While standing on the tube platform this morning (trying to ignore the general unpleasantness associated with London’s public transport system), an advert caught my eye. It featured a model wearing a T-shirt with a periodic table on it. For a brief moment, I was overcome with the notion that chemistry had become fashionable, possibly even sexy.

Further evidence of the chemistry-fashion interface is, admittedly, rather scarce. A few years ago, a manufacturer of safety glasses came up with a new streamlined design, incorporating brightly coloured arms and so on. I thought this was pretty ridiculous – it’s very difficult to make safety equipment look trendy. But they went down a storm with my colleagues. I was even criticised during a safety inspection for not wearing the ‘cool’ version of the safety specs (and not for safety reasons – this is not a joke…)

Other than that, my university’s chemistry society had a few rather sad T-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “Chemists have solutions” and “Tickle a chemist and see the reaction”. But who knows? Maybe chemical elements could become the new iconic brands? Fashionistas wearing ‘Sb’ logos could look down on their less up-to-date friends, who are still wearing last year’s ‘Cs’ jeans. Where would it all end? Any other ideas?


Andrew Mitchinson (Associate Editor, Nature)