“Your mommy dresses you funny,” was a great line in Kindergarten; not so much after. What you consider “funny” is someone else’s idea of style, statement, or identity. It may or may not include ripped jeans, pants at half mast, four-inch stilettos or t-shirts that say “I’m with Stupid”. Accessories like face tattoos, rainbow-colored hair, ZZ Top beards, and marijuana-leaf necklaces add to the fun.

Free expression makes this country great, but C-store operators probably find this diversity a little hard to appreciate. Their customers appreciate consistency. Owners find themselves squeezed between the “anything goes” culture outside and the need for predictability inside.

It’s your business and you have the right to be as rigid as you want when it comes to dress, especially when setting a baseline standard of neatness and cleanliness. You are serving food products so being sanitary is a must. Excessive piercings or sandals on staff may muddy that impression.

At the same time, you probably want to avoid outfitting your employees in bright and shapeless polyester smocks and paper hats that scream “I don’t want to work here”. Polo and Oxford shirts in company colors with a logo, often finished off with a pair of khakis, has become a new standard, and it’s a definite step up.

That’s just the beginning, though, as successful C-store owners are coming to understand there is nothing uniform about uniforms.

Maverik Inc., a Salt Lake City chain of 250 stores encourages employees to don adventure wear “that looks like you are going on a super cool adventure, like mountain climbing.” Spectrum Stores, a West Point, Georgia-based retailer changes its uniforms every three years. Uniform retailers offer a dizzying array of styles, including specialized design.

And in case you thought that C-store uniforms couldn’t be cutting-edge, well, there’s this.

Rastafarians, tie-died hippies and studded punk rockers will probably never be in vogue behind the C-store counter, but as the industry evolves there a growing number of alternative looks appeal to employees and prospective employees. The industry is maturing; that’s a good thing.