In 75 countries around the world, Starbucks is recognized by the color green. From its circular green logo, to the 23,000 locations with more than 300,000 employees who wear green aprons.

But have you ever noticed a barista not wearing green? Maybe you saw black, orange or red. What is this secret code in Starbucks coffeehouse apparel?

The apron has been a part of Starbucks since the first day it opened its doors in 1971 to Seattle’s Pike Place Market. At the time, employees wore basic brown grocer’s aprons — the same shade as the original logo.

According to a post on the company’s website, by 1987 the green apron replaced the brown aprons to became the standard issue — now matching the green logo. Today, anyone working at a Starbucks can wear the company’s signature green color. But other colors are earned.

If an employee has military experience or graduated from the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, they  might receive special patches to be sewn on.

The black aprons were introduced in the ’90s and designed for employees who achieved certified knowledge in coffee — what is today the Coffee Masters program. The black apron distinguishes the professionals from the everyday baristas.

Other aprons pop up from time to time. The red aprons were introduced in 1997 — the very first year of the special holiday red cups — for employers who were sampling the Christmas Blend coffee or restocking merchandise in the store. Orange aprons are worn in the Netherlands to celebrate King’s Day. Pale blue is worn for the launch of Frappuccino Happy Hour, and rare purple aprons are earned by barista champions.

“We have really embraced diversity while staying true to who we are,” said Michelle Dougherty who was a part of the operations team that led the dress code evolution.


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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.