TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Why do doctors wear white coats?

In the middle of the19th century, scientists who worked in laboratories wore lab coats, which were beige. At that time, laboratory scientists had damaged the prestige of physicians by demonstrating that their so-called cures were worthless, and many began to see doctors as “quacks.”

The doctors began turning to science for breakthrough advances in curing disease, and seeking to represent themselves as more scientific, they adopted the lab coat as their standard of dress (around 1889). However, they preferred the color of their coat to be white—representing purity and goodness (a visual reminder of the physician’s commitment to do no harm), as well as cleanliness.