How To Choose A Kitchen Apron

American Legend Apron

Content Table

  1. Ask yourself what you’ll be primarily using the apron for
  2. Pick a style
  3. Select the perfect fabric and color
  4. Weigh the pros and cons
  5. Frequently asked questions about aprons

There’s nothing I hate more than dirtying a perfectly clean sweater in the midst of my own personal Top Chef challenge. If any of you have ever purchased an article of clothing that is dry clean only, you know perfectly well how life-saving a good apron can be.

If you’re a chef then you already know how vital aprons are to the back of the house staff. But if you don’t work in the industry you may think that chef aprons are an unnecessary accessory best left for restaurant-level cooks, pro-grillers, and master chefs only. Don’t be fooled. Once you start rocking an apron in the kitchen, you’ll wonder how you ever cooked without one.

But how do we know which aprons are the very best of the best? How do we select the top restaurant aprons that won’t only get the job done, but will look professional level sleek? Well, it’s quite simple really. We take our cues directly from the people who know best: the chefs.

Whether you’re in search of something more traditional, a bistro apron, a cross-back bib-top apron, or even a leather apron, we’ve got you covered. We’ll walk you through the selection process and teach you a few things along the way. 

1. Ask yourself what you’ll be primarily using the apron for

Black kitchen apron on a wooden floor next to chopped food and a kitchen knife

Sous Team 6'' Apron

Before making any type of purchase it’s always the best plan of action to understand exactly what you’ll be using the item for. Otherwise, it’s easy to get swept up by the options and end up purchasing whatever looks the shiniest.

There are so many different types of aprons from bib aprons to waist aprons, to the rather pretentious sounding pinafore apron. Before we break down what all of that means, we should examine what it is we need our aprons for. First things first, what is an apron?

What does apron mean? 

Historically, aprons are defined as garments tied around the waist to protect clothing. I prefer to think of them as the culinary friend that’s always looking out for you. Aprons protect your clothes from stains, provide some extra pocket room, and make you look like you know exactly what you’re doing. 

So now that we’re clear on what an apron is, you must ask yourself why is it that you are seeking an apron? What will you be primarily using your apron for?

Are you a chef that will be cooking for large crowds? Are you a home cook who will be spending most of your apron time with an oven mitt in hand? Or do you foresee yourself as the next spit master who needs an apron to prevent all that grease from the grill from ruining your next outdoor BBQ? 

While of course aprons can be multi-use, there are specific types that lend themselves to better functionality depending on who you are and what you plan to do with said apron. For example, someone who plans to grill will likely need a thicker fabric that provides more protection.

Whereas someone who plans to use the apron while cooking for large crowds may need a personalized apron with extra pockets. Different chefs will prefer different aprons, but envisioning where you’ll be using your apron and what you’ll be doing while wearing it is the first step in finding that perfect apron that you’ll love.

2. Pick A Style

Camouflage styled kitchen apron next to kitchen knives on a wooden surface

The Kitchen Rambo Apron

In high school, we were required to take a one-unit home economics class where we learned how to sew aprons. Back then we made a basic apron: a long rectangle of fabric with a neck strap attached. But the styles of aprons have evolved since the days when public education required home economics as a high school diploma requirement.

These days you can buy bistro aprons, smock aprons, a cross-back apron, or personalized aprons that include things like extra pockets or removable straps. Let’s break these different styles down so you can better understand which apron will work best for whatever you need it to do.

Half coverage styles: 

The main difference here from those traditional bib aprons you’re imagining is that these types of aprons only cover your bottom half. Much like the name “waist apron” suggests, these types of aprons start from your waist and provide coverage often as far down as below the shin.

Bistro aprons begin at your waist but tend to cover more of your leg than the average waist apron. This type of apron style is great if you’re a bartender who needs pocket space for bottle openers, muddlers, etc. or if you’re extremely confident in the dish you are preparing. If you know how to dive, dip, duck, and dodge potential messes, have at it. But in terms of full splatter coverage in the midst of an extra messy sauté, I just don’t trust myself with them. 

Smock styles:  

Pinafore aprons and cobbler aprons fall under this category. Essentially these are aprons that cover your body like a smock. If you’ve ever watched a video of the iconic Claire from Bon Appetite’s web series Original Gourmet chances are you’ve seen a few different pinafore styles. Truthfully, she wears a variety of different aprons in her videos, but the most commonly pictured Claire (in memes) rocks the thicker strapped grey apron.

It tends to look more like a cute linen dress worn over her clothing than a bib apron. Think of any woman with a food Instagram account that regularly shares recipes and you’ll probably see a range of these types of aprons. Smock style, pinafore aprons in particular, are fantastic for people who prefer a lighter, looser fit but who still want a lot of coverage.

While these certainly make the easiest transition from the kitchen to the streets, in terms of fashion, for my personal preference they don’t offer me the type of strapped-in protection I’ve come to expect from my kitchen aprons. 

The cross-back strap bib style: 

That brings us to the cross-back style. If you have any friends who are chefs and ask them what the very best type of apron is, chances are they’ll reply: Hedley and Bennett. What is it about this particular apron that drives the chef world crazy? It’s all about the straps. From all our research and my personal experience with apron styles, it’s clear that the cross-back strap style is a regular fan favorite for a variety of reasons.

Those reasons being its ability to provide full coverage, stay on comfortably, and not leave your neck sore like other bib aprons often can. A cross-back apron works like overalls, allowing the weight to be more evenly distributed between both shoulders as it crosses in the back.

If you like putting lots of things in your pockets, chances are you’ve felt the tug of a regular apron on your neck.

This style of apron eliminates that pressure. The cross-back style is also great for someone like me who has always been the shortest in the room. The adjustable bib allows you to cater the apron to each person ensuring a better fit for all body types, no matter how big or how small. 

Two of the best aprons with this particular style are The Sous Team 6 and the cream of the crop The Culinary Commander, but we’ll explain more about them later.

The classic loop neck bib style:

This style is the most common in aprons, a tried and true classic that gets the job done in most restaurants around the world. Chefs and cooks alike often prefer this style because 1) it looks sleek and 2) it’s often more practical. While light, linen pinafore options give you a bit of freedom, and cross-back aprons give you more support, the classic loop neck style tends to withstand thicker fabrics, like waxed cotton or jean.

This is particularly important if you’re working with oils or anything that can leave a killer stain and leak through regular cotton. The loop neck hangs comfortably around the neck, especially if you don’t keep anything in your pockets.

With the extra ties around the waist that accompany most aprons of this style, the fit can also be adjusted to most body types. Take for example the very slickly named The Kitchen Rambo, with its adjustable neck strap and easy-to-tie waist. 

3. Choose the best fabric

Close up on the emblem of a Dalstrong Professional Chef's Kitchen Apron - The Night Rider

The Night Rider Apron

Next, we want to make sure you’re selecting the correct fabric for your apron. Perhaps you’re a butcher searching for an apron to cover up the splatter, or maybe you’re impressing the family with your Thanksgiving turkey carve. Maybe you’ve recently gotten really into making your own sourdough bread. Whoever you are, fabrics during the apron selection process are key.

For blood splatter or sizzling hot meat juices, you’ll want some heavy protection, whereas you’ll need something more lightweight to protect against a flour storm. With so many options of cotton aprons, linen aprons, denim aprons, and even leather it may seem hard to choose.

Think about it this way: the thicker the fabric the more protection you’ll get. While cotton blends tend to be easier to throw into the wash and clean, they also don’t protect against heavy-duty stain possibilities in the same way a heavy jean will. While the butcher or griller may want some spark protection and go with a leather or heavy denim apron, the home baker will most likely need something a bit more lightweight like good kitchen linens or a cotton blend. 

4. Weigh the pros and cons

Now that you have an idea of what you’re using your apron for, what kind of styles are available, and the importance of fabric, you’re ready to look at top picks for aprons and evaluate which one is best.

  1. Our top pick: The culinary commander

Man posing in Dalstrong Professional Chef's Kitchen Apron - The Culinary Commander with white background

This apron is as stylish as you can get. With its sleek black leather and brown leather lining, just putting this apron on demands respect. If you’re looking for high-end functionality and to show everyone that you’re in charge in the kitchen, this is the pick for you.

The Pros:

  • The adjustable cross-back bib style ensures its comfort over long periods of time and its adjustable straps make it a perfect fit for everyone.
  • It is made of top-grain Brazilian leather that is built to last. This means if you’re grilling, you can rest assured you’ll be protected from any sparks or the extra heat.
  • The pocket storage is top-notch with a space for your thermometer, an extra-large knife of your choice, a towel and tong loop, and an inner pocket to top it all. For someone who needs space for a few extra instruments, it’s a dream.
  • It just looks good. And you’ll look good in it.

 The Cons:

  • Unless you’re swimming around in gift cards or someone owes you a long-lost birthday gift the price point on this apron is higher than most. While I fully believe you get what you pay for, this high-end apron may not be for those just starting their culinary careers.
  1. Sous Team 6”

Man posing in Dalstrong Professional Chef's Kitchen Apron - Sous Team 6" with white background

This is an equally fantastic pick for those that want to appear stylish and efficient. With a ton of pocket space, the same cross-back straps, and a clean, all-black design, I can only imagine calmly yelling out kitchen orders in this apron.

The Pros:

  • The same adjustable cross-back bib style is key for saving your neck, literally. It evenly distributes weight across your shoulders and ensures your work longevity.
  • This apron is made of waxed canvas with a water repellent coating, meaning it’s both flexible and withstanding. The coating protects against stains, while the canvas is a bit more breathable than its leather counterpart.
  • The pocket storage in this apron is arguably better than any other with two 2 chest pockets, two huge outer front pockets, a kangaroo pocket, and a place for your towel and tong. They really had the utensil carrier on their mind.
  • The all-black apron with leather straps looks quite sharp on any cook and is especially loved by those who love all black aprons. 

The Cons:

  • Again I admit this particular apron is pricier than others, but to me the cross-back straps make it worth your while.
  1. The Kitchen Rambo

Man poses in Dalstrong Professional Chef's Kitchen Apron - The Kitchen Rambo with white background

In spite of its camouflage print, this is the perfect apron for anyone seeking a lighter, more comfortable fit. With its cotton fabric, this apron is easy to clean, easy to store, and perfect for those lighter messes.

The Pros:

  • Though not as comfortable as a cross-back style, the adjustable neck strap and easy-tie waist stands the test of time and comfort we’ve come to expect from a classic loop neck bib style apron.
  • This apron is made of poly-cotton meaning it’s far more breathable and lighter than most chef aprons. The perfect apron for a baker or chef who doesn’t need to protect against high heat or sparks. 
  • It has a great bang for its buck and beats its competitors on the budget front.

The Cons:

  • While I love the opportunities this presents for, “Woah how did you see me?” dad jokes, the print is not a one size fits all in terms of style preferences.
  • This apron still offers ample pocket space with three pockets on the front but has slightly less pocket room than the former two mentioned above.
  1. The Gandalf

Man poses in Dalstrong Professional Chef's Kitchen Apron - The Gandalf with white background

    While the name alone should entice you to buy this apron, the look of it speaks for itself. With its denim fabric, clean and crisp stripe accents, and water repellent coating this is one fantastic apron. I’d even argue it’s the safest pick if you’re purchasing an apron for a friend. (Though a man is pictured above, this is a great apron for women too)

    The Pros: 

    • This is the type of apron built to last and to look good while doing it. With its classic loop neck, adjustable leather straps, 3 front pockets, and all grey jean fabric with a light grey stripe, it looks sharp in a very approachable way.
    • The denim ensures the longevity of this apron and its resistance to intense stains.
    • The price is right with a stellar value.

    The Cons:

    • While denim is great, it’s not as strong at resisting heat as leather, nor as lightweight as cotton. That said, it’s a very low maintenance material in terms of cleaning. 
    1. The Night Rider

    Man poses in Dalstrong Professional Chef's Kitchen Apron - The Night Rider with white background

      Much like The Gandalf, this apron is a great price point for a quality apron. With its classy black denim and grey stripe accents, it’s bound to make any chef look good. 

      The Pros:

      • This apron is comfortable and chic with a classic loop neck and adjustable leather straps, 3 front pockets, and an easy-to-tie waist strap.
      • Also made of denim, with a water repellent coating you can enjoy the best of both worlds: more breathable fabric with the same no-stain durability.
      • Black aprons or darker fabric are easier to keep clean. 

      The Cons:

      • While the look is stellar and the price is right, it has less pocket space than a few others and may slightly bother your neck more than any cross-backed style would.
      1. American Legend

      Dalstrong Professional Chef's Kitchen Apron - American Legend with white background

        This is the type of apron you’d want to see at any country’s Independence Day celebration. It screams, “I know how to handle flipping a good steak.”

         The Pros: 

        • This apron is made of ultra-premium 100% blue denim so you know it’ll last for generations to come.
        • The style is a tried and true classic, in terms of both the apron and the fabric. It will fit in with any industrial-style restaurant décor or pretty much any space at all.
        • It has pocket space, adjustable straps, and an easy-to-tie waste so you know it’ll feel good as you serve the neighborhood block party.

        The Cons:

        • The classic Southern BBQ style is not the top choice for everyone. While it would certainly complement a room, I  would personally opt for a more interesting look with either the all-black Night Rider or classy grey Gandalf colors.

        5. Frequently asked questions

        Which apron is best? 

        This depends entirely on personal style preference, how much you want to spend, and what you’ll be using the apron for. As someone who has had trouble finding a good fitting apron in the past, however, I can’t recommend a cross-back strap, like the Sous Team 6” enough.

        How do I clean my apron?

        This depends on the apron, but most can be put in a washing machine with other kitchen linens. Always follow the directions on the tag and keep in mind you may want to wash anything new, at least for the first few times, by itself. I always hang dry my aprons, but more out of convenience than necessity. 

        What is another word for apron? 

        Pinafore is another word for apron, along with bib! Basically, any type of fabric that covers you to protect your clothing could technically be another word for apron.

        What is a medical apron?

        This is any type of covering that protects clothing during surgery. Essentially it’s an apron but for medical things!

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        Written by Monique Nicholas
        Based in Vancouver, Monique enjoys jumping into bodies of water, sending postcards, and adding lemon to every single one of her dishes.