The white coat is a scientist’s mask and cape.  Without its simple lines and utilitarian detailing, a scientist is just some douche standing around.  With it, the scientist is an unstoppable locomotive of reason and intellect.
The lab coat exudes Science; the lab coat is Science embodied on-bodied, eradicating the human frailties of its wearer.  Mountains tremble, seas part, and angels attend this garment of knowledge and power.

Like any great costume, the lab coat has multiple utilities.
  1. It protects the scientist’s skin and other clothing from being spattered on, scorched, or infected with Ebola.  As a side benefit, it hides the scientist’s body (which may be gangly or dumpy) and other clothing (which may be an ugly sweater or an old tee-shirt with armpit stains).
  2. It may be washed with very hot water and strong detergents, bleached within an inch of its life, and then scrutinized carefully to see if any wee traces of uranium or monkey brain still lingers.  If the scientist has been handling a really putrid alien cadaver, the lab coat can simply be replaced.
  3. It visually identifies the scientist as someone who must be taken seriously, separate from the lay population and their icky subjectivity.
A scientist needs a lab coat like a book needs pages, that much is certain.  But which lab coat?  What a good question, I’m glad you asked!

Lab coats come in a variety of shapes, styles, and materials.  (For the purposes of this article, I will be ignoring the existence of non-white lab coats, since those are for rubes.  If you want to look like a janitor or a dental hygienist, this article is not for you.)  The lab coat you pick should reflect the kind of scientist you are, or at least the one you aspire to be.

Danger! Scientist at Work!

While cotton and polyester are a light and easy to wear, they won’t afford you much protection in a laboratory fire, or when the mutant lizard dolphins spit acid on you.  Luckily, lab coats are available in many different protective fabrics, from exciting fire retardant materials (also worn by race car drivers to keep their occupations from killing them) to chemically inert and static-resistant fabrics that will keep you stylish and safe.  Safe-ish, anyway.

DuPont Tyvek TY210S lab coat

Retail Price:  $114.95, but that gets you 30 of these beauties, so that’s a steal at $3.81 apiece.
Sizes: S to 4XL

From DuPont—the noted makers of Kevlar, Mylar, and Teflon—comes this cute little number, suitable for environments where dangerous substances might spill only on very specific parts of your body.  

The same strong, noncombustible, chemical-resistant fibres that make up this coat are also used to wrap buildings under construction and strengthen those really tough courier envelopes.  Its elastic wrists keep your sleeves nattily tailored and safely out of harm’s way, and its snap front allows for quick removal in case of splashes of nastiness or moments of passion (or both!). This scientist need not fear the corrosive solution she has in those flasks, unless she spills them on her hands.  Or her tights.   

ROWR!  Your Science Or Mine?

Some scientists are better at the deep sciencing, and others are better talking about science in a futuristic boardroom, in front of world leaders, or over cocktails at a piano bar.  If you plan to be more of the Face of Science than the scarred Hand or cyborg Heart of Science, you want a lab coat that can effortlessly transition between convincing the Ambassador that your team’s experiment is really a humanitarian project, and seducing his mistress on his bearskin rug in front of his awesome gothic fireplace.

White Swan Meta Short Coat

Retail Price:  $27.75
Sizes: XS to 3XL

From White Swan (not the toilet paper company!) comes this lab coat that reminds the whole room you are a scientist without concealing your manly physique behind voluminous folds of material.  

The thick poplin cotton resists creases and red wine stains, and will even repel blood and chemicals in the event that some actual unforeseen Science breaks out.  Its two concealed inside front pockets are excellent for holding laser pointers and condoms.  Over an ordinary shirt and tie, this lab coat is perfect for making a presentation to the Board of Directors.  Later, slip on a bow tie and head out to the casino! 

I’m Too Sexy for This Lab Coat

A surprising number of laboratory apparel catalogs contain a section called Fashion Lab Coats.  It is in these pages that you will find lab coats with the flourishes intended to appeal to the feminine appetite for fucking little flowers and hearts on everything. If you must have the word “princess” associated with everything you do, these are the lab coats for you.  Personally, I would rather eat my own shoe, but it takes all kinds.

The stupid hearts and flowers of the "fashion" lab coat.
Though the face of Science is changing and growing a bit less stubbly, women are still significantly underrepresented. Some women may feel that it’s an unwise move to confirm every misogynistic whisper by dressing like a concussed five year-old with little bows and ribbons and butterflies all over their garment of supposed gravitas.  On the other hand, the idea of buying the smallest unisex lab coat that will still button across your bust and letting the remaining fabric hang off you like a muumuu-esque tent might depress you too.  What to do?

Cherokee Uniforms Women’s White Lab Coat

Retail Price:  $20.99
Sizes: XS to 3XL

Though fashion powerhouse Baby Phat is vying hard for a spot your wardrobe, my pick is this tailored piece of awesome from Cherokee, the makers of the jeans your mother insisted were just as good as the ones you actually wanted.  

It is made of a heavy poly-cotton blend that features “soil release” technology, which sounds pretty swish, and look at the price!  If they made this puppy in chocolate and charcoal, I’d take three and wear two as summer coats. But they don’t.  Stupid Cherokee. 

Fat Doctor Fatty McFatterson

Not all scientists are taller than they are wide, and that’s okay.  We need fat scientists to lighten the mood every once in a while by falling down or just standing there, sweating and quivering like a jellied salad. It’s good to have people around that we can feel superior to.  (All the lab coats featured in this article come in sizes up to at least 3XL, so I’m talking epic rotundity here.  Stop being so sensitive and eat another cupcake!)

Pulse Brand Unisex Long Lab Coat

Retail Price:  $55.95
Sizes: XXS to 12XL

It’s not an exciting article of clothing, but Pulse’s cotton-polyester lab coat is available in sizes up to 12XL.  Obviously that’s not the size pictured here, but I felt that stretching the catalog photo sideways by 400% might be kinda mean. The price is fair considering you’re probably getting enough fabric to make five or six of the Cherokee lab coats.  It boasts two roomy front pockets for your Tupperware full of cheese and your Diet Coke, and a vented back because good God you need to air that out.
Honestly, I’m not sure how much science you’re going to be doing, since it’s hard to believe you’re going to be able to reach anything without a pair of long-handled tongs, but if you insist on keeping up the charade, I think this might be your best bet.  If you outgrow the 12XL, your only recourse will be to Scotchguard a king-size duvet cover or something. 

The Evil Genius

Why devote your life to science when you can devote your life to science, the joy of cooking, and super-villainy? Making an excellent soup while watching things grow in petri dishes and hatching an evil scheme takes precious, precious time. If having it all sounds right up your alley, it’s safe to expect that you won’t have time to roll up your sleeves or change shirts. 

Avida PC685 Snap Front Lab Coat

Retail Price:  $25.50
Sizes: S to 3XL

Lucky for you, Avida’s stylish and functional Snap Front Lab Coat will take you from a highly acclaimed kitchen, to your lab, to the dark alley behind your lab, and all the way down to your secret super-villain lair. Its high collar offers added protection from rogue neck stains and cleverly conceals that you didn’t have time to put on a shirt. Short sleeves allow you to show off your badass forearm tattoos and also deter pesky false accusations of trickery. Its cotton-polyester blend eliminates any need for ironing, and the retail cost of $25.50 (larger evil geniuses add $4.00) is a small price to pay for the ability to change your cover story on the fly. Some soup, anyone?

Splish Splash, I was Making Some Science

Ring Ring! Is that the phone? Oh no, it’s Science again, why must Science always call while you’re in the bath? It should know by now that, in the time it takes to scoot out, towel off, put on some clothes and hop into your lab coat, the call will go right through to voicemail (and Science never leaves a message). Those scientists who enjoy a good soak in the tub with a copy of The Tao of Physics will be all too familiar with this scenario.

Docs Duds “Diana” Lab Coat

Retail Price:  $90.00
Sizes: 4 to 18

The Diana, made by the clever folks at Docs Duds, combines your scientific mastery with the warmth and comfort of your bath robe. It has a two-way zipper so that you can dress it up or down depending on the occasion, and has vented side and back panels for added comfort. While it loses points for having an embarrassing elasticized waist, you can cover that mess up with a belt (included). The collar is adjustable, the vented sleeves roll into a stylish French cuff, and diagonal envelope pockets and decorative topstitching will appeal those scientists with champagne tastes. 

Speaking of champagne, this lab coat has stain release technology that will more than pay for itself after a few hot tub parties followed by long nights of mixing enzymes. Ah, if only it came in terry. Pants sold separately.

In conclusion, a quick thought experiment…

You know someone dumb. Picture him now: his vacuous eyes, his calf-like smile, and the palpable wave of helpless rage that hits you whenever he speaks.  Remember how much he makes you want to punch him right in the head.  Do you have him firmly in your mind’s eye? Now, picture him in a lab coat.

Don’t you immediately feel respect and deference for him? Wouldn’t his presence make you feel more comfortable in a crisis? Might you even plausibly ask him, What should we do?  And then go and do that very thing?

This is the sacred, transformative power of the lab coat.  Wear it in peace, my friend.

Good Science to you.