Fashion Etiquette for Scientists

FashionThe new generation of scientists is breaking the mold when it comes to the image of our personality, intellect and, of course, fashion.  Today is the start of Fashion Week in New York.  In commemoration of this event, BenchFly is laying down some rules to ensure the survival of this updated image.


Fashion Faux Pas:

1. No black socks and sandals.  Ever.

In fact, no socks and sandals.  This is Rule #1 for a reason.

2. If you wore it yesterday, you shouldn’t be wearing it today.

What’s that smell? Did someone forget about their bacterial cultures?

3. Just because it fit in high school, doesn’t mean it fits anymore.

Just trust us on this one.

4. The free shirts that vendors give away are not that cool to wear in public.

Although these shirts are great for the gym, they just don’t have much appeal as everyday wear.  Speaking of working out, gym shorts are meant to be wore at the gym, ONLY!

5. Put away the backpack.  Its okay, mom won’t get mad.

You just had to have the L.L. Bean backpack with your initials on it in the 9th grade, we get it.  Use this as an excuse to look a little more professional and get a new, more sophisticated bag for your laptop, like a shoulder bag.

6. Absolutely no Crocs.

I don’t care how comfortable they are, they are ugly.

7. The infamous wolf shirt.  Or lions, tigers or bears, Oh my!

We know you are concerned for wildlife and animals are pretty cool, but donate to the conservation department and turn this shirt into rags.

8. Athletic socks are for athletic shoes…only.

There’s almost no chance that a basketball game is going to break out in the lab, and even less of a chance that those loafers would do you any good…


We’re certainly not implying that scientists need to be “runway ready,” but these suggestions will help eliminate some of the worst public offenses.  Should you see any of your fellow scientists blatantly disregarding any of these rules, be sure to share this article with them, quickly!


Have any additional “do’s or don’ts” you’d like to add?

Katie in the process of completing her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, studying the effect of diabetes on pre-implantation biology in mice.  Outside of lab you can find Katie playing softball or kickball, often with a frothy beverage in her hand.  Recently married, Katie tries to balance work with home life by spending her free time with her husband and their animals: two English Mastiffs and two spunky alley cats.

9 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. kfly

    wrote on September 10, 2009 at 3:30 am

    FINALLY! For the record – PhD does NOT stand for Pretty Horrible Dresser…

  2. Kathryn

    wrote on September 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I am so happy to see fashion etiquette for scientists on Benchfly. I would like to add t-shirts should NOT be tucked into jeans and topped off with dress belt pulled tightly thru the jean loops.

  3. [email protected]

    wrote on September 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Agreed, remember people are suppose to have waistlines at waist level…LOL

  4. [email protected]

    wrote on September 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm


  5. Juniper

    wrote on September 10, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    No Wolf shirt? I was going to get you one for Christmas!

  6. Alejandro

    wrote on September 10, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Nice list.
    I actually have no problem with biotech t shirts.
    I wouldn't wear it to a party, but I see no problem in wearing it to the lab.

    @Kathryn , word.

  7. PlayLady

    wrote on September 10, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    These tips should expand outside the lab. I've seen these violations more times than I care to on the street!

  8. psi*psi

    wrote on November 12, 2009 at 9:17 am

    As a synthetic chemist, I have to disagree with the "no wearing free shirts from vendors" rule. Every shirt I own ends up with holes in it. Better if the holes show up in a shirt I didn't pay for…

  9. Keep Your Sanity With a Smile | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on December 2, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    […] Fashion Etiquette for Scientists – a timeless classic. Feel free to pass it along to the guy in your lab wearing black socks and sandals […]

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