Today, scrubs are worn by professionals ranging from heart surgeons to dental hygienists.
It’s hard for many of us to remember a time when these comfortable and practical uniforms weren’t the norm for daily wear in every area of healthcare.
But, like all clothing styles, scrubs have a history. Here’s a fun look at medical clothing from the early days through today.
The Black Robe
Prior to about 1900, doctors traditionally wore dark robes—not unlike those worn by clergy and magistrates. Since men in each of these professions were viewed as experts in matters concerning life and death, the somber attire was a natural choice. During a time when medical intervention often did more harm than good, odds were you might need a priest after you saw the doctor!
This is the most notorious piece of medical apparel, often referred to as a “butcher’s apron” by modern writers who are horrified at the unsanitary practices of early surgeons. Rather than being sterilized between operations, the apron was allowed to accumulate blood and other bodily fluids throughout the day, transferring infectious material from one patient to the next. Thankfully, both the black robe and the apron fell out of favor as medicine became less of a barbaric art form and more of a science.