These Are the Best Aprons Chefs and Bartenders Swear By

From lightweight leather to recycled linen, these are the best aprons according to a wide variety of chefs, bartenders, and charcuterie producers.

In This Article

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Williams Sonoma Classic Stripe Apron
Williams Sonoma

When I don my apron, it transforms whatever I am wearing into my cook's uniform. No other garment or article of clothing gives me the same "I'm here to work" preparedness and mindset. I've been a cook in many different scenarios, from operating a food truck (washing all its pots, steam pans, fryer baskets, and dishes at the end of each service) to running a fast-casual restaurant. I've also had to look professional and presentable for fine dining chef residencies while wearing said apron. I demand flexibility, versatility, coverage, style (and, of course, pockets!) from my aprons, as I'm often facing the customer while performing messy tasks. Once I tie an apron around my waist, I am at work. I am on.

I'm not alone. Chefs of all walks of life have a lot to say about aprons, which is why so many of the ones on our list were designed for or by chefs. They're both sources of protection and storage, a garment that exudes personal style and uniform. Aprons can keep all your essential tools within easy reach. It's important to select an apron that suits both your body and the task at hand. How long are you wearing this apron for? Will it weigh you down or work with and not hamper your movements? There's a lot to consider, especially for investment pieces that become part of your identity at work or in the kitchen. I looked through my own kitchen (and laundry) to determine what exactly constituted the ideal apron, starting with the popular Hedley & Bennett Waxman Apron. I also talked to dozens of chefs specializing in a vast array of dishes and cuisines, asked them what gets on their aprons, and found out what makes their favorite aprons the very best.

Hedley & Bennett The Essential Apron

The Essential Apron - Blackberry

Courtesy of Hedley & Bennett

Hedley & Bennett aprons are universally adored by chefs. Many of the ones polled for this article mentioned how much they love Hedley & Bennett's 100% cotton aprons. The Waxman apron is coated in soy wax, uses 12.5 oz cotton, and has rugged leather straps. Like all Hedley & Bennett's aprons, it is readily customizable, and you can add embroidery and patches to yours. As F&W GM Michelle Edelbaum notes, "I love the durable fabric and long ties, the cute patterns and, of course, the pockets!"

Hedley & Bennett aprons come with lifetime guarantees, but pay attention to their care instructions. The Waxman apron should not be washed and should be treated to canvas wax after general wear and tear. (Other non-waxed aprons are perfectly fine in the washer, I can attest to this.) It has a fair amount of storage – pen pockets up top and hip pockets. On the pricier side, these aprons certainly last practically forever, so a Hedley & Bennett apron is a good investment apron.

Mike and Eylonah Strauss of Mike's BBQ rave about Hedley & Bennett's aprons. "We love the Waxman Apron from Hedley & Bennett in Woodland Camo, as it's very heavy duty and stain-resistant. [Ours] even have a Mikes BBQ logo on each one. [Eylonah wears] the Grateful Dead apron. This one is lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. The design is colorful and welcoming." Carolyn Nguyen of Revolution Taco is also a huge fan of the brand's essential aprons, which celebrate collaborations with other brands and artists and come in various colors and patterns. "I own just one! I've had for a while—at least six or seven years. It's comfortable for running up and down stairs, and the fabric is so light it's easy to move around in."

I was shocked that Nguyen manages to keep her Hedley & Bennett apron looking like new, considering all the tasks she juggles while wearing it. "I wear while chopping, prepping mise en place for specials, packing orders for catering. I wear it on the line all the time. For our Peking duck taco, I cure the duck for 24 hours, confit it for 6 hours, pick the meat, finish the duck on the flat top, adding plum sauce, ginger, cabbage slaw, pickled oyster mushrooms, sesame seeds—all of which get splattered onto the apron! Especially the duck fat! I wore it cooking on my food truck, too— deep frying, getting splattered by the steam tables, cleaning the truck and its deep fryers. But I just wash it in the machine and stick it in the dryer."

Chef Works Berkeley Bib Apron

Chef Works Berkeley Bib Apron

Amazon

Chef Works' Berkeley Bib Apron is made of cotton with reinforced stress points and double-needle stitching. It has chest pockets and most remarkably (to me), hip pockets! While this is not an apron that comes in a myriad of colors like the Williams Sonoma or Cayson styles (it only comes in four dark, staid colors—shades of black and dark gray), it is super reliable, professional-looking and well-designed. What sets this apron further apart from the rest are its elegant back suspenders that are attached with clips and can be easily switched out.

Keith Taylor, the President and CEO of Zachary's BBQ & Soul cannot recommend any apron more. "Hands down I have only one ride or die apron and there are no substitutions for me. The Berkeley Bib Apron, part of the Urban Collection made by Chef Works has a very simple design with a couple pockets in the right places. My favorite aprons come in some basic colors (I prefer black) made from durable denim, plus they age well and get better after multiple washes. I am hooked on the design because there is no neck strap, which was an annoying uncomfortable feature of most aprons that I have always disliked in over thirty years of being a geeky gastronaut and leading multiple kitchens. They have suspenders, they are flexible and stylish, too, while providing comfort that other cross-back style aprons just can't touch." Food trucker Chance Anies seconds these sentiments and raves about his Chef Works apron, "I'm always using spoons when cooking, so the front pocket usually has at least one metal Kunz spoon. I also like that the strings are long enough to tie in the front. I hate when an apron's ties are too short." Food trucking is an incredibly physically taxing job and Anies' Chef Works apron doesn't budge while he is "pan-frying garlic fried rice" and "stirring a rondeaux full of banana ketchup."

Price at time of publish: $47

Williams Sonoma Classic Stripe Apron

Classic Stripe Apron

Williams Sonoma

The Williams Sonoma Classic Stripe apron is indeed a classic. Made of thick cotton, its straps are the ones that get least tangled in my wash and are so well-made that they look new for many, many years. The neck strap is easily adjustable with sturdy D-rings. It's three inches longer than Cayson's Euro Bib Apron, but its coverage doesn't hamper the kitchen movements for those of us on the shorter side. You can personalize them with your name or logo, and they come in a rainbow of colors (and not just in stripes!). I always have one hanging in my home kitchen—they look as elegant on a hook as around my neck. There's no pen pocket, so they may not be ideal for a restaurant cook who needs to tote around pens and spoons for easy access from the chest, but they're perfect for the home cook, and they do have roomy double front pockets for small tools.

I personally own four of these Williams Sonoma Classic Aprons and tote them around with me as spares for when I run offsite kitchen demos and events. I met Amy Rivera Nassar of Amy's Pastelillos many years ago at a food festival she was organizing. She has run countless pop-ups for her own brand of pastelillos (Puerto Rican turnovers stuffed with all sorts of savory fillings) and worked every station front-of-house and back-of-house serving them, all while looking incredibly put-together and stylish. Like me, she is petite and needs an apron that moves well with her small frame. Nassar tells me, "My Williams Sonoma yellow and white stripe apron has been with me for years. It has kept up really well after feeding so many people and hosting so many gatherings. It is still my prep apron to this day. It was gifted to me by my mother-in-law and has been a gem. It's very sturdy, the fit is great for my height and the pockets are large enough for my needs. If you see it today, you wouldn't think I've had it for over 10 years."

Price at time of publish: $30

Fightech Leather Welding Apron with Tool Pockets

Fightech Leather Welding Apron with Tool Pockets

Amazon

No, this apron was not intended originally to be a chef's apron, but it turns out chefs adore leather aprons. The Fightech model has also been tweaked to accommodate a variety of professions, and it is popular amongst carpenters, mechanics, grill masters, woodworks, and of course, blacksmiths. This apron has capacious pockets for tools, pens, cell phones, and anything you can think of. Unlike chef aprons, it also comes with a multitude of straps, loops, and buckles —perfect for towels and hooked utensils. This is a super heavy-duty apron, so it also features padded shoulder cross-back straps, rivets at high-stress points, and double-stitching. Since this apron can carry all the tools you'd need for any job, its cross-back with a quick release buckle is an essential part of the design, distributing weight evenly across your body and making it simple to remove the apron quickly.

Jeremy Umansky of Larder is devoted to his leather welding apron. "They're unfinished and almost like suede. They're super affordable and I pay around $40 for each. There are lots of pockets and hooks to hang tongs and side towels off of. All of them are cross-back. This takes the weight off my neck —I hate weight on my neck so much, I can't wear necklaces or collared shirts. The welding apron lasts for years, and it is nearly indestructible. I've had the one I'm using right now for three years. It doesn't stain and you just wipe it to clean it. I also prefer dark tones to hide any stains." Could I wear these aprons to knock out all the dishes after a busy food truck service? "They're not totally waterproof like a rubber dishwashing apron, but they're highly water repellent."

If anything, think of wearing this welding apron as an approachable and affordable way to mimic Chef Lee Anne Wong's style. I asked Wong what her favorite apron was and immediately received a stunning portrait of a leather apron and an exuberant message, "This is a $500 leather apron with brass buckles I got from [the now-closed] Manfred's in Copenhagen." "There's a story here," I prompt her. Wong tells me, "I had just finished a 6-hour lunch at NOMA. Then had a 7pm dinner at Manfred's followed by a 10pm [nightcap] at Fiskbar. The waiters all wore these super nice aprons." Full leather aprons are super stylish and durable.

Price at time of publish: $55

Tilit Contra Chef Apron

Having regular weekly cookouts for a hundred friends at a time? Deep-frying buckets of chicken? Pumping out loaves and loaves of baguettes? Consider Tilit's Luxe Chef Apron. It is a serious beast. This apron covers you while you get the job done—no matter what the job is! It's 36 inches wide by 39 inches long, and thus, Tilit's apron with the most coverage. The apron is bib-style with an adjustable leather strap and has long canvas straps for an easy and secure front tie. It's made of 12-ounce American milled canvas, so it is a heavy-weight apron. There is a generously sized front double pocket for pens and small utensils, and there are also lower front pockets. It has a higher price point at $105, but many chefs attest that it lasts for years despite taking regular beatings.

Polling a bunch of my chef friends involved sorting through their rave reviews of Tilit's chef aprons. Pastry chef Abby Dahan crows, "I love the versatility and look of the Tilit apron. Great quality, washes easily (important for chefs!) and looks great!"

Jose Garces adds, "My absolute favorite apron is the apron that I got from Tilit. Their Luxe Chef Apron is a definite standby for me when I am grilling at home or for friends and company. Force of habit means I have at least one sharpie in my top pocket, but I also use it for my instant-read meat thermometer and plating utensils."

Price at time of publish: $92

Milk Street Chambray Apron

Milk Street Chambray Apron

Bed Bath & Beyond

This medium-weight 100% cotton chambray apron is built to last. While it doesn't have a front pen pocket, it has two generous hip pockets reinforced with metal rivets. The strap goes over the neck and is secured by a large metal grommet for which you slip a knot and adjust its placement for sizing. This rustic apron comes in two colors, a taupe shade called "Pure Cashmere" and a blue "Faded Denim."

Aimee Olexy of Talula's Table and Talula's Garden extols the virtues of this Milk Street apron.

"So simple, so reasonably priced and—most importantly—it washes beautifully! When you wear an apron daily, you have to wash an apron daily... and this apron becomes better over time. [In] the pockets, I always keep a pencil and a little notebook. That's it. I just need my to-do list. I wear this when I am portioning wheels of cheese and making cheeseboards. I can tie it nice and snug, and it never gets in the way. The color and fit are suitable serving in the dining room and working in the kitchen."

Cayson Slim Cut Euro Bib Apron

Slim Cut Euro Bib Apron

Cayson Designs

The Cayson Slim Cut Bib Aprons are designed for moving around a kitchen easily. The dimensions are a little smaller than typical bib aprons (the Euro Bib is 33 inches long and 27 inches wide) so that if you're reaching for that hot pan on the stove from across your kitchen, your arms and shoulders are unlikely to be hampered by weighty fabric. Double pen pockets are sewn with double-needle topstitching and cotton webbing to hold not just pens but essential small tools. These aprons are ultra-affordable (each iteration is just over $30) and come in a variety of colors. Cayson also designs custom aprons for restaurants, which help unify and solidify a kitchen crew's style.

While the Bib Apron is hugely popular, Cayson also makes ergonomic cross-back aprons, to better distribute the weight of the apron over one's shoulders. "My current favorite is a custom cross-back apron made by Cayson," Scott Calhoun of Ember & Ash tells me. "We gave [Cayson] our logo and some inspiration and they made us these beautiful custom embroidered cross-back aprons that are durable and super comfortable." And how does Calhoun care for his Cayson apron? "I clean mine weekly and spot clean nightly after service using sani wipes."

Price at time of publish: $32

Under NY Sky Work Apron

Work Apron

Under NY Sky

Need pockets? Under NY Sky's Work Apron has all the pockets. At an affordable price, this mid-weight apron is constructed of 8-ounce cotton twill, and its straps are reinforced with leather patches and anti-rust brass hardware. Its many utility pockets are double-stitched and great for holding all your kitchen tools. Its chest pocket stretches almost all the way across the top of the apron (you can stash your entire pen collection in it), and the three (three!) lower pockets are a generous size. This is a cross-back apron for those who dislike straps around the neck. It's easy to clean—just pop it in the washing machine on cold and hang it to dry.

"I'm a big fan of Under NY sky for being so affordable and accessible. Their aprons are really comfortable, but they're not as customizable as other brands. I don't care. They are so well made," raves bar manager Brandon Thrash. What does Thrash keep in those capacious apron pockets? "I keep pens, wine key, beer bottle opener, tweezers, lighter, jolly ranchers for snacking, temporary tattoos for when you need that extra bit of street cred."

Price at time of publish: $29

Valentich Goods Delux Chef Apron

Goods Delux Chef Apron

Valentich Goods

The Valentich Goods Deluxe Chef Apron is sized like a garment—you can order yours in small, medium, or large and choose your preferred strap style. There are three options: a classic strap that goes over the neck, a cross back, or a grommeted cross-back for those in rough-and-tumble jobs. This gray apron may not be the most customizable in terms of color, but this apron isn't about the color of its heavy-weight 11-ounce denim, it's about its storage. It has a uniquely divided full chest pocket, perfect for all your small tools, pens, wine keys, and spoons. It also features a single, slanted and generously sized hip pocket. Its care instructions may be the best yet: "We suggest caring for your apron like your favorite pair of jeans."

David Feola, also chef at Ember and Ash, is a fan. "My go-to apron is the Valentich cross back. It's light and comfortable. The way it fits is why I like it. Favorite feature is the loop below the waist for side towels." The Valentich website suggests some apron cleaning tips that should be applied to all aprons on this list: "Tie your apron straps into a loose knot before washing to prevent tangling" and "tumble dry apron on low with dry towels to prevent wrinkling."

Price at time of publish: $95

Craftmade Culinary Gangster Apron

Culinary Gangster Apron

Craftmade

Craftmade founder Kate Meier started the brand after sewing aprons for her chef sons. This thoughtful sense of design is reflected in the details of each apron. Like Valentich aprons, these are also sized like garments (Culinary Gangster comes in four sizes and three different pinstripe colors), and they'll keep you looking tailored and sharp in the kitchen. Culinary Gangster is a truly stylish piece, with strap connections reinforced with leather and four pockets trimmed with matching fabric. Again, its four pockets. This unique design has two slanted hip pockets and two separate chest pockets, keeping your pens and small utensils organized and accessible.

Jen Carroll of Spice Finch adores Craftmade aprons. "I love that this is made by a woman, and it has a mission behind it with Project Black & Blue where 50% goes to a chef in need. I also love the pockets that are on an angle like a jacket or pants instead of the pouch pocket which can sometimes look and feel bulky." Project Black & Blue acknowledges the physical toll experienced by restaurant industry workers. Its mission statement is describes how the company hopes to give back, seeking "to provide tangible assistance to the members of the service industry family so that they can maintain dignity and continue to work with a higher quality of life."

Price at time of publish: $65

Boldric Canvas Bib Apron

Canvas Bib Apron

Boldric

This very reasonably priced medium-weight, 8.5-ounce canvas apron has several unique design details, including a D-ring next to its front pocket perfect for a side towel or even hanging or clipping items to be within reach. The off-white cotton strap loops over the neck and is adjustable with a brass buckle. Simple and straightforward, it comes in fourteen colors. At 37" long, it is average in coverage in a Goldilocks way. Not too long, not too short, just right.

Pastry chef Monica Glass says, "I love the flexibility, feel, and durability of Boldric aprons. They stay fitted and move with ease and with my body as I bend to grab things from the lowboy, pick up 50-pound bags of sugar, and dance my way around the line for service. They also have super fun and bold colors that show personality in the kitchen!

The pockets are for my favorite tools—baby offsets and my prized quenelle spoons. Can't let anybody run off with those!"

Price at time of publish: $65

Finery LA Susan Feniger Chef Series Apron

Chef Apron Series

Finery LA

Finery LA has collaborated with numerous chefs to create aprons tailored to their specific jobs. Susan Feniger's Chef Series apron is a bib-style apron with rope ties, a double chest pocket, and a double waist pocket. A truly wonderful feature that makes me desperately want one is its front patch pocket sewn on the double waist pocket. It is zippered! Due to most health department regulations, chefs must remove aprons when stepping off the line to say, go to the bathroom, and small items (imagine if you keep a watch or wedding ring in your apron!) can easily be turned out of pockets and lost. This apron prevents such losses. The Chef Series aprons all benefit causes selected by chefs, and Susan Feniger's apron proceeds go towards the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Chef Jamika Pessoa raises a good point, "I like to think I cook good when I look good!" She continues, "As a chef with a keen sense of style and love of color, I like an apron that is durable with lots of pockets and a pop of color. I enjoy Susan Feniger's Chef Series apron with Finery," says chef Jamika Pessoa. She raves about this apron's style but calls it functional and is thrilled that "all of the proceeds go to a good cause."

Price at time of publish: $85

Conclusion

The apron you choose depends on the tasks you intend to use it for, as well as your own personal style. There are so many great options on this list, but one of our editors' favorites is the Hedley & Bennett Waxman Apron, made of 100% cotton and coated in soy wax for ultimate durability that lasts a lifetime.

Factors to Consider

Style

Cross back or bib?

Heavy-weight aprons (around 12-ounce canvas, for instance), loaded with all the tools needed in the kitchen, can place a lot of stress on one's neck. If you're a cook who is also constantly bending over a stove or countertop, you're even more aware of this! Cross-back straps distribute weight more evenly over the body. Slip your arms through the straps and adjust them to fit your body. If you're completing less dirty tasks and don't need the coverage and protection of a heavy-duty apron, a bib-style apron is perfectly suitable and a touch easier to wear—just swoop it over your head and tie.

Tie front or tie back?

I like a very secure front tie around the front of my waist since I like my aprons to not budge – and this is something many a line cook will also tell you. Many of the chef-designed aprons on this list also feature front ties. But remember, think about how your body responds to straps!

"My all-time favorite aprons were the classics from Cayson, but they discontinued them. Currently, I'm fond of [a custom-made apron.] I like that the straps are long and wide enough to tie around my belly," laughs Randy Rucker of River Twice.

Aprons that tie in the back are perfect for tasks like grilling, dishwashing, or any jobs that don't require running up and down steep stairs to access the walk-in or basement prep area. They're often more comfortable for stationary tasks.

Laundering

How messy are you in the kitchen? Which foods do you work with—a lot of liquids or solids? Are you a grill master, pickler, or charcuterie maker? If you're washing your apron every day like chefs Aimee Olexy or Carolyn Nguyen, you're likely looking for an apron that's a little more lightweight but still very durable. Look for well-attached, reinforced straps, especially if you're laundering frequently. These can easily get tangled with other laundry items. I clean mine at home in my own washing machine. These were the only items I didn't send off to my restaurant's laundry service but in a lingerie bag so the canvas ties don't get tangled with any other items. Tabachoy's Chance Anies laughs at me when I tell him this tip and says, "I run [my apron] in my laundry at home with my kitchen towels! I have a handful of them, so I only have to do them about once a week. I thrive in chaos, so I put them in the dryer."

Storage

What do you need to tote around the kitchen with you? My own essentials are a sharpie, a bar mop or kitchen towel, and my phone. Do you need also compartments for other things like a notepad, plating tweezers, or tasting spoons? Select an apron with the pockets for your kitchen essentials and look for durable, double-stitched pockets. Aprons see a lot of wear and tear and you don't want to lose pens through holes in your pockets!

Material

Do you want something lightweight or something heftier that gives you more protection? Linen, leather, and cotton denim or canvas are all popular materials and come in many different weights. Linen is regenerative and the most sustainable of all options. I often reach for denim or canvas aprons (the material is sturdy but still lightweight, though not so lightweight that it wrinkles and needs constant ironing). I'm also short and small, so my method of wearing an apron always involves a mid-apron fold, then a bow around the front to secure the fold against my body, so I like a medium-weight fabric that accommodates this fold. Would I do better with a shorter apron? Perhaps, but I like a generous front pocket and am not willing to sacrifice deep pockets for an apron I'm less likely to trip over. Anies disagrees with me, "I don't love canvas aprons because they stay wrinkled until they finally soften. The cotton ones come out of the dryer with fewer wrinkles and are just as durable in the long run."

Our Expertise

Kiki Aranita is a chef, food writer, and recipe developer. Having owned a food truck and restaurant, she has encountered every apron use that could possibly arise. She has dirtied and destroyed many an apron in the name of serving food inspired by her hometown of Honolulu (and afterward, washing the dishes used to make the food). She has tested products for major publications like USA Today in addition to Food & Wine. For this piece, she talked to several dozen food industry people she has encountered over the years, from chefs to fermenters.

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