Has COVID killed the necktie (and professional attire)?

Dr. Shyam Paryani

This 1885 painting of Louis Pasteur by Albert Edelfelt shows the chemist in his standard laboratory attire: coat, vest and bow tie. The pandemic changed many things in society, not least of which is the definition of professional dress.

Modern medicine is often associated with Louis Pasteur, who ironically is credited with germ theory as the cause of disease. He is pictured in a coat and bow tie as his usual dress in the 1800s.  

In a similar time, Florence Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing and adopted uniforms at her school of nursing that she started. Uniforms and white coats soon followed in the 1900s and became the standard of dress for healthcare professionals until the end of the 20th century.

The white coat has become emblematic of the medical profession. All first-year medical students routinely participate in a “white coat ceremony” that symbolizes their entry into medicine. William Halsted developed the first pair of latex gloves and surgical gowns. Uniform scrubs were first produced by the surgeon but they still remained as a long gown in the late 1800s. Scrubs were primarily used in the operating room for about 100 years. Initially, white uniforms symbolized cleanliness.  


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