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"Happy Birthday" Takes on Contrasting Format

“Happy Birthday to you…” When the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was established in the U.S., it jumpstarted a sort of rite of passage, or coming of age ideology. The celebration of one’s 21 birthday is now synonymous with the legal ability to purchase and/or publically consume alcohol. Before 1984, the legal drinking age was determined by local jurisdiction and varied from state to state.


Today and in recent years, many states are working in unison to fashion a more consistent format of state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards (IDs). In many states these forms of identification now come in two formats – the conventional horizontal arrangement for persons 21-years and older, and vertical or a portrait configuration for those under 21-years of age.


The school of thought supporting these differences in orientation of name, birthdate, address, etc., is the vertical adaptation makes it easier for servers, bartenders, store clerks and law enforcement agents to distinguish if/when someone under 21 is attempting to purchase or consume alcohol. Of the states who have yet to adopt the vertical layout for under 21 driver’s licenses and IDs, formatting changes are well underway to make age recognition more obvious:

  • In Minnesota, holding tight conventional format, all driver licenses and IDs for those who qualify are horizontal. Documents for those under 21-years-old feature a red border around the photo and ‘UNDER 21’ in gold bold print.
  • In Oregon, all driver’s licenses and IDs are horizontal. If the document holder is under 21-years of age, his/her photo is framed in red and is on the right side of the card instead of the left; the directive ‘UNDER 21 UNTIL 00-00-0000’ is also printed above the picture.

At The BARS Program, we want to set you and your brand up for success. Lack of familiarity with state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs can jeopardize your chances of running a local, state and national law-abiding establishment when it comes to selling and serving age-sensitive products. The BARS Program can help. Contact The BARS Program today at or call 1-877-540-5500, to safeguard your brand and assets.


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