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Science style and a makeup shake-up

by Laura Howes
February 21, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 6


Stylish science stores

A smiling man wears a T-shirt with the words "Did you say something? . . . Sorry, I was thinking about chemistry."
Credit: Courtesy of Brandon Presley
Chemist to a tee: Brandon C. Presley, founder of Simple Science Tees, models a recent design.

If you’re looking for a new piece of clothing to celebrate your love of science, check out Simple Science Tees and Smarty Pants Clothing. These researcher-run businesses combine science and style, and their owners want to use their stores to make science approachable.

Analytical chemist Brandon C. Presley, founder of Simple Science Tees, says he would often think of catchy science phrases that might look good on a T-shirt. So he set out to start his own company to share his ideas. The company launched in the middle of 2020, and one of the first designs tapped into a feeling that chemists stuck at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic appreciated at the time. It simply read “I’d rather be in the lab.”

Raven Baxter smiles for the camera.
Credit: Courtesy of Raven Baxter
Science with sparkle: Raven Baxter, founder of Smarty Pants Clothing, loves style and science.

To build community, Presley interacts with customers on social media and shares pictures that show a lighter side to science. “Unfortunately, a lot of people who aren’t in the sciences think that science is boring or it’s too hard,” he tells Newscripts. “And so we want to make a connection with people who are scientists and people who maybe aspire to be scientists.”

That lighter side is also something that Raven Baxter, also known as Raven the Science Maven, believes in. The molecular biologist and soon-to-be science education PhD is known online for her musical science communication videos. Baxter tells Newscripts that people who watch her videos often ask where she gets her clothes, so Baxter launched Smarty Pants Clothing in January to share her style.

The store stocks periodic table dresses, rhinestone-covered boots, and brightly colored jackets.

“People say ‘scientist’ and they imagine somebody who’s very stiff,” Baxter tells Newscripts. “And although I recognize that everyone’s not like me, I definitely wanted to make a space for people who want to wear clothes that are decked out in rhinestones head to toe and things that are sparkly that say ‘science’ on it with molecules everywhere.”

Whether you’re going to pull on a T-shirt to signal you’re up on your stoichiometry or model a molecule for your social media followers, these businesses show that science isn’t dull or unstylish.


Making more makeup

A photo of Jess N'neka wearing colorful eye shadow.
Credit: Makeup Scientist
Made up: Jess N'neka models cosmetics from her store, Makeup Scientist.

You might remember Makeup Scientist’s Sodium Fine palette from Newscripts’ 2020 holiday gift ideas. The business’s founder and CEO, Jess N’neka, has expanded the range of science-inspired makeup to include an “incubator” full of colored eyelashes and a makeup palette with a microscope-shaped mirror.

Unlike Baxter or Presley, N’neka has a degree in hospitality and management instead of science, but she has a long-term love of science. N’neka tells Newscripts that she knew she wanted an eye shadow palette that used the pun “sodium fine” even before starting her company. This palette, shaped like an Erlenmeyer flask, launched April 4, 2020, and sold out the same day. From there, she says, the inspiration has not stopped coming.

Like the other entrepreneurs Newscripts talked to, N’neka is hands on with graphics, product design, and packaging. That work takes a lot of research, she says, but it’s worth it. The Makeup Scientist store now includes science-themed lip gloss, makeup applicators, and eye shadows, with more products planned by midyear.

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