What Do Crime Scene Investigators Wear?
You’re watching CSI (or another crime drama). The actors are going about their business, processing crime scenes, collecting evidence, and working in the lab. They’re all wearing the perfect outfit: stylish blouses, dress pants, leather jackets, and high heels, none of which ever seem to get dirty. Plus, they all have great hair and makeup.
Do they look great and super put-together? Absolutely! But this clothing is not what a typical crime scene investigator wears. It’s just not practical. Crime scene investigators go to a variety of different types of crime scenes, many of which are in undesirable locations (i.e., dirty).
As a former forensic scientist in a crime lab, I didn’t go to crime scenes. (Some forensic scientists do, but not at my old lab). Each agency collected their own evidence (usually sworn officers) and submitted it to the lab for analysis. Since I wasn’t personally present at crime scenes, I called upon some colleagues to describe a typical outfit worn by a crime scene investigator. These colleagues include both civilian employees and sworn officers.
The following list describes a typical outfit worn by a crime scene investigator piece by piece. I then provide an example of an entire outfit. I also list several items of clothing that are unique or didn’t fit the main description.
By far, the most common type of shirt worn by a crime scene investigator is a polo with the name and department embroidered on the left lapel area (or both lapels). These polos are mainly dry weave or a synthetic blend, but some are cotton. Colors include black, navy, gray, blue, and green. Several respondents mentioned that they wore a “uniform shirt” or a 5.11 shirt. 5.11 Tactical is a company that produces uniforms for law enforcement and fire/EMS, as well as outdoor clothing and gear. Some of the polo/tactical shirts have “Forensics” or “Crime Scene” written on the back. One respondent said that, at his agency, the supervisors wear different colored shirts so they can be easily located at the scene.
Pants include tactical pants or battle dress uniform (BDU) pants. BDUs are essentially military pants. Rothco is a company that sells this type of pants. The most common colors worn by crime scene investigators are black and navy.
Several crime scene investigators mentioned that they wore belts with various items they need at scenes, including a radio, key clip, flashlight, glove pouch, multi-tool, and knife. Some of the sworn officers had their badge and duty weapon on their belt.
When footwear was mentioned, almost everyone said they wore boots at the scene, with one respondent saying she wore slip-on shoes. Waterproof is ideal, and the only color mentioned was black.
Other clothing not mentioned above that was worn at crime scenes includes business casual clothing or a regular duty uniform. Civilian crime scene investigators at a large city police department in the state where I used to work wear black jumpsuits/overalls with the person’s name embroidered on the left lapel and “CSI” in big white letters on the back.
Tyvek suits are worn only when the scene calls for it (i.e., pretty messy).
Outerwear, such as a jacket, is worn depending on the weather (rain or colder climates). Jackets can have the name/department on them.
Hats are sometimes worn if the weather calls for it.
One respondent mentioned he wore a vest to hold extra supplies.
Entire Sample Outfit
Now that you know the pieces of a crime scene investigator outfit, let’s put them all together in a typical head-to-toe ensemble:
- Gray polo shirt with embroidered name/department
- Navy BDU pants
- Black leather belt with radio, key clip, flashlight and extra glove pouch
- Black waterproof boots
- Ball cap (weather-dependent)
When you’re describing people in your books, you want to make sure you’ve got it right. Now you have an overview of the basics and can change the colors and add/remove items as needed to come up with your own version for the characters your book.
Do you have any more questions about clothing worn by crime scene investigators? Let me know in the comments below!