Acclimate. It's something we do on a daily basis. Your change your choice of shoes based on what you’ll be doing, for example—you probably won’t wear the same shoes to go hiking and to go dancing. You might switch out your sweater for a rain coat if it starts to look stormy. Even your written language changes depending on whether you’re writing a report or a text message.
In the same fashion (quite literally), different materials are needed for clothing worn for different jobs. When it comes to lab coats, a one-size-fits-all approach is rarely the best option. One good, white coat might serve you well in your day-to-day, but certain special occasions will merit special and specific designer lab coats for multiple reasons.
In this week’s article, we’ll take a look at some of these special occasions, dealing specifically with designer lab coats for:
- Degrees of formality
- Elevated safety precautions
- And more motivational and educational purposes
Formal occasions for designer lab coats
Generally, lab coats serve two purposes. First and most importantly, they serve as protection. Lab coats are worn in situations that expose you to risks of exposure to dangerous and hazardous substances. In a hospital, a white coat protects you from blood spills or other fluids. In a lab, the same lab jacket might protect you from dangerous chemical spills. Some lab coats are even flame resistant in case they’re caught by a nearby burner. And absolutely all lab coats should be quick and easy to remove in case it does light on fire or become saturated with something hazardous.
The other purpose lab coats serve is a more profound one that comes down to identity. In a hospital, the symbolic white lab coat serve to identify doctors, nurses, and other personnel. Studies have shown that this symbolic means of identification helps patients feel more comfortable and even feel better about their visit to the hospital or clinic. Studies have shown patients feeling more trusting in and satisfied by their treatment, too, when a doctor’s jacket is present.
Interestingly enough, this white coat phenomenon has been leveraged successfully in other fields, too. Many spas, for instance, are starting to use lab coats in order to better appeal to visitors and to better qualify spa professionals as exactly that: professionals.
Using lab coats as a means of communicating an increasing representation towards a more rigorous devotion to science is a fairly common trend across similar professions, and is rooted in recognizing that the white coat is a symbol for rigor and even sophistication.
Of course, knowing these things, we wear our lab coats with pride. White coat ceremonies for graduating students reaffirm the fact that the coat is not only an achievement, but a well-deserved form of identification.
For the sake of formality and recognition…
There are times you’ll want to use the identification of a crisp, white lab coat for non-lab or hospital settings, such as formal meetings, ceremonies, speeches, and similar occasions. These formal and risk-free settings give you the opportunity to wear something designed to look nice first instead of something that sacrifices fashion for functionality.
For these special, white-coat-worthy occasions, designer lab coats are a great choice, including fitted lab coats for women. Lots of designer coats are also perfectly functional. For example, Dr. James lab coats are all styled to look great while providing the most practical standards of protection and comfort.
Functional though all our designer lab coats are, you can take full license for the fitted lab coat option you feel good in for these special occasions. One big license you can take is with lab coat length. Depending on what you’ll need to be doing at the meeting or ceremony you’ll be attending, your lab coat could be longer or shorter than you normally have to wear it in the work setting. For a speaking coat, you don’t need to worry about protection, so it can be as much about what you like as it is about how your coat works with what you’re wearing under it.
Lab coat sleeves, in the same manner, don’t need to be long and snug if you’re wearing a lab coat ceremoniously. Your sleeves can be short, rolled up, or even long and baggy since you aren’t running the risk of snagging and knocking over any hazardous chemicals or burners...just a cocktail or two.
The lab coat material is up for your preference as well. The white coat can be as breathable and comfortable as you like, or as stiff and non-functional as you’d like if it’s for the sake of a more fitted look. Your formal lab coat doesn’t need to stay closed, either, and if it does close it can be as elaborate and complicated as you like, especially considering the only reason you would need to throw it off in a hurry for these special events might be to use the restroom.
In short, when looking for a lab coat for a formal occasion, you don’t need to sacrifice fashion for safety. You’re free to treat your selection as you would any other wardrobe item, a luxury that you don’t normally have when picking out a white coat for the lab.
Disposable lab coats
White lab coats are used in a large variety of situations and, appropriately, come in a large variety of different shapes, forms, and materials. For this same reason, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to pick out one single lab coat that works well for every purpose. What’s much simpler, however, is being able to pick out the appropriate lab coat for the appropriate situation. Today’s more diverse lab coat catalogues make this not only possible, but easy.
Lots of people have used disposable lab coats on a regular basis, and others are just now learning that they exist as they read this article. If the idea strikes you as odd or unattractive, you aren’t alone. Buying a high-quality, washable lab coat to use throughout your career seems like a much better investment than having to replace the coat every time. Nonetheless, there are situations that warrant the need for disposability. These situations are often high-risk.
Lab coats are meant to receive unwanted spills, which means that they’re bound to be carrying chemicals and substances you can’t carry anywhere else. Sometimes, we might not notice a spill. Other times, we might not have time to wash the lab coat before our next time in the lab. This can be dangerous in highly sensible situations. Some leftover spill on your coat could potentially contaminate whatever sample you’re working with, too. Or, even more dangerous, some chemicals don’t always “get along” safely when they meet. If a chemical left on your chemistry lab coat makes contact with another explosively compatible chemical, the result could be devastating.
In highly sensitive situations like these, a much easier and safer means of sporting the most protective lab wear is by using disposable lab coats. This ensures nothing is left over from the last time you put a coat on.
An important note to make is that “disposable” and “single-use” aren’t necessarily the same thing. Most disposable lab coats can be washed and reused, so you would only need to throw it out if or when absolutely necessary. This makes the economic risk of swapping out your lab coat much more realistic. The main tradeoff when opting for a disposable lab coat will be that it will likely be less sturdy or durable than a conventional, “reusable” labcoat.
Lab coats for kids
We’ve mentioned how lab coats can be used for both safety and fashion, but that certainly does not exhaust the white coat’s potential! With the move to popularize STEM careers among children and especially girls, lab coats can be used as an excellent promotional tool for kids.
The gender gap in STEM fields is a confusing one. Generally speaking, boys and girls perform almost identically in math and science at a young age. Studies show that young girls are just as proficient as boys through grade school. They continue to perform similarly up until high school, where the gap starts to form.
When it comes to more advanced math and science courses in high school, boys tend to sign up at a disproportionately higher rate than girls. This isn’t news, either—walk into any high school physics class and you’re bound to find a room filled mostly with boys. While there isn’t a definitive answer for “why,” it’s an old stereotype reinforcement that plays a strong role.
Essentially, given that this stereotype exists (that boys are “simply better” than girls at math, or even that girls shouldn’t or don’t need to be able to do math), girls sometimes end up doubting themselves and ultimately become feeling discouraged to continue greater efforts to pursue a related career altogether. This reinforcement doesn’t just pop into the minds of young women out of nowhere. Studies have shown that teachers often help reinforce these stereotypes in subliminal, implicit ways as a result of their own perceptions from upbringing.
For example, one study took math evaluations from one high school and had both teachers and external graders grade the same tests. The external graders were given tests without names. It was observed that the teachers gave their own female students lower grades than their male students, while the external graders gave the girls higher grades. This implicit discrimination can be quite harmful. Many girls and young women already feel like they need to compete and perform better to be able to stand out as good STEM students, and receiving lower grades for better work can absolutely be discouraging and can push someone away from that struggle.
Students certainly aren’t the only ones affected by the gap, either. It’s well documented that teachers themselves also suffer from the stereotype. The majority of elementary school teachers are women, for example, a great number of whom claim that they feel anxious about teaching math. This demographic changes wildly once we look at higher education.
While there has been an increase of women in STEM majors and careers, apart from nursing (which comes with its own set of nuances), the majority of the STEM demographic is still wildly male dominated. This, of course, is bad in terms of gender equality, but it is also tangibly dangerous for women in general in something as common but surprising as lab coats. Fields dominated by men are also dominated by male needs. In a field like mathematics, this might seem irrelevant. In a field like medicine, however, it’s anything but.
Closing the gender gap in STEM careers is important, both as a matter of principle and also as a matter of general health and safety. There is no one way of going about closing this gap, but we do want to offer our own small contribution. Fortunately, there are some simple things we—as Dr. James and as a community—can do to help.
Implicitly, many of us think of a man when we think of a scientist or mathematician—and kids reflect that bias, too. Changing this subliminal link of “science” with “men” is key in the struggle, and it comes with promoting more equal representation. One study showed that girls did better in their chemistry courses when the textbooks used women scientists in the images rather than only male scientists. This means that helping girls actually see women scientists can help them see themselves as scientists—thus motivating them rather than discouraging them.
Seeing yourself as a scientist probably makes you think of one thing: putting on a lab coat. This is where lab coats for kids can play an important role. Getting young girls lab coats to wear can help them from getting discouraged from the field, allowing girls to see themselves as scientists from early on. Of course, these lab coats probably don’t need to be “proper lab wear.” As with formal occasions, lab coats for kids can be perfectly breathable and comfortable—unless your children deal regularly with hazardous chemicals.
Lab coats serve functions way beyond those we normally assume they do, and in a much wider variety of contexts than you initially think. Thus, different situations call for different lab coats. Sometimes, one trusty lab coat isn’t going to be able to do every job. When this happens, it’s important to know what the situation calls for and acclimate.