A guest post by my C&EN colleague and sewing aficionado Cheryl Hogue.
As Halloween approaches, demand certainly must rise for lab coats. They are essential for portraying everyone from Beaker of “Sesame Street” to characters from “Grey’s Anatomy.” Nothing says “scientist” like a lab coat.
Of course, lab coats are also required gear in many (most? all?) chemistry labs.
What makes for a good lab coat? ChemBark’s recent blog post on buying a lab coat got me thinking about this. It also sparked a mad desire in me to design a lab coat for a woman, tailored to following curves a bit while not hugging the body. On many women, including me, many unisex lab coats look like white sacks with lapels and pockets.
But before I could break out my sewing machine and go totally “Project Runway,” I began pondering the characteristics of a good lab coat. Jyllian pitched in and checked with the consulting firm Advanced Chemical Safety. She found there are neither regulatory nor voluntary standards for lab coats.
So now, I throw it open to the chemistry community – what are your criteria for a lab coat? Should the characteristics of a coat vary depend on the type of work done in the lab?
First, there’s color. I’ve run into folks who believe lab coats should always be white so any contamination on the garment can be detected easily. But others, like ChemBark, opt for colors, like royal blue.
Roomy pockets at or below the waist seem like a must. How many of you use a chest pocket to stash a pen? How essential are slits in the side to access pockets in your street clothes?
Then there are the ends of the sleeves. Should they remain open, be fastened at a cuff, or end in a knit wristlet like the ones found on this welder’s jacket?
Should the coat close with buttons, snaps, knots made from strips of fabric, or Velcro?
What’s the minimum length for a lab coat? Below the hips, mid-thigh, or below the knee?
Then there’s fabric. Should chemists take a cue from NASCAR drivers and opt for a flame-resistant material, such that used for these lab coats? Or is the standard, and less expensive, polyester or poly-cotton lab coat appropriate for most circumstances?
What are your key considerations for a lab coat?
(Jyllian adds: Katherine Haxton of Endless Possibilities also posted about lab coats this week.)