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The History of Medical Scrubs

Medical Scrubs are articles of clothing worn by nurses, doctors and other medical professionals or hospital personal while providing care or services in a medical setting. Scrubs developed when medical professionals established the need for attire separate from their day-to-day clothing to was needed to perform their job duties. According to O'Donnell, Chinelatto, Rodrigues, and Hojaij "Medical Uniforms date back from medieval times. Nursing uniforms were based on nuns clothes whereas doctors used the famous “plague costumes” and black “frock” coats from about 15th to early 19th century. In latter half 19th century medical uniforms started to change. Nursing uniforms gradually lost their similarities to religious outfits. Doctors started to use white clothing." Scientific communication, 2020. Scrubs were initially designed to be worn in surgical settings but with time spread to other areas of the hospital and beyond.

Initially scrubs and nursing uniforms were white to place an emphasis on cleanliness but that quickly evolved as it was deemed not practical. Modern scrubs as commonly seen and worn today were adapted in the 1970's.

Above: Operating theatre staff in gowns, masks and rubber gloves, Gloucester 1909. Wellcome Collection. Image from Scientific Collection Article.

The medical apparel industry has continued to evolve with companies introducing new fabrics, styles, and other innovations that make scrubs more comfortable and desirable for medical professionals worldwide. Some innovators in the medical scrubs industry include Cherokee, Koi, Figs, Dope Scrubs, Jaanuu, and Medelita.

Dope Scrubs, 2021


Scientific communication • Rev. Col. Bras. Cir. 47 • 2020 •

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