What’s In A Fabric?
How Much Does Lab Coat Fabric Matter?
Seeing ad after ad on TV is enough to remind us that inventions pop up all the time, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. Some of them leave you wondering how man ever happened upon such an unexpected utility of an old resource, or why on earth a new gadget needed to be invented at all.
But it’s a staple of mankind to come up with new ideas—and then to market them. Sometimes these ideas go nowhere, remaining nothing more than a blueprint or a prototype. But sometimes, these ideas catch on and become popular—or even essential in our lives. Eventually, some overstay their welcome and suffer the graceless fall out of fashion.
Rarely, however, do we come across an idea that alters our lives—that is, there are few ideas that become so vitally useful that, after their introduction, it becomes difficult to imagine life without them or even remember life before them.
Cell phones, anyone?
Medicine, as a more profound example, changed the course of humanity forever. Not only do we live longer than before, but we can treat pains and disease in a multitude of ways. Cars, the internet, the modern kitchen…our lives are filled with these rare yet fundamentally necessary ideas that stick with us.
One of the less noticed ideas that has altered reality forever—and has been doing so throughout history—is fabric.
We designs and provides professionally designed lab coats to provide you with durable and stylish yet affordable lab wear that allows you to work safely and efficiently while looking good—and without having to break the bank. Designed in Milan, Italy to deliver a dynamic and top-tier performance in any setting, a lot goes into ensuring Dr-James lab coats will work for you.
So, what are these white lab coats made of, and how does that play into the quality and affordability? Let’s take a look at the fabric in our products and why it’s the best you could dream of in a 21st-century lab coat.
A blend through time
Fabric is present everywhere in the modern world. Clothes, shoes, car interiors, bags—it’d be difficult to go about your everyday life without fabric, as it’s become such an essential part of living. Not only is fabric everywhere, but it comes in many, many different forms. Humankind has been creating different kinds of fabric throughout recorded history.
Evidence suggests that ancient civilizations wove cloth from the flax plant more than 6,000 years ago. Other kinds of natural fibers would soon follow: cotton, wool, and linen quickly came to dominate the world’s fabric supply. As with any development in history, however, natural ingredients would only take us so far. Synthetic fabrics came into existence largely to solve problems that came with natural fibers, including durability, cost-efficiency and more.
A groundbreaking response to durability came in 1873 in the form of Levi Strauss’ and Jacob Davis’ iconic blue denim jeans. Denim jeans, originally made of wool and silk, were developed specifically to be tough and long-lasting, and would come to be synonymous with work clothes. Today, jeans have become a common sight in both casual and semiformal wear all over the globe and have ventured boldly across the fashion spectrum.
Water is a common enemy of many fabrics, and we tend to protect our clothing with raincoats and umbrellas. In other words, we protect our fabric from water with a special waterproof fabric. This kind of fabric was invented in 1823 by a chemist named Charles Macintosh after painting one side of more traditional fabrics with a dissolved rubber substance. This discovery led to an entirely new world of possibilities: fabric that doesn’t get wet. This concept has become common and even essential for many of us in everyday life.
Another chemist by the name of Stephanie Louise Kwolek spent the first half of the 1960s attempting to create a material that was tough yet light enough to be used for tires to ensure fuel efficiency. In 1965, she invented Kevlar, a synthetic fabric strong enough to stop bullets. Today, Kevlar is an essential part of many uniforms for individuals that need extreme protection, and also for athletes and laborers. Shoes, tennis rackets, and many other items are made with Kevlar. It’s become a versatile fabric implemented in a wide variety of contexts, revolutionizing everything from performance to safety.
The synthetic fabric that interests us most at the moment, however, was created first by James Dickson and John Whinfield in 1941. With the help of C.G. Ritchiethey and W.K. Birtwhistle, these British scientists crafted Terylene, also known as the world’s first polyester. As textile technology advanced, microfibers would come to make polyester fabric as soft and as comfortable as silk, making it a powerful addition to the fabric world and one that has been integrated in nearly every part of the fashion industry—including lab wear.
As far as the original fabric of lab coats goes, we don’t have a particular breakthrough moment to look to. Not a lot is even known about the origins of the white lab coat, and thus not much is known about what it was originally made from. Lab coats first appeared around 1800, donned by members of the scientific community, and would eventually come to include doctors and other members of the medical field. And as with most clothing of that time, we can assume that lab coats were originally made from either cotton or wool. As textiles and manufacturing both advanced, the composition of lab wear would come to change. The best lab coats today tend to be made of a 65/35 polyester-cotton blend, and for good reason.
Cotton vs. polyester
A majority of today’s clothing is made of some sort of cotton and polyester blend. There are important advantages and disadvantages to consider with either component, which in turn lead us to certain blends and, specifically, the industry standard 65/35 polyester-cotton lab coat blend.
Let’s take a look at what cotton has to offer, what polyester has to offer, and how the best results can come when we put them together.
Thousands of years in the making, the cotton industry goes back to about 5000 BCE. Evidence shows that ancient civilizations in the Americas and on the Indian subcontinent were harvesting cotton more than 7,000 years ago. Later, roller cotton gins and the spinning wheel came into fashion in China and India, arriving to Europe shortly thereafter.
In fact, Christopher Columbus finding natives in cotton garb was one of the many reasons for mistaking the Americas for India. India would continue to advance and remain a leading exporter of fine cotton fabrics. Meanwhile, European fashion would come to demand more and more cotton textiles, and India provided the vast majority of raw production. The cotton industry would continue to grow and travel, making its way to new countries and eventually reach its global modern presence that we know today.
So, after this adventure through the world and through time, what makes our white lab coats a great new destination for cotton?
Cotton is harvested from the cotton plant, making it completely natural. It is notoriously comfortable; among the many advantages of fabrics composed of cotton, you will find that cotton breathes well and is quite absorbent, which will help you stay cool and fresh in any environment. Cotton is also light and soft, which makes it a great option for sensitive skin, but soft does not necessarily mean untough—cotton can be used to produce very sturdy and durable fabrics despite its quintessential softness. Cotton is also very easy to color, but it can be prone to fading and shrinking when exposed to sunlight and washing.
The history of polyester isn’t nearly as long. As mentioned, Dickson and Whinfield developed the first polyester fiber in 1941. The research company DuPont paid closer attention to nylon research, and after the first polyester had been patented, DuPont purchased the rights for further research and development, eventually developing modified and more advanced nylon fibers. This research would branch out into a plethora of other synthetic fiber developments, eventually landing many different strands of polyester in fabric around the world, including, of course, Dr-James lab coats.
Polyester is synthetic and is practically plastic fiber. This means that polyester is tough and long-lasting, but it also means that it doesn’t break down very well (great for the closet, not so great for the landfill). Polyester is easier to maintain and dries much more quickly than cotton—it might not keep you as cool, but it’ll certainly save you money by cutting down on the electric bill. Also, since production doesn’t rely on environmental conditions as with cotton, polyester is much less expensive to produce.
The better of the two?
It’s surprisingly hard to say if one is really better than the other. Cotton is light, breathable, natural, and comfortable, all great things that polyester can’t really boast. But on the other hand, polyester is much more durable, much less expensive, and easier to take care of.
Even trying to pick the more environmentally conscious choice is difficult. Sure, cotton is natural, but producing cotton fabric is not. The process of producing cotton clothing is long and involves a lot of factory and machine work. Likewise, polyester can be made from recycled material, but it still needs to go through similar lengthy and factory-heavy processes before it’s ready to be worn. Your best bet for a green choice here isn’t in choosing one over the other, rather how you go about it: maintenance, handling, etc.
Trying to choose one better fabric over the other might not take you very far, but taking the best of both worlds definitely will. Say you need something comfortable, but durable. Breathable, but protective. Cool, but cost-effective. According to the majority of the modern textile industry, a blended fabric is probably your best bet.
The exact ratio of polyester to cotton, however, will greatly depend on what that blend will be used for. Clothing that is all or mostly polyester is usually tough and often best in rough conditions. You’ll find that sports uniforms and athletic wear is typically heavy in polyester. Clothing that is all or mostly cotton is usually light and comfortable, which can be useful in anything from pajamas to work clothes for hotter environments.
Lab coat material
Lab coats are used in a wide variety of contexts, and appropriately they need to be ready to be exposed to different conditions. Of course, lab coats need to be tough and durable to withstand laboratory conditions and accidental spills, but they also need to be comfortable and breathable to keep the wearer cool under pressure. Lab coats are more protective wear than loungewear, and thus need to be tougher than they are soft. Because of this, you’ll find that the majority of lab coat fabric is composed of 65% polyester and 35% cotton.
Dr-James offers lab coats composed of signature LABTEX industrial grade fabric, which is fittingly a 65/35 polyester-cotton blend. Designed in Milan, Italy, these coats provide you with all the protection and durability you need, along with breathability and comfort, all while forfeiting style at no point.
Should your work or study environment be hot or humid, Dr-James also offers 100% cotton options. These are perfect if the lab coat is more of a formality (or dress coat) than protective attire.
The fabric in your lab coat is more than just a blend, and your lab coat is more than just protective attire—they are also history. Thousands of years of human advancement and scientific development have gone into making your designer lab coat possible, and thousands of years of scientific rigor have gone into establishing the importance of your lab coat.
Your white lab coat is a symbol for scientific and academic excellence. It’s an empowering uniform that sets you apart. It comforts patients and students alike, and it honors the history behind it all. Dr-James LABTEX fabric takes this history and crafts it into a dynamic blend engineered specifically to help you add to human advancement, all while keeping you safe, efficient, and stylish.