White lab coats are a universal symbol. Around the world, they stand for scientific rigor and expertise, especially in the medical field. Patients feel safer and less nervous when they see doctors in white. Lab coats help differentiate staff and students from other providers, too. And chances are, if you’re in science or medicine, you feel more prepared and even proud when you have your lab coat on.
The lab coat is a powerful and useful symbol for students and professionals alike, but acknowledging the symbol and actually donning its full significance can be two very different things.
Whether for a lab-based AP course, med-school, a research lab or work attire, chances are when searching for lab coats to buy you’ve stumbled on a curious phenomenon: there seem to be loads of options if you want cheap and disposable lab coats, and there are a few options if you want expensive designer lab coats, but you’ve likely had a tough time finding fashionable and durable lab coats that won’t break the bank.
But the mid-range market is certainly out there…so why are these mid-priced lab coats so hard to find?
Any solid response to this age-old industry question is bound to be nuanced. But some of the major reasons can be traced to changes in the political landscape and in social norms. The prevalence of options on the lower and upper ends of the price range—and the would-be lack of options in between—can be linked to anything from environmental considerations to equal rights movements. Let’s take a look at what motivates price points, and exactly why this gap has been long overdue to change.
The case for the “lower end”
Affordability and the environment
The push to be more environmentally friendly is still fairly new. While it might be hard to pick out a specific date when this movement took off, most of us can remember a time before anyone was too concerned about taking care of the planet—or, at least, when people were less concerned than they are today.
Many major companies have made large shifts toward being “greener,” but many of these companies had a visible impact on the environment to begin with. These companies had a bigger incentive to make a speedy and marketable shift, because it’d be their cups, wrappers and straws littered over streets, bushes, and oceans that bring direct scrutiny. Some companies, on the other hand, do not produce “visible” waste. You won’t see lab coats littered around the same places you see food wrappers. Nonetheless, companies that produce cheap, disposable lab coats are selling products that end up in landfills at an unnecessarily high rate.
Because, let’s face it, the cheaper end of lab coats doesn’t stand up to the basic utility of the product.
Disposable lab coats don’t last very long and are very cheap to produce. And a product that is cheap to produce and needs to be replaced often is bound to generate high revenue. In the end, for companies in this situation with a not-so-visible trail of waste, this leaves little economic incentive to go green and minimize waste. Money is a huge motivator in the vast majority of industries, and if a move on the green market could risk a dip in revenue, it will probably be avoided.
Even with the environmentally friendly movement in full swing, many companies producing lab coats today still believe that disposable products are the way to go. They are inexpensive to make, quick to replace and seemingly convenient. Economically, it makes sense that they’re still around. But environmentally, the lower price point will start to become less and less attractive.
Production cost is the best explanation for cheap lab coats, and with growing pressure from society in general to ditch disposable products, chances are these cheap and harmful products won’t stick around forever. That said, the less environmentally harmful lab coat market of tomorrow isn’t going to help you in your search for a lab coat today. Let’s take a look at why you find prices that go from cheap to luxury in such a big price-point jump.
The case for the “higher end”
There will always be sub-markets for people who want to spend more money on things, even if the difference is purely a thing of aesthetics or status. You’ll find this in any market, from collector’s video game releases to expensive bottled water. The lab coat market is no different, and there have always been designer lab coat options, but this luxury tier of lab coat tends to be just that: luxury. Admittedly, these products will last much longer than their cheap and disposable counterparts, but not at a price that makes the option a truly environmental one. Especially for students, dropping hundreds of bucks on a lab coat to help the environment isn’t feasible, and at those prices it’s fair to wonder if any money will be saved in the long run at all.
Luxury items and luxury prices will always exist in any market, but the higher end of lab coats is more nuanced than that. There are products that are simply “luxury,” but there are also products that are just a thing of status. And considering today’s political and social restructurings, you’ll find that lab coats with the highest price point are specifically women’s lab coats.
Fair? We think not.
Women in science
Science in general and medicine specifically have been largely dominated by men. And accordingly, related industries have also been geared towards men, including companies producing gear and attire for scientific labs, medical school and other scientific facilities. It follows that the lab coat industry would be male-oriented, even if not on purpose—ever notice how “unisex” uniforms and clothing fit men more naturally than women?
Ask any woman working in a laboratory or a hospital about work attire, and chances are you’ll hear about how sleeves are inconveniently and even dangerously long, how stethoscopes will annoyingly slide off shoulders, how unflattering the cuts are and any number of similar complaints related (consciously or not) to how lab coats are almost always found in male-oriented designs.
This might have made sense generations ago, but today the demographic of the scientific community doesn’t appreciate this unbalanced phenomenon.
Decades ago, women were restricted from the medical field altogether. The role of women in society was defined away from the workforce. And, as devastating as the world wars were, in many countries they served to display women’s potential in the workforce. A generation later, cue the women’s rights movement of the 60s and 70s. Thanks in large part to these pushes for social justice, the concept of gender equality in the workplace was pursued harder than ever in recent decades. And although it took even more time for women to gain mobility in medical and scientific fields, today lab coats are worn by an increasing number of women.
As time has passed, more and more of the medical student and industry population have been made up by women. But from limitations in selecting specialties down to the lab coat market, these changing ratios have highlighted the need for more progress. For example, due largely to women in the field, gynecology has finally been revolutionized to be considered today a much more professional study. A few decades ago when women were starting to enter the medical field, visits to the gynecologist were commonly reported to be inappropriate, degrading and altogether uncomfortable. And with these feelings of discomfort in mind, women entering the field helped push better, more comfortable procedures and education on the female body and sexuality further than ever before. Women entering medicine revolutionized the industry for the better, and similar findings are true across many specialties and studies.
Now we find that women are increasingly making up more than half of the students in medical programs. In fact, the medical industry demographic shows a steadily growing female majority, and chances are this growth will only continue in coming years.
Women’s lab coats
As women began to enter medical and scientific industries, all the annoyances and inconveniences that came with the clearly male oriented “unisex” lab coat began to beg the questions: why aren’t there women’s lab coats? Why aren’t there simple varieties and designs to give women all the basic options to feel professional and comfortable in the trade?
Of course, the high-ticket-cost solutions weren’t difficult to come across as women’s lab coats were recognized as a growing market demand. Early on, this was a niche need that the early-adopting companies were sure to capitalize on. The few women in the industry were often willing to (and sometimes obligated to) pay higher prices in exchange for functioning work attire—it was an absolutely necessary product that still wasn’t in high demand, allowing it to become quite pricey. As time progressed and more women entered the industry, many female professionals expected (or at least hoped) that women’s lab coats would become just as common and just as affordable as men’s “unisex” lab coats. But, perhaps not too shockingly, this wasn’t the case everywhere. Today, you can still find plenty of companies selling lab coats for women with prices well into the hundreds of dollars. But these garments remain out of reach for students and anyone else looking for affordable, durable, and functional alternatives to the boxy, inconvenient and unflattering unisex cuts.
Today, with almost half the industry being made up of women, it would make sense to see female lab coats normalized. But instead, it has been normalized that having a less-than-perfect lab coat (in look and function) is just part of being a woman in the industry. Female lab coats remain an expensive and “niche” version of the more cost effective “unisex” alternatives.
Despite the political shifts and ground-shaking changes in demographics, it seems clear then that a middle ground is still lacking, especially for women who continue to deal with an antiquated product discrimination in the face of a totally feasible alternative.
The case for the middle ground
So…the lower end of the price range is environmentally irresponsible and often impractical, and the upper end of the range forces a luxury price range that is anything but inclusive. There are so many students, lab workers and other scientific professionals who would love to fall into some range in between. There are, in fact, entire bodies of professionals and students who would benefit from and happily purchase non-disposable, comfortable and even stylish lab coats at an affordable price.
That’s where Dr-James comes in.
Dr-James lab coats are professionally designed and tailored, making them effective, comfortable and stylish at the same time. They allow you to work and move well while looking as good as you feel. The LABTEX premium fabric delivers all the durability and resistance you need without sacrificing functionality.
Dr-James has done a careful study of the market and is devoted to staying ahead of the curve: our lab coats are designed to keep you looking good and working well in any industry where you need a lab coat. And as demands evolve, so do we, making sure to always provide you with the best product at a rightly-affordable price.
Whether you’re a student, a practicing doctor or a full-time researcher, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style or efficiency to chase your dream. Your comfort and success go hand in hand, and this should never be dangled out of reach as a pricey “niche” when it doesn’t have to be. Dr-James labwear can help you feel comfortable, efficient and fashionable, all for a fair middle-ground price that does away with the industry’s outdated extremes.
We firmly believe that our lab coats are the needed solution in the market both for men and women. In fact, we’re so sure that you will, too, that we offer free returns and always invite you to reach out to us with specific requests or questions. Check out our inventory and you’ll see that there are styles and models for everyone: kids, adults, students, professors and doctors. Pick up a Dr-James lab coat—you’ll look good, feel good, and help change the world.