Whether you’re grilling, baking, cooking, bartending, or pursuing any another potentially messy culinary hobby, a high quality apron is a good look. Aprons protect your kitchen fit and provide both pockets and a sense of purpose. Countertop battles demand appropriate armor. That said, many aprons aren’t made to fit men or to elicit the sort of “Yes Chef!” response every man with a sous vide desires. The best aprons for men take a bit of effort to find.
The assortment of available aprons reflect the changing politics of food preparation in the home. Cooking at home was the province of women, and cooking professionally a job people did for money. The rise of celebrity chefs and foodie culture have masculinized cooking at home, but style is a lagging indicator. Lots of “Kiss the Cook” nonsense. Lots of grilling stuff marketed as “rugged.” Fewer options for folks going for a more Eric Ripert or Alain Ducasse vibe.
What the Experts Say
Mixologist Paul Kushner of My Bartender says that in his line of work it’s key to have an apron that looks good but is also functional. While you might not have a steady stream of bar patrons coming up to you at home or an immense need for twizzle straws, you should have pockets for accouterments. This is especially handy if you’re cooking with a drink in hand (highly recommended).
Rod Gray, the president of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and former competitive barbecue champion, adds that coverage matters as well. Many grillers are on the bigger side and have embraced brands with non-standard sizing. He urges men to go bigger if they work around fire. Aprons insulate. That’s specifically true of aprons made from slightly thicker fabrics.
Restaurateur Kam Talebi of Minneapolis restaurant Butcher’s Tale says that he opts for a waxed canvas apron because it’s durable and repels liquids yet remains comfortable enough to wear every day. Experienced pastry chef Norah Clark of Yummy Taste Food, on the other hand, wears a cotton-linen blend apron that she prefers because it’s breathable, lightweight, and easy to clean. Those are the two best options depending on what’s happening in the kitchen.
Very few chefs wear leather aprons. That’s more of a blacksmith thing.
hedley & bennett Crossback Apron
Walk into a hip restaurant in any city and America and you’ll probably spot the hedley & bennett ampersand logo in the kitchen. The brand’s apron has quickly become a favorite due to its goldilocks nature; the eight-ounce cotton twill fabric is thick enough to stay in place and offer protection from spills and splatters but thin enough not to weigh down even the most active professional chef.
A trio of pockets—one chest, two waist— offer plenty of flexible storage for whatever tools you might need on your person. Along with the crossback straps, the pockets are attached with a heavy stitch that feels solid. It all adds up to a very trendy apron, but one whose high quality (backed up by a lifetime guarantee) means it will last even if that popularity eventually wanes.
Carhartt Firm Duck Apron
This is the apron the mixologist Kushner wears, not least of all because the pockets let him walk around fully armed with bar tools. “I can move along the bar to prepare drinks in front of customers instead of having to move to a tool station for every drink,” he says. Beyond the pockets, this 12-ounce cotton duck fabric apron does what everything Carhartt makes does: look good (in black or Carhartt brown) and stand up to whatever you can throw at it.
Rough Linen The Linen Half Apron
Steel yourself for some ripe hypocrisy: sometimes the right apron is one that offers less coverage. One such choice is this half apron from Rough Linen, a lightweight option that only covers your legs. That makes it a good fit for a lot of things: spending lots of time in a hot kitchen and looking like a Parisian waiter as you serve your guests among them.
Hudson Durable Goods Heavy Duty Waxed Canvas Work Apron
The 16-ounce fabric of this apron makes it the heaviest, thickest option on this list. If you value durability over flexibility, it’s a great choice. Restaurateur Talebi wears this apron because the waxed canvas will “last me the rest of my life” even with everyday use.
“Even if I do manage to break a stitch or burn a hole in it, it is worth patching,” he says. “I get to keep a seamstress in business instead of buying a series of cheap aprons.” It’s a more sustainable choice that also happens to be more satisfying.
Crate & Barrel Chambray Grey Cooking Apron with Pocket
On the other end of the spectrum sits this lightweight chambray apron. It’s not built to last a lifetime, but it is built to be both comfortable (cotton linen-blend that’s enzyme washed for softness) and handsome (the classic chambray pairs nicely with the leather strap and hook). If you want an airy, non-fussy apron that doesn’t need to take a serious beating, it’s a great choice.
Food 52 Five Two Ultimate Apron with Built-In Pot Holders
This 100 percent cotton apron has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, a feat that’s doubly impressive considering aprons don’t have sleeves. There are a couple of potholder pockets hidden on the backside of the bottom of the apron, and moving up from there you’ll find a conversion chart printed inside one of the lower pockets. It’s those kinds of clever touches that, along with its accessible price tag, make this apron from Food 52’s house brand worth considering.
Dutchdeluxes Zipper Style Apron
Do you need a full-grain leather apron handmade in Morocco? Almost certainly not. But do you kind of want a full-grain leather apron handmade in Morocco? It would be weird if you didn’t. Concerns about weight, cost, and sweatiness aside, this apron is a gorgeous objet d’art that looks even better as you use it and a natural patina forms. The transparent water-repellent coating and zippered chest pocket mean that it’s not completely ornamental, but even if you aren’t quite hardcore enough to need it there’s a lot to love about this apron.
Puebco Vintage Tent Fabric Apron
Repurposing old tents into aprons is a great way to make sustainable, one-of-a-kind garments that are nevertheless well-built and durable. That’s exactly what Puebco, a Japanese brand founded in 2007, has done as part of its mission to create products out of recycled materials that already have their own stories. It’s hard to think of a more appropriate apron to wear while preparing food in the great outdoors, whether it’s tending to the smoker in your backyard or cooking over an open fire in the middle of the woods.
Frequently Asked Questions About Aprons
Who should wear an apron?
Home cooks, bakers, and mixologists should all wear kitchen aprons, but there are also special aprons for other hobbyists like woodworkers and potters.
What do aprons do?
On the most basic level, aprons create a barrier between whatever messy activity you’re pursuing and the clothes you’re wearing.
What are aprons made of?
Most aprons are made of fabric, be it a lightweight cotton, airy linen, or heavier canvas, but there are also leather aprons on the market at higher price points.