Green: Classic Starbucks apron
- Black: Coffee Master
- Red: Christmas season
- Orange: King’s Day, an important celebration in the Netherlands
- Pale blue: Frappuccino happy hour
- Purple: Barista champion
- Yellow: Teavana tea
Some baristas may have embroideries on their aprons. For example, ASL characters on Starbucks aprons mean that a barista can speak sign language.
Starbucks also has a strict dress code to encourage safety and promote uniformity among its employees, whereas Starbucks aprons are a sign of hospitality regardless of their color.