In the late 1950s and early 1960s, British coffee bars employed a rule: stick to one type of clientele. Suits hung out with suits and academics hung out with academics. Even café owners and coffee pushers mimicked the type of coffee drinker they served, sartorially speaking. This romanticized old coffee culture is extinct in Toronto, though, and the style code of today’s barista has become universalized. The person serving you your first, second, third, fourth or fifth daily cup at your local indie café is almost certainly dressed casually: for the fellas, a tee or plaid shirt, jeans and facial scruff; for the ladies, a vintage ensemble. Sure, it’s exactly what you’d expect; but we think there’s something comforting about receiving your morning joe from someone who isn’t wearing a workaday uniform. In this week’s instalment of our street style series, we look at Queen Street baristas (i.e., some of the coolest coffee fiends in the city).
As we journeyed along Queen, we noted, rather unsurprisingly, that dudes in coffee shops have a propensity toward indoor toques, and a washcloth is an ever-present accessory. However, our findings exceeded simple style notes. Unbeknown to most, there’s a network of travelling coffee professionals along Queen who have stopped in Toronto while wandering across the country, using their advanced coffee knowledge and café experience as a calling card. In Leslieville, we met a gentleman from Calgary and a girl from Nova Scotia—the former cut his teeth at Calgary’s Phil and Sebastian and is currently a barista at Dark Horse, while the latter, a Fairtrade advocate, says that a lot of the green, eco-friendly practices we’re seeing in Toronto cafés are something the East Coast has been promoting for years. She even joked that the plaid shirt–clad man is even more ubiquitous there, if you can imagine that. But amid the T-shirts, jeans and scruff, subtle tweaks on the prevailing style kept everyone from looking like a caricature—a sprawling beard (almost hiding the most welcoming smile), a Wonder Woman change holder accenting a lumberjack uniform and an almost Heidi-like, tightly braided high ponytail.