Products, Style & Advice for the Modern Healthcare Professional
When in White – A History of the Lab Coat
For more than a century, the white lab
has served as a pre-eminent symbol of physicians. A child’s earliest memory of
a doctor’s visit is being treated by somebody donning a white coat. At almost
every med school, the first emblematic act is the “White Coat Ceremony” coined
by Arnold P. Gold, MD.
Surprisingly, before the late 19th
century, doctors wore black garbs. The dark color was considered formal (e.g.
today’s tuxedo). Since medical encounters with patients were viewed as serious
matters, physicians wore black around the clock. Additionally, until the late
1800’s, an encounter with a doctor was rarely seen as beneficial to the
patient, making the dark uniform synonymous with death. Prior to the 1900’s,
most medicine was generally seen as a hazardous province of fraudulence and
Around the turn of the 20th century,
medicine transformed into the scientific enterprise we are familiar with today.
The knee-length coat transferred over from laboratory science into medicine.
The “pureness” of medicine was now reflected in the white garments of both
doctors and nurses. The white lab coat continued on as an embodiment of respect
and a symbol for medicine, eclipsing a physician’s stethoscope or black bag. Many patients view the white lab coat as a
“cloak of compassion” and a representation of the excellent care they expect to
receive from their doctor.
Besides doctors, many other healthcare professionals
wear white lab coats now too, including NP’s, PA’s, and managers of other
White Swan was one of the first companies to start
offering white lab coats to physicians. White
has been providing medical professionals with lab coats, scrubs, and more for
100 years. Originating in New York City in 1916, the company is devoted to
offering premium scrubs
and other clothing to their customers.
From symbolizing premium care and compassion to
representing a medical student’s first ceremony in school, the white coat
stands as a sign of how far medicine has come.