If you saw the “scrubs” the medical professionals wore about 150 years ago, you probably would have changed your profession.
Scrubs were first modeled after the caregivers who took care of the sick or injured: Catholic nuns. Yes, you would be wearing the long black dresses with a white apron and hat in the form of a nun’s habit. If you’re a guy, well you wouldn't be wearing that outfit, but something similar.
Why the long dresses?
No, the answer isn’t what you’re thinking. Sure there were modest reasons, but the long dresses were known as fever shield. In other words, it was believed that the length of the dresses could protect nurses from infections. As you know, the most important parts of the body were left exposed: the hands and face. Thus, the long dresses did nothing to actually protect medical professionals from infections.
What? The 1900s are calling.
The 20th century revolutionized nursing uniforms. The changes occurred over time. For instance, the uniforms had pockets so nurses could keep things handy. The uniform top was changed to a button down top with pointy collars. Nurses wore a while bib that covered the torso to the waist. The bib doubled as an apron. The skirt remained.
World War I was a major catalyst to the nursing uniform. The design wasn’t about distinguishing nurses from other professionals. It was all about functionality. Just like today's nurses, nurses during the war had to move quickly and provide fast care for many injured patients. Bulky aprons were gone. Skirts were shorter. Sleeves were made to roll up. The uniforms were designed to be more form fitting. The hats remained. It was more about denoting seniority among nurses.
Changing of the Hats
In the 1950s, the crown-like caps that were worn by the nurses in World War I were gone. There were two choices: simple folded hats or paper hats. Both were more comfortable than the previous version. The hat no longer denoted who had seniority. The hats were the only thing that changed. Dresses were less form fitting and tailored. In fact, they were easier to wash, press and wear.
The Genderless Era
There were a lot of things that change in the 1960s and one of them was nurse uniforms. From the 1960s to the 1970s the uniforms became less gendered. Why? More men were entering the nursing field.
Gone were the caps and skirts. The scrubs were the fashion. Scrubs were unisex. Besides creating gender equality, scrubs made it a lot easier to move while caring for patients. In fact, it became a new fashion trend.
Although scrubs are here to stay, they have been modified. Thankfully, scrubs are more figure flattering than the ones in the 60s. They are cut more to fit either females or males. Majority of scrubs are made with a V-neck, short-sleeved and with draw string pants. Some scrubs have gowns or jackets. In addition, there are more options too. You can choose from a variety of colors from black to neon yellow. Scrubs are even available in various prints like camouflage. There are even scrubs that are designed based on popular medical dramas.
A lot has changed from the days when nurses were wearing long dresses and habits. The late 20th century changed the way medical professionals dressed. As more men entered the field, it became less about nursing uniform design for one gender or the other. It was about making a comfort uniform for males and females. Scrubs do have one major advantage. Scrubs allow you to focus on helping patients not starching your clothes and finding your hat.