Lab coats are the hyper-recognizable protective attire meant to keep doctors, surgeons, scientists and other professionals safe in potentially dangerous environments. From chemical spills to open flames, that lab coat is meant to be a barrier between you and any hazard you routinely come across.
But, while lab coats are meant to be used in a potentially hazardous settings, this definitely is not the only context in which you might find yourself needing to sport one.
White lab coats have long been symbols of status, professionalism and scientific rigor. Seeing somebody (including yourself) in a lab coat immediately brings to mind having earned that right to wear the coat. It represents years of intense practice and study. This symbol, thus, is not confined just within the walls of examination rooms, operating rooms or even classrooms…it’s actually recognized and often worn as a visual credential outside its practical settings.
Be it an academic presentation, speech or special ceremony, those symbolic white lab coats are worn in a plethora of contexts that are a far cry from their intended environments. These settings are generally low-risk—if not risk-free—and require much less precaution than hospital and clinics.
Your settings change, and the risks do too. Should your lab coat change a well?
Adapting to the situation
In a laboratory or hospital setting, you need protection from dangerous chemicals, flames, bodily fluids and other hazards. But at a speech or ceremony, let’s hope this is not the case!
And so, what you wear on the job or in the lab can be what you wear for special occasions, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make different choices to reap even more benefit from its symbolism.
On special occasions where you simultaneously don’t need to consider protection but do need to consider your comfort and confidence, this means you can choose to incorporate what would otherwise be lab coat “sins” or health and safety risks into your attire. Yes, you could wear your regular lab coat to the ceremony, but you could also wear something more comfortable, more stylish and more expressive than whatever you bring into the lab or clinic.
Here are some of the lab coat “sins” that could turn into something to get excited about on special occasions where you sport your white lab coat:
Lab coat material is woven from specific materials that fit the situation at hand. If you’re working with pyrophoric chemicals, the material should be flame retardant. If you’re working with liquid biohazards or dangerous chemicals, your coat should be splash resistant.
Normally, designer lab coats are made with “safety first” in mind and with comfort as a second-tier priority. But at special occasions, for example where you’re speaking in front of an audience, the priorities are flipped. In front of all those people and under those bright lights, you’ll hanker to feel and look good. This means fitted lab coats, breathability and weight will suddenly be of greater interest to you.
Let’s start simple: if you’ll be speaking in front of an audience, for example, wear a high-cotton blend. Cotton is far from flame retardant or splash resistant and it will not protect you from most hazards, but it is lightweight, breathable, and an absolutely fantastic choice for crowded and warm (and generally danger-free) ceremonial occasions.
Your lab coat needs to fasten tightly to make sure as much of your body is covered as possible, but it also needs to come undone quickly and easily enough to remove it immediately after catching fire or getting doused in some hazardous chemical. For these reasons, metal snapping studs are the best way to go in terms of the best lab coat fastening in practical settings. Just about anything else is too slow to undo and too unreliable in a dangerous situation.
In more social settings the only substance that might end up on your lab coat would be a glass of wine or a little pasta sauce. In these situations, if you’ve always wanted to wear a belt with your coat, or sport a designer lab coat with flashy buttons, go right ahead! These small details, subtle as they may be, can open a world of expressionism that simply isn’t safe to explore in practical conditions.
When dealing with hazardous material, “more coverage” is usually the way to go in order to cover surface areas of your clothes and body as much as possible.
However, your social occasion lab coat does not need to cover you to a specific length. In these cases, surface area coverage is entirely open-ended. Whether this means a shorter coat, a lower neck, or shorter sleeves for comfort or appearance, just about anything will be an acceptable option. When aesthetics supersede precautions, it all comes down to your confidence.
A chance to relax
Normally, lab coats are meant to be protective first, comfortable second. With so many potential hazards in scientific and medical environments, a good portion of lab coat design and manufacturing goes into making sure the material is tough, durable, and resistant.
When these precautions are no longer the single purpose of your lab coat, then all that comfort and style sometimes sacrificed in the name of safety is yours for the taking. Above all else, these occasions are a chance for you to look and feel good in the symbol that you’ve rightfully earned.
One last thing to take into consideration is price. This lab coat is different. It can be an exclusively aesthetic part of your wardrobe, which can be your incentive to choose a “nicer” or professionally-designed lab coat in which you look and feel better.
And the good news is that Dr-James designer lab coats don’t even push the price point to anything out of the ordinary for a standard “utility” lab coat.
Speeches and presentations are celebrations of knowledge. Ceremonies are celebrations of achievement. And the best lab coat to wear on these occasions should be a celebration of yourself and everything you’ve done to earn wearing it for these occasions.