Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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LIKE CAFÉS THEMSELVES and the baristas who inhabit them, coffeehouse dress codes come in all shapes and sizes. From the fully codified to the entirely implied, all cafés have some form of dress code, whether they acknowledge it or not. In function, dress codes range from a system for consistent staff appearance to a failsafe ensuring staff safety. As the coffee world becomes more and more focused on promoting equity in all its spaces, there are many positive steps café owners and managers can take to ensure that the dress code they create is inclusive and comfort- able for all types of employees. WHAT ARE DRESS CODES AND WHY DO THEY EXIST? For the purposes of this article, a dress code is any policy—written or unwritten, spoken or unspoken—centered around appearance, clothing, or hygiene in the workplace. Dress codes can have a huge impact on staff and customer morale and day-to-day experience, which is why it's so important for café own- ers to think about what type of experience they want to create. For example, allowing baristas to wear the clothing of their choice at work can cre- ate an approachable, relaxed mood in the café, potentially promoting higher morale and friendlier service. On the other hand, employing a stricter business-casual dress code can help promote a sense of team unity and higher perception of profession- alism among both baristas and customers. Both ends of the spectrum (and the spaces in between) create marked effects on mood, atmosphere, and service, and while differ- ent workers will have their preferences, the effects can all be equally positive when the dress-code policies are crafted carefully and thoughtfully. ENSURING INCLUSIVITY AND A SAFE, COMFORTABLE WORKPLACE Workers, like cafés, are incredibly diverse and have varied needs. Many seemingly neutral dress-code policies contain potential for discomfort of or discrimination against certain types of workers, especially those who are nonmale, nonwhite, noncisgender, and/ or nonable-bodied. Different types of dress codes come with their own sets of pitfalls, but luckily they're easy to avoid with thoughtful policy creation. Below are some examples of potential issues and how to avoid them when crafting your policy. COST OF CLOTHING If a café has a built-out dress code that requires employees to buy their own clothes within set parameters, owners should con- sider reimbursing or fronting money for the clothing purchased for the job. When contemplating this, it's important to remember that women's clothing costs more than men's and is often designed to be less durable, especially in the case of well-tailored clothing. This is even more salient for trans- gender or gender-nonconforming employees who, when fi tting into a particular dress code, often need to buy carefully cut and tailored garments to downplay the parts of their body that cause people to misperceive their gender. So even though cost of clothing might not seem like such a big deal to some workers, it might be prohibitive for others. Offering reimbursement for the cost of clothing, as well as being willing to tender advances to employees for clothing if they ask, are helpful measures in ensuring that cost doesn't prohibit comfortable participation in the dress code. Remember that just because this issue may not affect all employees, that doesn't mean that it isn't affecting any. ISSUES WITH UNIFORMS When shops mandate a set uniform (like a staff T-shirt) rather than a dress code, they circumvent cost issues of employees having to purchase their own clothing, which can be very beneficial for employee finances. Uniforms, however, have the potential to unintentionally create an uncomfortable situation for female, transgender, and/or gender-nonconforming workers. The reason for this is that often when companies pur- chase a set of T-shirts for staff, the sizes, cuts, and logo placement are all "unisex" which in most brands is actually standard male cuts and sizes. In male-size scales, large-breasted employees usually have to wear larger shirts to accommodate one part of their body, which can look ill-fitting and unprofessional. This makes it harder for employees to feel confident in their service and do their best work. This problem is pro- portionally more serious for transgender and gender-nonconforming employees, who, without clothing tailored to their correct gender presentation, will not just have trouble feeling comfortable but will actually face increased potential for misgendering, confusion, and harassment. From a service perspective, it's also im- portant to consider whether having uniforms presents your product in the right light. Some customers tend to view uniforms as a cue that Gendered dress codes can not only make employees uncomfortable, they can also create situations where employees are more likely to deal with gender-based customer harassment. 106 barista magazine

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