When you think of a Starbucks barista, you probably picture them wearing a green apron as they whip up your favorite “secret menu” coffee drinks. The majority of employees slip on the classic green Starbucks apron featuring the company’s signature logo on the front, but occasionally you may encounter something different at your local coffee shop: a barista wearing a Starbucks black apron.
Customers may see Starbucks baristas donning an apron that is a different shade than the standard green because Starbucks has a specific color system for its uniform aprons. Each color signifies a special characteristic about the barista or store, a seasonal shift or a level of training that the barista has achieved.
So, what’s the story behind Starbucks’ colored aprons? A look back into the company’s history helps us crack the color code.
The History Of Starbucks’ Green Apron
According to the official Starbucks website, when the first shop opened in 1971 in Seattle, employees wore basic brown aprons to match the company’s brand and the coffee beans that the shop sold. By 1987, though, Starbucks expanded its locations to 17 stores, and these cafe locations were meant to capture the vibe of Italian coffeehouses — complete with employee uniforms that featured white shirts, black bowties and the now-famous green aprons.
“We wore our green apron with white, black and khaki,” Michelle Dougherty, an early Starbucks employee, told Starbucks Stories & News. “I remember that your top layers always had to be the same color, you couldn’t wear a black polo shirt with a white one underneath.”
A few years later, in the 1990s, the Starbucks black apron made its debut as a way of providing a certain designation to the wearer of the apron.
The Starbucks Black Apron Has A Special Meaning
If you see someone serving your coffee wearing a Starbucks black apron, you know your drink is in good hands.
A Starbucks Coffee Master wears a black apron to signify that they have completed a comprehensive education program. These employees have studied various elements of coffee production and preparation, including the growing methods and flavor profiles of different coffee varieties. Starbucks Coffee Masters can answer just about any question you might have about your favorite drink.
Vivian Fonseca is a Starbucks Coffee Master based in Brazil and her love of the study of coffee began right when she started working at the coffee chain.
“My coffee passion started when I tasted Ethiopia Sidamo,” Fonseca told Starbucks in an interview. “From that moment I became a coffee lover. I wanted to become a Coffee Master because I wanted to learn, share and inspire.”
There Are Many Different Starbucks Apron Colors
In addition to the Starbucks black apron, there are many other apron colors you might spot on a barista, depending on a store’s location, the time of year, a person’s achievements and even store initiatives.
Here are a few Starbucks apron colors you might see in your travels to different stores:
- In the Netherlands, Starbucks baristas have orange aprons to wear to celebrate King’s Day, a national holiday.
- During the winter holiday season at many Starbucks locations worldwide, customers will likely see baristas wearing festive red Starbucks aprons.
- Winners of Starbucks barista competitions over the years earned a special apron that was purple or brown to designate their champion status.
Even the classic green Starbucks aprons can get a little extra bling on them to mark special achievements.
- An American flag is embroidered on the standard green Starbucks aprons of military veterans and military spouses who work for the company.
- Baristas who graduate from college using the Starbucks College Achievement Plan can have a graduation cap embroidered on their aprons.
- Employees who are deaf can wear aprons with the word “Starbucks” spelled out in American Sign Language. Crystal Harris, pictured here, works at Starbucks’ official Signing Store in Washington, D.C., where all staff members are fluent in ASL. (Hearing employees at any Starbucks store who know sign language can indicate their proficiency by affixing an “I Sign” pin to their standard green apron.)
So, the next time you drop by a Starbucks location, take a closer look at the barista’s apron. You might notice something special about these hardworking servers.