Why are lab coats white?

Why are lab coats white?

Journey through the lab coat history

For many, when thinking about a job in science a white lab coat is one of the first things that comes to mind. As you might have noticed it is not the pinnacle of fashion, however, who says we can’t spice it up. This blog is dedicated to uncovering how the lab coat came to be what it is today and where the possibilities can take us tomorrow!

By learning all the secrets of the lab coat you will be equipped to entertain your fellow lab nerds with some interesting facts during your next coffee break or even lead your team to victory on the next science trivia night!

So follow along on this brief journey.

The darker serious twin: the black coat (tuxedo)

Scientists used to wear black tuxedos instead of white lab coats.

Following the biblical fashion, first it was darkness. Physicians dressed black to reflect the importance and seriousness of their work. Their appearance to the public usually portrayed an image of painful death and not hope, as the medical degree could be obtained in only a year and the standards of practising medicine were generously said, lacking.

As medicine started advancing in the scientific method and left the foundation of trickery and mysticism behind,  it was time for a wardrobe change. Then there was white!

Shining of the light: the white lab coat



Origins of the white lab coats are generally unknown, but it seems like most agree that it made its grand debut on the scientific scene in the late 1800s. In older days laboratory scientists were, contrary to doctors, highly respected, by both the people and the royalty.

Their outfit of choice was a beige coloured lab coat. Scientists often claimed there was no value behind the prescribed medicine and ointments. Therefore physicians decided to become scientists and adopt the scientific method, starting by making their standard wardrobe a white lab coat.

The white colour was a statement of hope and a fresh start for the medical profession. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when many scientific breakthroughs happened,  the white lab coat started to symbolize cleanliness and scientific rigour. Not only it made doctors and scientists easily distinguishable, but it also made spotting any contamination easier.

In fact, today, the lab coat is a universal signifier of science. Its symbolism became even more established in 1989, when a white coat ceremony was first performed for medical school students, marking their transition into the clinical world. Nowadays lab coats are so common, that to most people they are a representation of an educated and qualified professional.

You thought this is the end of the lab coat journey? Think again! The lab coat is evolving even further. Gerhard Mohr with his team in Austria is aiming to change the future of the lab coat, by developing textiles that change colour when exposed to different toxic or dangerous substances as often found in laboratories.

Next era: The Lab Label lab coats

If you want to take your lab game to the next level we offer all kinds of life-science inspired designs for your lab coat to fit your personality. Not only are the Lab Label lab coats safe and durable, but you can also choose from one of the designs available or come up with a completely new one! Find or design a lab coat that fits your personality or glam up your whole team!

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