Scrubs; past, present and future

Scrubs; past, present and future

Scrubs; past, present and future

Scrubs are a form of sanitary clothing worn by medical professionals who are involved in patient care including surgeons, nurses, and physicians. They are also now worn by other professionals such as vets and those working in the beauty industry. Scrubs tend to be made up of short-sleeve tunics and trousers. They are simple in design so there are limited places for any potential contamination to hide. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 scrubs have become something mentioned continuously in the news as demand for them rose and shortages were incurred. You may have heard stories about how companies, like us, and individuals around the country worked to create scrubs to supply to the NHS but have you ever wondered how scrubs came to be?


The History of surgical scrubs 

For most medical professionals such as doctors and surgeons’ ordinary clothes were worn well into the 20th century. Surgeons did wear items such as butchers’ aprons when performing surgeries, but these were for the protection of the surgeon from the patient’s disease rather than the protection of the patient from infection. It was the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918 that promoted greater interest to be taken in antiseptic theory with surgeons beginning to wear things like cotton gauze masks. By the 1940s antiseptic techniques were routinely employed as a way of preventing diseases from spreading, to emphasise this cleanliness the operating rooms were predominantly white as were the scrubs worn by the surgeons. However, this bright white environment resulted in eye strain of surgeons and staff so by the 1960s the colour of scrubs began to change to green. Green scrubs reduced eye fatigue and made blood stains less obvious, due to this colour scrubs were initially called “surgical greens”. This uniform of “surgical greens” became standard by the 1970s.

Modern-day surgical scrubs now come in more colours than just green but tend to be a single block colour and simple design of a square cut top with V-neck and patch pockets paired with straight trousers either with a drawstring or elastic waist. They are also most often unisex. This non-restrictive relaxed design enables ease of movement which is essential for surgeons. 


(With rusty old saw like Victorian surgeon amputate leg 30-seconds flat,  In the operating room at the Carney Hospitalcelebrating 15 years of national time out day)


The history of non-medical scrubs 

As mentioned, back in the day doctors and surgeons tended not to wear uniforms, in fact the only healthcare professionals who wore uniforms were nurses.

The first nurse uniform was thought to be developed in 1860 in line with the opening of the Florence Nightingale nursing school, here the nurses wore grey tweed dresses with a grey jacket and white cap. The primary aim of this uniform was to project professionalism and evoke respect. Since this point, the uniform of nurses tended to develop alongside trends rather than for practicality and was always driven by the need to present professionalism.

The start of World War One saw some practical elements added to uniforms. These included slightly shorter dresses allowing for easier movement and the addition of pockets to aprons. A red cross was also used either on the chest or sleeve of the uniform as an emblem for medical services. Fast forward to the 1970s and the classic white nurses' cap had been removed from the uniform, and by the 1980s considerably less restrictive open-neck shirts were introduced.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s, however, that scrubs began to be widely used as a uniform option for nurses. It is not exactly known why this change occurred, but it was thought to be influenced by the uniform of nurses in America and by the desire of female nurses to have a more comfortable less restrictive uniform like those of their male counterparts.

The scrubs worn by nurses tend to differ to those worn by surgeons and a referred to as non-surgical scrubs. Although still designed with comfort in mind, they are more styled than surgical scrubs, come in a wider range of colours and patterns and can be gender specific. 


(Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery WW1 nursesdefinitive ranked list medical scrubs colors )


Scrubs at Uniforms for Healthcare

Here at Uniforms for Healthcare, we offer a range of different scrub sets designed with comfort and practicality in mind.

Mawson Scrub 

Our unisex Mawson scrubs offer a practical design for easy wear during long shifts. The tunic has two hip pockets and a chest pocket meaning you can have everything you need to hand as well as side vents for ease of movement. The Mawson scrub trousers also have a back pocket, resulting in a highly functional and practical scrub set. Both the tunic and trousers have been made using a Polyester-cotton mix (65% polyester, 35% cotton) providing breathable and durable qualities as well as making these scrubs easy to care for. They can be washed at 60-degrees and are suitable for industrial laundering. Not to mention there are eleven great colours to choose from.



Sandringham Scrub Tunic and Newbury Trousers

Our Sandringham scrubs differ slightly from the Mawson set as they have been made using a soft touch lightweight polycotton. Also featured in these scrubs are a chest pocket with stitched in pen holders and a fabric loop to clip along with the two large hip pockets. The matching Newbury scrub trousers are made from the same soft-touch lightweight polycotton as the Sandringham tunic, have a loose fit and two large side pockets.


The future of scrubs at Uniforms for Healthcare

The future of scrubs cannot be accurately predicted but what we do know is that through our innovative and creative approach, we can provide uniforms that are more comfortable, stylish and practical than ever before.

Currently, we are experimenting with different materials to create scrubs that enable you to perform at your best, including bi-stretch and cotton elastane. 

To browse our full scrub range, inclusive of all brands we supply in addition to the scrubs created by us, simply visit 


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