An apron is just as essential a cooking tool as any piece of equipment or appliance you use on the regular. Amazon is filled with plenty of $9 polyester options that will do the job just fine (i.e., protect your clothes from food spills). But to get something that’s better than just fine — something you’ll actually feel comfortable (and even stylish) wearing on the regular — we asked chefs and bartenders about their favorites. They know the brands that put a lot of thought into their designs, creating cross-back styles that don’t bulge, adding pockets you can use to keep pens and paper, and using soft fabrics and cool patterns they use to keep you comfortable and looking put-together in the kitchen. Ahead, their top picks.
The best cotton aprons
Nate Courtland, an alum of Union Square Cafe, al di là, Esca, and Montana’s Trail House, who more recently launched Hot Fire Hot Sauce in Long Island City, likes his BlueCut apron. “I wear that thing every day and it gets better with age,” he says. “The clasp in the back is crucial, so you don’t have a floppy string on your waist, dragging ladles out of the pot, or getting caught on stuff.” BlueCut, like many chef favorites, also offers custom work.
Courtland’s affordable alternative to his favorite from BlueCut is from Bragard. They’re “not one of those ‘TV appearance’ aprons,” he says, “but they look nice.” He adds that they’re intended for everyday use and he’s found them to be well-made. Anna Polonsky, founder of the food-focused strategy-and-design consultancy Polonsky & Friends, is also a fan. “They never disappoint,” she says, “and I think they’re made of the best-quality cotton on the market by far. Most bistros in Paris still use them. A classic.” Charlie Pennes, owner of White Bark Workwear, is another who echoes this same sentiment. “If you ask any chef what they always remember as their first ‘nicer apron,’ it’s probably this,” he says. “The linen helps it drape nicely so it doesn’t bunch up, and the blue color hides a lot of stains and has an association with classic French workwear.”
Jeff Seizer, who worked at Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe before moving to North Carolina to open French-American restaurants Royale Raleigh and Lucarne, loves his apron from Cayson Designs — which costs half what its competitors do. “The feel is amazing, and such good quality for the price,” he says. And in the large size, “it’s quite long and wraps around you fully. I like a long apron.”
Seizer says he has “more Tilit aprons than any other.” Tilit, run by a husband-and-wife team in New York, produces a full line of clothing for cooking, all designed with the idea that chefs need utilitarian garments, but desire and deserve handsome ones, too. Seizer calls their aprons “top-notch,” points out that the company can do custom work, and appreciates that their aprons have “lots of pockets for pens and sharpies.” (If you’re interested in a top-to-bottom cooking outfit, Seizer also recommends Tilit’s “light and casual” chef jackets.)
Many of the experts we spoke to pointed to Hedley & Bennett as being an industry favorite across the board. “I guarantee this will be the top pick,” Seizer said correctly. Courtland, as well as Shanti Church, co-owner of Talula’s Pizza in New Jersey, back him up. They come in so many styles, colors, and designs, you’re bound to find one that’s perfect for you.
For another design-forward option, Polonsky loves this new apron from Rosie Assoulin, made from dead stock of one of its signature fabrics. “It’s a great upcycling initiative while being really beautiful, like everything Rosie makes,” she says.
The best denim aprons
Susan Choi, a chef and owner of Mr. Susan cocktail bar in Berlin, tends to stock up on kitchen goods while back home in the United States, including her preferred aprons from Chef Works. “I love the Berkeley bib aprons with a cross-back with suspenders,” she says. “First, the tailoring just makes you look good, slick, and put-together; second, the suspenders are amazing, versus having something hanging off your neck.” This denim-and-red one is her current favorite.
For mixing and stirring drinks, Choi prefers this shorter Chef Works apron that keeps her from looking overdressed. “I like the bib version for the prepping and cooking,” Choi says, “but the waist one for behind the bar,” noting that you can also change out the waist ties.
For a cheaper alternative, von Oswald recommends this denim cotton Muji apron. Like many of the chefs’ preferences, it has shoulder straps, rather than an annoying neck loop.
Katie Byrum, a bartender at Studio at the Freehand Hotel, recommends Rendall Co. (formerly Jones of Boerum Hill). The six-year-old Brooklyn apron-makers are great, she says, because their products are “lightweight and some are reversible with pockets in different places, either at the waist or a breast pocket.” She adds, “Also, the fit is very flattering for women — a clean line as opposed to other aprons that bunch and bulge in awkward ways.”
The best hemp aprons
Pennes says that hemp is “the most sustainable natural fiber that exists” — just one of the reasons he’s long-loved this Japanese apron. “It’s expensive,” he admits, “but it’s really like a piece of art. You can see the attention to detail. All the hems are double stitched, which makes super straight lines. It has a bunch of pockets and beautiful embroidery. It uses the same fabric from the apron to make the straps, which is a really nice touch. It’s just a very intentional apron.”
[Editor’s note: The price of this apron is listed in yen, so the price shown here is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.]