The Bizarre History Behind White Lab Coats

We going out of our comfort zone today and digging into the history of the lab coat. Why is it white? When did doctors start wearing lab coats? Any specific reason? So.many.questions.

The Physician’s Past

Before the 20th century, doctors typically dressed in somber black attire or street clothes reflecting their negative, unprofessional reputation. In the years predating critical scientific discoveries like antiseptics and anesthesia, medical school could be completed in just one year and the majority of medical tools and techniques were illegitimate and unsafe. Combined with a lack of proper sanitation, mortality rates were high while doctors’ reputations remained low. Fortunately, medical standards rose significantly in response to scientific advancements made in the early 20th century.

Scientific Intervention

Advancements like the discovery of germs and how they spread influenced doctors to discard their dirty, bloodstained garments and replace them with new white lab coats similar to those worn by well-regarded laboratory scientists. The initial intention behind the new white coat was to portray an image of cleanliness and purity to the wary public. The coat was also made to associate medical practice with reputable scientific research. Over time, women became more accepted in the field of medicine. With this change came the redesign of the traditional men’s lab coat to a new, updated design tailored towards women. This new women’s lab coat showcased the potential for improvement on the original, outdated design of the past. This redesign inspired other engineers and designers to pioneer even more features to improve on the traditional design resulting in the common white coats and embroidered lab coats that doctors wear today.

Lab Coats Today

In more recent years, a hospital study conducted by St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London found that 72% of hospital doctors wear white lab coats.  These doctors sited easy recognition by colleagues and patients, pocket access, and symbolizing cleanliness as primary reasons for choosing to wear their white coat.  Due to new discoveries like white coat syndrome, where patients exhibit higher blood pressure in clinical settings, and the possibility of long-sleeved coats carrying more bacteria, researchers face difficulty deciding if the white coat hurts or heals.  However, studies have shown that the general population of the public still prefers their doctors to wear white coats regardless of the theoretical downsides. 

With so many different colors, styles, and fits available, it can be challenging trying to find the perfect lab coat for your practice.  We have put together our own list of top lab coat picks for your convenience.  See the list below for our favorites or check out our website to explore even more options and embroidered lab coats.

The UA Men’s 3/4 Length Lab Coat is all about practicality.  The comfortable and enduring twill fabric ensures you won’t need to replace this coat anytime soon.  In addition to two front pockets this coat comes with a chest pocket to provide plenty of space for your essentials.

The Grey’s Anatomy Scrubs Men’s Lab Coat is the perfect option for a physician with a lot of tools but not a lot of space.  This coat comes with six pockets: one chest welt pocket, two front patch pockets with seaming details, one welt pocket above the right patch pocket, and two interior pockets.  You’ll never run out of space with this coat!

The UA Butter-Soft STRETCH Jewel Neck Consultation Lab Coat is a bracelet sleeve length lab coat perfect for any looking for a modern fit.  The double ended front zipper and adjustable back sliders provide for a custom fit specific to your style.  This coat also comes with four large front pockets for ample storage space.

The UA Butter-Soft STRETCH 2 Pocket Lab Coat will keep you looking stylish and professional.  Its adjustable buttoned waistband and princess seams provide for a flattering fit.  The coat comes with two front pockets, a hidden cell phone pocket, and a pen slot to store your essentials.

The Butter-Soft Scrubs by UA Women’s Lab Coat is perfect for anyone looking for a functional, easy access lab coat with a bit more length.  The cuffed sleeves, notched collar, and piping detail all help to enhance the appeal of this coat.  It also has two large front pockets to hold your belongings.

The Dickies Unisex Lab Coat features a notched collar and four button front closure.  The chest pocket contains a pen and instrument slot for convenience.  Along with the two front pockets this coat has a side entry for pant pocket access.

Now go get yourself a sleek new white lab coat and share the history and significance behind it with your colleagues. Don’t forget to show us your new gear on Instagram by tagging @uniformadvantage and using #adayinscrubs.

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