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Top 15 scrubs fashion blunders

Image: Jen Bennett

Let’s face it: if you want to be taken seriously, you have to look the part! But sometimes it can get a bit messy out there in a nurse’s world.

Heck, we’ve been known to safety-pin the waistband of our scrubs when we’ve worn the elastic past it’s due date, so we’re certainly not pointing fingers.

What we ARE doing to heal your fashion woes is prescribing an examination with our style doctor. Some easy style fixes may help you get more respect from your patients and coworkers.

Here are 15 tips (with visuals…ahem!) to help you be mindful of fashion blunders!

1. V-Necks Aren’t for Everyone

Are you wearing one of your favorite V-neck scrub tops? They look great on almost everyone—except if you’re very busty. Then your V-neck is putting you in danger of looking like the cover of a pulp fiction novel. Be sure you choose the right cut for your unique physique.

The same V-neck scrub can wreak havoc for you male nurses. Let us put it bluntly: If you have a hairy chest and your chest hair shows with your V-neck scrub, choose another style. Whether it’s cleavage or chest hair, no one wants to see it. Save the V-necks for after work.

2. Stained Scrubs are a Big Flub

Working with patients means your scrubs can get splashed with anything from food to chemicals to blood. There’s no getting around it. Yes, great cleaning products can get most stains out, but they’re not perfect. Some stains are just too stubborn. Take a good look: Do you see stains on your scrubs that you think no one else will notice? Think again. When you’re bent over a patient (with your cleavage covered), that’s all they’re gazing at. And not only do stains look unprofessional, but they also appear unhygienic. This is a look that never should be associated with the medical profession.


3. Too Tight is Never Right

Have you gained some weight? Do you think only you can see that your scrubs are getting tight around the middle and thighs? Wearing tight clothes is uncomfortable for anyone, especially if you’re active and on your feet during most of your workday. Furthermore, wearing tight clothing doesn’t make a good impression. No one wants to see your pants split open with one unfortunate move. It’s time to get a looser-fitting pair of scrubs.

Speaking of weight, some people who have gained a bit extra around their middle can find themselves in an awkward situation: do you wear them high or low? To solve the problem of the expanded middle, you commit one of the scrubs fashion blunders by wearing your pants above the waist or below it. Not good! It’s time to shop for scrubs that are the right fit while you work off the extra pounds. You can affectionately call them your “holiday” scrubs.

4. Scrubs Shouldn’t Peek-a-Boo

This brings us to the subject of butt cracks and “whale tails.” No one, and we mean no one, wants to know what kind of underwear you have on in a work environment. Even if it’s the pink lacy kind.

It’s way too much information and totally unprofessional.

If you wear your pants below the waist, you’ll inevitably end up with them slipping down, setting yourself up for a view that nobody wants to see. The hem of your pants will drag on the floor and become nothing but a dust mop. Don’t let your low-riding scrubs stand in your way of looking like a trained expert.


5. Low Marks for High Waters

If you’re the type who wears your pants too high, you not only risk having high waters and looking nerdy, but also end up having the reverse problem of the butt crack. It’s not pretty. You don’t want your scrubs to look like someone just gave you a wedgie. It’s unflattering.

6. Cleanliness is Next to Nurse-iness

You must be clean. Soap, water and shampoo go a very long way toward making you look professional and trustworthy, even if you’re not feeling it yourself. Your hair, nails and teeth should be clean, as should your shoes and scrubs. Worn-out scrubs and shoes with grass stains—or worse—need not apply. If you wear a lab coat or anything white, be sure it’s some shade close to the original color. Likewise, if you wear colored scrubs, try not to abuse them so badly that they’re obviously faded.

And please, please, please never show up to work with last night’s makeup still on your face. Thank you.

7. Hair-y Issue

In addition to being clean, your hair should be out of your face, and preferably styled so that it won’t dip itself into a puddle of poo in the middle of the shift. Extreme example: One nurse we know got a used bandage stuck in her hair and from then on wore a pixie cut.

Long hair on male nurses doesn’t bother us at all, provided it’s neat. Braids and multi-banded ponytails work well for men as well as women. Please don’t have mid-back-length hair that flies around completely unrestrained. It’s unhygienic and a little scary.

Oh, and another note: Spiky purple and green hair may be cute as anything on you, but not when you’re fresh on the floor.

8. More Hair-y Issues

If you have a beard, keep it trimmed. You should not be able to floss your teeth with your mustache. Wear a T-shirt if the sight of your chest hair makes small children scream and weak people pass out. We personally know a couple of furry surgeons who expose way too much because of their unwillingness to layer a simple T-shirt under baggy V-necked scrub tops. If you don’t have a beard, please shave more than once a week. Gregory House gets a pass on stubble because, well, he’s House—and he’s a work of fiction.

Please note that the above does not necessarily apply to beards worn for religious reasons.

9. Tattoo Snafu

Tattoos and piercings don’t bother us here at Scrubs, but some people may find them offensive. Get flesh-colored or transparent keepers, and try to keep the largest and most brightly colored body work covered. Body art won’t necessarily keep you from getting a job—we know a nurse who has the history of Japan tattooed all over himself—but it may freak out older or more conservative patients. Use good judgment.

10. Makeup Mania

If you wear it, keep it simple and neutral. If you look like Divine, you’re doing it wrong.

11. Bling

A big no-no. Not only do multiple rings and/or heavy bracelets and watches catch germs, they’re a ripped glove waiting to happen. Small earrings or no earrings aren’t only safest, they also look best. And multiple necklaces? No. End of discussion.

Don’t even think of wearing a big clock around your neck.

12. Old School

The nursing uniforms of the late 1800s were modeled after a nun’s habit (see lithograph above). They were worn in order to properly identify nurses, and to provide a full-length, “fever-proof” shield to protect the visiting nurse from infection. You’ll notice, however, that although the gown covers most of the body, the nurse is not wearing gloves or a mask…or a smile. Although Florence Nightingale’s work served as an inspiration for nurses in the American Civil War, this uniform is woefully out of step with the modern world and will only serve to annoy your coworkers.

13. Goth Nurse

DO wear black scrub pants or tops. You never can go wrong with any other color you choose to match with them. One of the fashion trends this season is pairing black with colors such as purple, gray, bright green or bright blue.

DON’T, however, earn yourself the moniker “goth nurse.” Wearing too much black day in and day out can look empty and depressing to the nurses and patients around you.

14. Optical Illusion

DO wear bright colors if you’re looking for a really fresh look. For example, yellow is considered a very energizing color that summons sunlight and optimism—maybe just what you’re looking for when you’ve got a long shift ahead of you!

DON’T mix too many bright colors. If your top is a mix of bright shades, you might want to make sure the rest of your outfit is a bit more muted or you’ll end up looking like a toy that should be found at the bottom of a cereal box. And be sure not to confuse “sunny” yellow with “caution” yellow!

15. Skin Tones, Please

One of the most common complaints about white scrubs is that they are see-through—especially the pants. There are some thicker fabrics available for scrubs pants today, but underwear may still show through. Some people think that wearing white panties under white scrubs bottoms will fix that problem. In fact, beige (or whatever neutral color most closely matches your skin tone) is the least visible color under white.

So remember, first impressions do count. Often you’ll be the first person who will have contact with a patient, and the patient will want to feel that he or she is in the hands of a skilled professional.

We do admit we were a bit harsh, but we here at scrubsmag.com believe that honesty is the best policy. The question is, how are you going to anonymously forward this article to the nurse on your team who is the real “don’t” of the group? :-)

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6 Responses to Top 15 scrubs fashion blunders

  1. cherylA RN

    I don’t know why hospitals are going assigned uniforms now while ignoring overlooking the “This brings us to the subject of butt cracks and “whale tails.” ” not to mention the undue cleavage sightings. I find those faux pas far less professional then varied scrubs.

    • therealcie LPN

      The hospital uniforms tend to have a “unisex cut” which doesn’t work well on a curvier shape such as mine. The size may be right but there isn’t enough room in the booty, which scares me if I bend over. I don’t want to be showing the old Plumber’s Crack. This was my worry when I was doing my clinical rotation in the O.R. I understand why they want to use their own uniforms in the O.R. but there should be some pants specifically sized for women. I can’t be the only woman out there who really can’t wear the unisex pants with any degree of comfort!

  2. lar313 RN

    #16 and 17 should be the visible thong, and the other with the low rise pants, visible underwear and butt cleavage,

  3. therealcie LPN

    I’m a big woman with long legs and it is hard for me to find pants that aren’t “flood pants” to a degree without also being too big in the waist and falling down. On an LPN salary, I certainly don’t have the money to get pants that are specially tailored! They have “petite length” pants but no tall pants in uniform stores. It’s kind of frustrating. Folks who are 3x – tall have a tough go of it. The 3x is out there but good luck finding the tall!
    Anyone who chooses to make a snide remark about my size needs to eat flaming death. I am sick and tired of the sizeism that exists in our society. A nurse’s size does not determine his/her ability to do a good job. And in everyday life, a person’s size does not determine their ability and certainly not their worth as a human being.

    • therealcie LPN

      Which brings me to this:
      “It’s time to shop for scrubs that are the right fit while you work off the extra pounds. You can affectionately call them your “holiday” scrubs.”
      Or how about just calling them your scrubs and working out for health if you choose rather than for weight loss? Working out for the sake of weight loss alone can be a prescription for failure for many people. I am a recovered bulimic. If I start working out for weight loss, it can lead to unhealthy obsessive behavior. I work out to GAIN certain things: strength, flexibility, endurance, lung capacity. I never work out for weight loss.
      Size is not necessarily an indicator of health. There are healthy heavy people and unhealthy skinny ones. The only thing you can tell looking at a person of any given size is their size. You do not know how healthy/fit or unhealthy/unfit they are.

      • Paris Fan

        Hello therealcie. Thank you so much for your comments. We apologize if our article may have offended you. We certainly were not trying to imply that nurses should work out for any reason other than their health. We agree absolutely – a nurse should exercise with his/her health in mind.

        As for tall scrubs – there are several brands that manufacture scrubs bottoms in Tall. Here are a couple:
        Cherokee Authentic Workwear Flare Leg Scrub Pant
        Dickies Hip Flip Cargo Flare Leg Scrub Pant

        Just paste these into your browser’s search box for reviews and places to buy.

        Good luck and thanks so much again for sharing your thoughts with Scrubs.

        Best, Scrubs Editors

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