In Agents of SHIELD S02E03, Jemma Simmons is shown working for HYDRA in their scientific labs. Only, the lab coat she's wearing is black!

What I don't get is, aren't lab coats white to easily identify any chemical spilled on them? In that way, any damage done to the person working with those chemicals or their surroundings can be predicted and treated. If lab coats are black, they're basically like raincoats. There just to prevent direct contact.

Am I missing something here? Or is my whole concept of lab coats completely wrong?

  • 5
    Our lab coats (for the chemistry department I work in) are blue. As far as being able to identify the chemical based on the stain...the vast majority of liquids I deal with (hazardous and non-hazardous alike) are all colorless or straw-colored.
    – Nick T
    Oct 15, 2014 at 7:13

2 Answers 2


According to this

A white coat or laboratory coat (often abbreviated to lab coat) is a knee-length overcoat/smock worn by professionals in the medical field or by those involved in laboratory work. The coat protects their street clothes and also serves as a simple uniform. The garment is made from white or light-colored cotton, linen, or cotton polyester blend, allowing it to be washed at high temperature and make it easy to see if it is clean.

Vs. Black

Until the mid-1920s, students who were examining cadavers would wear black lab coats to show respect for the dead. Black lab coats were used in early biomedical and microbiology laboratories because any contamination that settled on them was easily visible.

Seems like different colors have different purposes (practical or ceremonious), but I imagine that HYDRA is wearing black labs only as a cosmetic choice made by the costume designers of the show. Come on, black lab coats look so much cooler than white ones. I doubt technical accuracy was high on their list :)

  • 29
    Plus, how else are we supposed to know they're EVIL scientists if they don't wear black?
    – Roger
    Oct 14, 2014 at 20:41
  • 6
    @Roger, they could wear yellow, but then AIM would sue for trademark infringement. :-)
    – cjm
    Oct 14, 2014 at 21:27
  • I bet the HYDRA uniform designers also thought their design was cool. Mar 25, 2018 at 19:10

White lab coats are more about giving the impression of cleanliness, than any practical difference. Like Apple products or JJ Abrams' USS Enterprise, smooth white and well-lit just looks so clean compared to dark or textured surfaces. It's a powerful association in the mind of the observer, but objectively it's just as easy to have a brown patterned surface be sterile as a smooth white one.

Anyone who's ever owned a black car will tell you that you can see ANY amount of dirt on it immediately, while white cars allow dust and dirt to build up a bit before they look "dirty." Also, spilling oil will be easier to see on a white coat, but spilling milk will be easier to see on black. It all just depends on what you're working with.

So basically, it isn't really as impractical a choice as the question assumes. But ultimately, it was an artistic decision. They're the bad guys, so hell yeah, black lab coats. Makes 'em look so evil...

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