Certain professions are universally recognizable from their articles of clothing – for instance Physicians who can be identified from their white coat, surgeons and nurses by the surgical greens and the armed forces in their battle fatigues.
While nurses have long worn uniforms, it was not till the early 1920's- specifically with the spread of the 1918 'Spanish Flu' – that surgeons started on the road to the surgical scrubs that are now mandatory. It may surprise you to know what the initial foray into masks and gloves were brought about for their own safety and not that of their patients.
The anti septic revolution underwent huge changes in the 1940's – Science had finally understood the correlation between patient wound infection rates and the adoption of surgical anti septic techniques. Not only were antiseptic gloves, masks, gowns and drapes used but even the instruments and supplies sterilized as apposed to earlier in the century when surgeons operated bare-handed with non-sterile instruments and supplies.
How the colors of scrubs have changed over the years:
Pre 1940: Nurses were required to wear uniform clothing-usually white but surgeon was his street clothes and maybe an apron to protect their clothes
1940: in the beginning surgical staff started wearing white uniforms and scrubs to emphasize and exhibit their cleanliness. However it was found that blood and fluids that would splash across the white clothing greatly alarmed people who came in contact with the operating staff.
In addition it was found that the pervasive use of white in the OT (Operating theater) cause eye strain. A change was in the making …
1950-1960: Medical apparel designers started experimenting with the coloration of the surgical scrubs. The first surgical scrubs were called surgical greens and temporarily in the late 60's blue was introduced.- the popularity of these 2 colors grew, as the blood and fluids splattering were not prominently seen as compared to the white counterparts and it also solved the eye strain issue.
1970s: The OT (operating theater) uniform has transformed to a short-sleeve V-necked shirt and drawstring pants and mid length dress for women. A gauze mask, latex gloves, surgical gown, and a surgical bouffant style hat make up what is considered the standard medical wear
1980 onward: Surgical scrubs were no longer simply green or blue. Surgical scrubs were available in a multitude colors and textures and by the mid 1980s, surgical scrubs came in an array of designs.
Present: Surgical Scrubs are mostly solid green, light blue or a green-blue shade. Due to rising theft some medical centers have made pink their choice of color to act as a deterrent.
There is a rise in availability of cheap scrubs used for non-surgical purposes.