When Scottevest contacted me about taking a look at its new lab coat, I thought, "Hmm, that's interesting, but there's no way I can really do accurate tests of a lab coat since the closest I ever get to a lab involves petting a furry black dog I see at the local park sometimes." Then, I remembered I have a scientist in the family.
My brother Ara Kooser is a doctoral candidate in the biology department at the University of New Mexico. He's a member of the Subsurface Life in Mineral Environments (SLIME) team. He pretty much lives in a lab when he isn't crawling down into deep caves to collect samples for study. You can check out his current work on secondary metabolites of cave bacteria, if you're into that sort of thing.
My brother took the Scottevest coat for a two-week test run in his laboratory. "We're looking for new antibiotics and new anti-cancer drugs from bacteria," he says. "We use lab coats to keep our bacteria and our DNA out of our samples."
Available for men and women, the lab coat runs $125 (about £80, AU$150) and comes stocked with 16 interior and exterior pockets designed to hold tablets, cell phones, notepads, pens and a ruler. There's a loop and interior system for keeping your earphone cord in check and a stain and water-repellent coating to help keep the white polyester fabric clean.
Scottevest essentially took its philosophy for its regular line of clothing and applied it to the design of a lab coat. It's all about accommodating all your tech with easy access to your gear.
Old-fashioned lab coats tend toward a boxy look, with a couple of patch pockets on the front. Kooser estimates it costs around $40 to $50 for a regular lab coat, with some fancier ones costing more. "A lot of the higher-end lab coats from science supply companies are not set up for what I consider modern lab practices, which includes having access to all your gear," he says.
The men's size small fit my brother like it was tailored for him. "It fit really well considering I'm 6'2" and 150 pounds. It's not all billowy and I can move around the lab and not have it get caught on things," he says. His lab-mates took notice. "Some people were envious of it. It's cut differently from a normal lab coat. The profile stands out, along with all the weird pockets," he says.
Kooser notes that he got the most use out of the cell phone and tablet pockets. He even managed to cram his old, large Asus Transformer tablet into one of the interior pockets. A pass-through pocket design on both sides near hip-level means you can access interior gear without having to unbutton the coat.
There was only one place where my brother thought the coat might fall short. That involves cleaning it using an autoclave, a high-temperature and high-pressure process that kills bacteria. Scottevest suggests following the washing instructions on the coat's label to avoid damaging the stain and water-repellent coating, so an autoclave is out. However, if you're not working with hazardous bacteria, this isn't really a big issue.
My brother's ultimate verdict is: "I like it, especially if you're in a lab where you're keeping digital notebooks. You have easy access to all your devices and the channel for the earplugs means your cable isn't hanging out." It's about time the unpretentious lab coat got its moment in the spotlight as a creature of our modern times. It's clothing fit for a teched-up scientist or doctor, ready to hold an iPad right alongside a notepad or stethoscope. If that's not enough, then you can always add a pair ofunderneath.