Dear Ms. Specs in the City,

I work in an optical practice where the entire staff wears scrubs, including the opticians. My optician co-workers and I feel strongly that scrubs are not right for the optical dispensary. How can we sell fashion eyewear while wearing clothing devoid of style—scrubs!? How do we communicate our desires to the doctor/manager in a friendly, professional way?

Sick of Scrubs in Seattle

Dear Sick of Scrubs in Seattle,
“Let’s talk about scrubs baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be”…well, you know the rest of the song: Let’s talk about SCRUBS.

Ms. Specs is keenly aware that we may be opening a can of worms… people are very passionate about the subject of scrubs in the optical dispensary. Ms. Specs gives scrubs in the optical dispensary a resounding NO! One would be very hard pressed to convince me that opticians can be on top of their fashion game when wearing what some perceive as lounging pants/pajamas.

Perhaps my inner germaphobe is showing here, but when I am in a public place, especially a restaurant or food court, and someone comes in wearing scrubs: I can’t help but wonder if they are on their way home from work and bringing germs from the hospital to us. Or are they on their way to work, thus bringing our germs to the hospital? In either case, I reach for the hand sanitizer.

Ms. Specs does not want to insult your intelligence by stating the obvious: Scrubs are for the collection and containment of germs, nothing more. Thinking it appropriate where we sell eyewear is quite puzzling to me. Let’s be clear: We are talking about private OMD/OD practices. This discussion would never occur in the independent eyewear business.

Now, getting back to your question, first and foremost, when approaching a potentially difficult conversation, we must always adhere to impeccable manners. When we bring a problem to light, it is good form also to recommend a solution. Perhaps the doctors/managers have had bad experiences with the optician staff dressing too provocatively or too sloppy. Show them empathy and respect. Consider having a pow-wow to discuss dress code options: Mainly black with splashes of color! Implement rules about tasteful and acceptable shoes and clothing. How about a collective “vision/fashion board,” just like fashion designers use? Exhibit various examples of appropriate and fashionable options. And for the love of all that is good: Skip the khakis and polo shirts! They are cousins to the scrubs and equally dull.

Let’s face the facts, while prescription eyewear is a medical prosthesis; it is also a fashion accessory. Many of us have long hoped for this fashion accessory status. I started in the trenches in my optical mommy’s biz in the late 1970s when we had three choices for frames: Ugly, Uglier and Ugliest. Let’s embrace how far frame fashion has come. It’s time to acknowledge that fashion is a crucial part of a quality optical retail experience—both for the fashion eyewear that you recommend for the patient and the credibility that dressing the part conveys. Just as the dispensary decor needs to invite excitement for the fun fashion frame offerings, so must the dispenser’s appearance and fashion sense communicate confidence and a sense of style to the customer.

Ms. Specs Challenge: Dear Readers, if you have achieved “No Scrubs Status” in your office, send Ms. Specs before and after pictures of your optical wardrobe makeover. Who knows, I may even publish the best in a future column!

See Well and Be Well,
Ms. Specs in the City
Laurie Pierce, ABOM