JAANUU » Doctors Before Scrubs: What Did They Use to Wear?

Doctors Before Scrubs: What Did They Use to Wear?

Doctors wearing scrubs
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Doctors are all too familiar with long hours on their feet, strenuous conditions and regular contact with germs and other contaminants. So it’s no surprise that they need comfortable, easy-to-wash uniforms that can hold up under multiple cleanings (aka “scrubbings”—get it?).

Enter scrubs, which are now worn by almost all healthcare professionals, from nurse practitioners to medical assistants, massage therapists to surgeons, vet techs to doctors. But scrubs have been around for less time than doctors, so what did hospital doctors wear before scrubs were invented?

Read on to learn the history of doctors’ uniforms, how scrubs came to be and the many benefits of suiting up in what is now industry standard.

The history of scrubs and medicine

Olive scrub for women

Modern scrubs and nurses’ clothing hasn’t always been what we know it as today. The same goes for doctors and other healthcare workers before the 20th century, too. 

When it came to more invasive surgical procedures, surgeons simply wore aprons over their personal clothing to protect themselves from blood and other bodily fluids. To say those garments were unsanitary would be an understatement. Truth be told, they were a hotbed for germs and ripe for contaminant exposure.

Later, our knowledge of germs and how they operate grew more complex. With it, rudimentary medical uniforms—the first scrubs—finally came to be. Spurred on by scientific advancements in the late 1800s, the pandemics of the early 1900s, and the necessity of adequate healthcare during the World Wars, surgeons began to wear simple scrub gowns. These gowns helped keep contaminants at bay and assisted with infection control.

At first, white medical uniforms were the preferred option for all scrubs. Historically, this color was associated with cleanliness and purity, at least in a western healthcare setting. 

Soon, however, medical staff discovered that bright-white scrubs can cause a lot of eye strain, especially over a long shift or in an operating room. As such, scrub colors began to change, eventually turning teal green for surgeons.

Now, surgeons wear a more modern, updated version of these classic green scrubs for scrub tops and pants. Doctors wear colorful scrubs, too, although they have a little more leeway in the different colors they wear. This means that they can opt for dark blue, gray or black scrubs, for example. The main thing they have to watch out for is making sure these color-coded scrubs conform to a medical facility’s dress code. 

Why do doctors wear scrubs?

If you’re a doctor, you know that wearing scrubs isn’t necessarily a requirement. Sometimes, doctors enjoy more leeway than other staff members simply because they run their own practice or their daily activities are less primed for exposure. Maybe all you truly need in the way of scrubs is a neatly pressed roster of lab coats.

Nevertheless, doctors occasionally take the initiative to wear these scrubs time and time again. So why do doctors wear scrubs now, and what are the benefits?

Protection against germs and stains

Men wearing grey scrub

The first reason is the most important; namely, modern scrubs will help to protect you against germs and bodily fluids. Suppose you work in a healthcare facility with other hospital staff. In that case, the chances are high that you’ll run into those contaminants, not only the liquid kind but airborne pathogens as well. 

Antimicrobial-finished fabric like our FUSEryx™ and SPINryx™ materials can decrease the risk of exposure for both doctors and patients. We apply this antimicrobial finish to both women’s and men’s scrubs

With scrubs, doctors can also cut back on this risk of exposure by washing their scrubs frequently. The durability and ease of cleaning those scrubs mean that they can hold up under repeated washings, too.




pink 3 pocket scrub for women

Just like nurses, doctors work incredibly long hours, and they spend a great deal of that time on their feet. To stay focused on the job at hand, they can’t be distracted by an ill-fitting uniform. They need to stay as comfortable as possible on those intense shifts, and a good set of scrubs will do just that.

Here at Jaanuu, our men’s and women’s scrubs are super soft, stretchy and form-fitting, meaning they’ll move with a person’s body, won’t chafe, and won’t look baggy. Additional features, like moisture-wicking properties, can help doctors stay at a consistent, comfortable temperature—not too hot or cold—throughout their shift.






Man wearing bright green scrub

Let’s face it: If you work in healthcare, you don’t exactly have an abundance of free time to plan your outfits. Thankfully, these days medical professionals have the option of throwing on a set of scrubs that look professional and stylish and feel comfortable, too. That’s one of the reasons doctors made the switch from their own clothes to scrubs.  

Scrubs are convenient because you don’t have to wake up in the morning and think about what you’ll wear. They’re also handy because a dress code keeps things simple when shopping for a new set by requiring less guesswork. 

Additionally, scrubs are also convenient because they’re quick and easy to clean, allowing you to spend less time on chores or waiting for them to dry.




Easy workplace identification

Navy rib rose cut scrub for women

Having a uniform makes it easy for others to identify what you do–whether it’s fellow healthcare professionals, patients in the hospital or those in the public–in case they need your assistance while out and about. Doubly so, this uniform identifies your position to other healthcare professionals and the public, too. 

Obviously, the general public doesn’t wear scrubs (save for those who know that scrubs make perfect pajamas!), so in a healthcare setting, scrubs allow doctors to denote themselves as professionals who are there to help. Likewise, in a large facility like a hospital, color-coded scrubs can identify doctors to their fellow healthcare workers. The reason this is important? Those doctors may need to assist their coworkers with an urgent task at the drop of a hat.



Just because they like it

Man wearing labcoat

Finally, you may find a doctor wearing a scrub set simply because they like the look. Sometimes, a specific appearance appeals to them, and they want to match that appearance because it makes them happy. They could just be using scrubs as a way to express themselves, too. After all, just because doctors are busy with their patients doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in fashion. That’s right. Doctors can be fashionistas, too, and if so, it’s no surprise that they want to pair that stylish set of scrubs with a sophisticated lab coat

Here at Jaanuu, we believe style is essential, and we take a holistic approach to med-athleisure fashion. Namely, we believe that function and fashion can coexist and are two parts of the whole.If you’re looking for a fashionable uniform to wear, be sure to also check out our selection of best-selling scrubs. As we’ve learned, they’re the most efficient way to get through the workday!

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