The apron is a criminally underrated and under-used garment. While protecting your shirt (or your naked torso, for the more daring among us) from spattering oil is a noble cause, cooking isn’t the only occasion that’s suited for apron-wearing. They’re handy in the garden, in the garage, in the shop, and for any other activity where you’re likely to get yourself at least a little bit filthy. I like to buy ‘souvenir’ aprons when I travel, but these – although fun – are generally made of flimsy cotton that doesn’t stand up well to the repeated washing that most aprons endure, which can leave you with fading, wrinkled aprons. No one wants that. Besides, although a simple apron is a perfectly effective garment, there are a few details – like pockets – that can make life lived in an apron so much more fulfilling. With a bit of longevity in mind, as well as a bit of style, here’s my list of the 5 best aprons money can buy.
1. For the Artisan: Vanda Fine Clothing Irish Linen Apron ($50.49)
Vanda’s beautiful Irish Linen apron sports beautifully large pockets front pockets, as well as a single smaller, meat-thermometer sized pocket. Perhaps the most elegant option on this list, the color is gorgeous, and the whole thing looks so damn nice that I might be a little afraid to get it dirty.
- Elegance: 7/5 stars; a beautiful accessory suitable for any number of pursuits. Practically a piece of tailored clothing.
- Bare Skin Factor: A full 8/8, perfect for shirtless cooking when the weather’s nice; equally at home with a shirt and tie.
- Utility: 12/13; the pockets look ideal but I worry about grease spots.
2. For the Gardener: Carrier Company Cotton Drill Apron (55 GBP)
If you’re often in the garden, either digging in the dirt or hosing things off (or changing your car oil), this very, very sturdy cotton drill apron from Carrier Company is an excellent bet. It will, of course, function perfectly in the kitchen, although its slightly rougher nature begs you to wear it in the great outdoors. If you live somewhere wet, windy, or otherwise wild, this option – with its extra width and extra-long straps – is the natural choice.
- Elegance: 3/5; a true working apron suitable for working pursuits involving dirt or very hot pans
- Bare Skin Factor: 3.5 /4; may be lacking in pizzazz, although likely perfect when worn with wellies.
- Utility: 17/9; excellent pockets and excellent length make this a fantastically functional option.
3. For lovers of tortilla: La Portegna leather and water-resistant canvas apron (70 GBP)
It is no surprise that the Spanish option looks as though it would be perfectly at home in a tiled courtyard or in front of a professional range – or even with a brush and tin of shoe polish. This one hits all the right notes: hard-wearing without being dowdy, elegant without being precious; it’s the paprika your thinly-sliced potatoes so desperately need. Add the supple leather that will age over time and you have yourself an heirloom apron.
- Elegance: 17 stars; the beautiful colors offered as well as the single front pocket of beautiful, vegetable-tanned leather make this a gorgeous option.
- Bare Skin Factor: 4/6; solely due to the lovely colors and materials you may want to accessorize your apron with a fine shirt or cashmere sweater.
- Utility: 3/3; a single pocket is likely all you’ll ever need, and despite the lack of an adjustable neck strap the water-resistant canvas makes this a sure win.
4. For the Denimhead: American Native Goods Selvage Denim and Leather Apron ($185)
Are you still obsessed with six-inch selvage cuffs? Are the seats in your car stained blue from years of crocking denim? Do you lust after things like handmade knives and well-polished stones to put on your mantlepiece? Look no further, because this selvage denim and leather number is perfect for you. With one chest pocket and a leather kangaroo pocket, it has room for all of your German-made drafting tools, and after a few months of rinsing artisanal coffee grounds out of the denim you’ll have fades so nice you’ll want to wear it under your denim trucker and over your heavy jeans.
- Elegance: 2/5; made for HARD WORK, which is SERIOUS BUSINESS.
- Bare Skin Factor: 16/37; not recommended for the average shirtless person; if you are bearded and very muscular you’ll have better luck.
- Utility: 15/10; guaranteed to protect the rest of the denim you’re wearing underneath it.
5. For the Cook: Haküi Bib Apron (10,000JPY, ~100USD)
For the serious chef, or the chef who thinks they’re serious, or for the person who really wants a nice apron, look no further than this beautiful and beautifully-designed masterpiece. Featuring brilliant design details that go beyond just “a pocket,” this apron is perhaps the pinnacle of apron technology. It’s handsome, is functional, and at home in a number of environments. Keep in mind that when you inevitably by one, you’ll have to do so by email.
- Elegance: 100%; you’ll cut a fine figure anywhere you go, and depending on the color you choose you’ll be right at home in any situation, whether it involves fancy knives or seed packets. Note that it lacks some of the fun ‘details’ of the other choices in favor of a minimal appearance and raw utility.
- Bare Skin Factor: 50/43; I want to wear it right now.
- Utility: Off the charts. With numerous pockets, slits so that you can access trouser pockets, and fully adjustable straps, this is the ur-apron you’ve been dreaming of. While not suitable for welding, I struggle to think of many other household chores that would not be made instantly more satisfying through the wearing of this apron.