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What to wear under a lab coat for health care professionals?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

As the title states, what to wear under a lab coat? Especially if there's no specific dress code and most people around you are dressed casually?

What kind of shirt, pants, shoes?


Any suggestions?




I'm an optometrist (OD) and I sometimes work in a mall (you know, like Pearl Vision for example...). Most of my assistants are women and are dressed business casually. These days, I usually wear a button down sport shirt and black slacks or sometimes beige pants with a leather belt and loafers. Occasionally I wear jeans and a sweater. 


In such a setting, what would you recommend? 

Should I start wearing dress shirts instead of sport shirts? 

I do want to dress more casually (jeans, boots) but at the same time, I don't want to appear unprofessional. Would jeans be ok under a lab coat?

Edited by OD Style - 4/3/13 at 2:43pm
post #2 of 10

Khaki's, button down shirt, close toed shoes. That would be a pretty casual look without having to wear jeans and a t-shirt. If you think it would be too casual for your style, throw on a tie. Wear clothing you wouldn't want to get stains on!

post #3 of 10
^re: closed-toed shoes, that is pretty much a given for men.

I'm not sure how I feel about the tie. I would probably not wear it. To me it is almost the same as a tie without a jacket/sweater, which is a look that should be avoided. I'm not sure the lab coat is enough.
post #4 of 10

If you work in a research/academic setting my experience is that everyone dresses pretty casually, except when there's a presentation to do (in which case they look even worse), so go with whatever style you personally like. I mean, I wouldn't wear a suit & tie or, on the other extreme, bermuda shorts (though I've seen both done; the jacket is hung up in the case of the suit), but other than that, you have wide latitude.


If the job involves patient contact, many institutions are/have phased out white coats anyway because no-one remembers to wash them regularly, making them massive & nutrient-rich (due to spills/splashes) petri dishes. Even back when I did my training, I never wore mine after the first student year, although technically we were supposed to in those days. There was an unofficial vibe that only noobs or greybeards wore them, and they only looked good on the latter! One or two old-school docs still continued wearing them for years, but I believe white coats were banished there some years ago now. If your institution hasn't banned them, though, you'll be able to notice an unofficial dress code in terms of what's acceptable to be worn underneath.


The usual sensible advice in any professional setting, in the absence of an actual dress code, is to not deviate all that far from the prevailing norm, unless you're any of the following: exceptionally brilliant/indispensable; in a fairly secure comfortable/senior position and want to cock a snook; have another reason why you don't need to pay much attention to the opinion of the masses anyway.

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice. I editted my initial post with more background information.

post #6 of 10
I recommend ditching the black pants in favor of mid-gray. I reiterate that I wouldn't wear a tie without something, like a sweater. Some say that a tie without a jacket makes you look like you work in the mall as a cellphone salesman. In your case, you actually do work in the mall, so maybe you can pull it off.

My personal opinion is that you should not wear jeans, especially if you see patients. It comes across as a little unprofessional to me. Chinos would be ok though. I also think sport shirts are fine. If you go with button-up shirts, I would try to get them with button-down collars.
post #7 of 10
Ah, thanks for the edited in info. In light of that, I think the business casual approach you've already taken is pretty much the way to go in that setting (I'd agree with msulinski above that black wool trousers are kind of tricky to wear well outside of certain styles) & I'd avoid jeans most days, again as you're already doing. Once in a while, I don't think they're a problem (assuming they're dark denim or at least vaguely smart jeans rather than the heavily distressed variety), but most days, I think that's the kind of job where a vaguely traditional professional appearance goes a long way to reinforcing the right dynamic. I still don't think you need to be wearing suit and tie (or even formal/business shirt & tie, at least not everyday), but for me, an open collar button-down or something like that is better than polos or rugby shirts or the like. Sweaters are fine, obviously.

If you want to rotate a bit more variety/interest into it, there's a wealth of different casual (but still of the kind that button down the front) shirts and wool or cotton trousers that you could use.
post #8 of 10


post #9 of 10
MTM or bespoke Suit, MTM or bespoke open collar shirt and black Oxfords, although Im PI now. Tie no, except possibly when teaching.

Under a lab coat obviously ditch the jacket.

The trick in a business casual environment is to dress like everyone else but use very high quality fabric and excellent tailoring. This will impress without standing out.

I considered having a bespoke labcoat via a shirtmaker. Again that would look cool without standing out.
Edited by Hacking jacket - 4/4/13 at 7:33am
post #10 of 10
^^ but as a new recruit to the NPC the thought of a new purchase this month never even crossed my mind
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