Essential Guide to Men’s Scrubs

(By: Karen Stockdale)

Often overlooked, but highly valued – let us just take a moment to give kudos to the male nurses out there. Sometimes called “murses”, man nurses, partners in the trenches. You know who you are! Nursing is not a profession defined by gender norms anymore! Today, 12% of registered nurses are men, and that number is climbing! We welcome you!

Read on for the complete guide to shopping for men’s scrubs!

Top Five Scrub Factors to Consider:

Fabric choice

Choice of materials affects qualities of the garment like how breathable it is, comfort against the skin, stain resistance, color fade, and the “drape” or how the fabric hangs.  Let’s go through the characteristics of the most commonly used fabrics for scrubs:

  • Cotton: Lightweight, soft, flattering, durable, does not build up static.  Thin, drapes and flatters.  Good choice during the summer months.  Dyes do fade with washing.  May also shrink if washed or dried improperly.  Wrinkles easily.  Easy to clean, doesn’t require any special care.  Most often blended with other fibers.
  • Polyester: Synthetic fabric.  Wrinkle resistant, easy care, durable, dries quickly.  Resists shrinking.  Moisture resistant, not absorbent, so tends to trap sweat and heat.  Rougher against the skin, builds up static if fabric softener is not used. 
  • Spandex (Lycra, elastane): Yes, the same fabric that leotards are made of.  Used as a blend to add stretchiness to fabric, usually in quantities of less than 10%.  Returns to original shape quickly, resistant to perspiration and pilling. 
  • Rayon: Semi-synthetic fabric.  Comes in many different weights and qualities.  Drapes well and looks silky, but not very durable.  Wrinkles easily, also may stretch or shrink when wet. 

Did you notice that none of these fabrics is “perfect”?  That is why most scrubs are a blend of 2 or more of the fabrics above.  The two most common blends are:

  • Polyester/Cotton:  Polyester helps scrub fabric retain shape, resist stains and wrinkles. Cotton makes the scrubs absorbent and comfortable.
  • Polyester/Spandex:  Polyester provides durability and helps the scrubs maintain their shape, while spandex adds some stretch and movement – without sagging!

While the most common, these are not the only choices.  Some brands are even creating athletic-wear/scrub hybrids.

The Length and Taper

If you are very tall or on the shorter side, it pays to make sure your scrubs are hemmed to fit.

  • Too short, and you look as though prepared to wade high water. Lots of sock is just not flattering. Order big and tall(T) sizes to find the right fit.  Use your jeans inseam size as a reference point.
  • Too long, and your scrubs will either be bunched up unattractively at the ankles or dragging on the floor under your shoes. Do you know what is on that floor? If you can’t find the right length, you can hem those right up very easily, or a tailor can do it for minimal cost.
  • Taper refers to the leg width and hang of the scrub pants.  They typically come in a straight-leg or tapered fit.  Tapered pants will fit closer at the ankle and look more tailored. 
  • One other taper option is elastic pant cuffs, or joggers.  If you are in and out of protective gear all day, or just like the feel and look of them – joggers may be for you. 

The Cut

Scrubs have traditionally been pretty baggy and shapeless, not necessary anymore!

  • Fitted cuts are now available, and they have several advantages.  Like a fitted shirt, a fitted scrub is designed to enhance a slim figure, and usually pulls the fabric in at the midsection a bit. 
  • Look for scrubs that have straight lines and accentuate the shoulders. A slightly shorter sleeve is also flattering – gotta show off those biceps!
  • Let’s talk man-cleavage. If the V-neck goes below your armpits, don’t do it. Consider wearing a crew-neck T-shirt under your scrubs to look your best.
  • Waistbands – pick the type of closure – drawstring, elastic, button-front, or some type of combo.  The important thing is that it moves with you, doesn’t fall down, and you like the way it looks. 

Pockets

Pockets are important! You have a lot of stuff to carry around, and those front pockets are just not going to do. Most men prefer a cargo pant that keeps those essential supplies handy without weighing them down.

Think about how you like to go about your day. 

  • Do you load up those pockets with scissors, pens, notepad, and supplies? 
  • Do you carry your stethoscope around your neck, or in a pocket? 
  • Do you carry your wallet or keys with you for your shift? 

Then take particular notice of the pocket sizes on each pant – they can be open, zippered, Velcro, or button/snap. Some pockets are designed specifically for scissors, pens and penlights. This quick check should tell you if the scrub pant has what it takes to carry you through your day. 

New to nursing and you just don’t know yet?  Trust me, go for more pockets.  Just do it. 

Color Choice

If you have options at your workplace, there are many attractive colors for men besides navy and black. Khaki, green, burgundy, even some lighter colors all look good. Get out of your comfort zone a bit and get noticed! You can also vary colors of matching undershirts to add some variety.

Colors vary widely by brand, so make sure if you are ordering online that you match tops and bottoms within the same brand.  Navy is not the same navy in different brands.  Surprisingly, neither is black!

Ok men, now you know the nitty-gritty details about scrubs. You spend a lot of time in this uniform, it is time you maximized your professional style and comfort. Now get dressed, and get out there and save some lives!

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