The Four Apron Styles (and Which You Should Choose)

The Four Apron Styles (and Which You Should Choose)

Think aprons are for the weak? Incorrect: Aprons are for the brave and tidy. Gone are the days of ruffled (well, ruffles can stay) and un-absorbent aprons—it’s time to usher in the era of versatile, practical, and pretty damn fresh specimens. Although they all protect you and your clothes, not all aprons fit the same way on every body. There are different styles for a reason. At the grill, what’s comfortable for a linebacker is likely going to be different for a ballerina.

Picking an apron is a matter of the fit as much as which style you prefer aesthetically. You can love the color or the pattern, but if you have to keep yanking down the waist or hiking up the straps, you’re never going to put it on again, so get one that sits right. 

The bib apron

I saved the best for first—the best one for me, anyway. The bib apron is perhaps the most recognizable, with a full wraparound bottom section secured with straps, and an upper section that covers your chest, secured with a single strap that loops around your neck. It’s my favorite one to wear because I like a lot of coverage from splatter. The neck can usually be adjusted, and I like the chest coverage to come up pretty much to my collarbone.

Some bib aprons have fixed neck straps, which is fine if you like the fit as-is, but they don’t work for me. I’ve found that aprons are usually built for the male body so the waist straps sit too low, and the bib portion kind of flops out like a cowl neck. No good. I recommend looking for one with an adjustable buckle for the neck strap. If you like to have the waist straps cinch higher and the neck more snug, shortening up that upper strap will solve the problem completely. 

The cross-back apron

Sometimes having something hooked around the back of your neck feels like a terrible nuisance, or the loop isn’t large enough to easily fit over your head. If that’s the case, look into the cross-back style apron. The covering section is the same as the bib style apron but there’s no neck loop. Instead, there are only two straps. They’re attached at the top of the chest, cross behind your back and loop through the hip section. From there you can tighten and tie it in the back, or in the front if you have excess.

This kind of apron is great if you carry a lot of heavy stuff in the pockets of your apron, so the weight pulls at the shoulders instead of your neck. I don’t prefer this style because the straps tend to slide off my shoulders while I cook and if my hands are dirty, it’s a real pain in the ass to fix the strap. If you have broader shoulders than I, you probably won’t have the same strap issues. Be warned: You have to slip the cross-back over your head every time, or else you have to restring it while it’s on, and that’s a bit annoying. 

The half apron

Think of just chopping off the top, chest section of a bib apron—that’s a half apron. The half apron is designed to protect your body and clothes from the waist—or hips—down, depending on where you like it to sit. This style is good if aprons around your chest feel constricting, or maybe you only ever splash food from the waist down. It’s great if you do a lot of low prep work, or cooking that’s done out of the kitchen. Most kitchen cooking happens at counter height, so if you’re cleaning fish while sitting, or you cook on a low outdoor wok, you might be more comfortable in a half apron. Your arms feel free, and there’s nothing hanging around your neck to get in your way. 

I don’t want to ruin it for the half-apron purveyors of the world, but you can also fold a bib apron in half and just wear it like a half apron. You know. If you want to test it out first.

The smock

Something about a smock just looks cozy to me. I know the whole point of an apron is to be actively doing something, and this style manages to be functional while still being entirely approachable. A smock doesn’t have straps like the others. Nothing to buckle and tighten here, or loop through there. Instead, the design features something more like arm holes and an open back. It’s like wearing a loose, open-back shirt. 

Smocks have plenty of coverage to protect you and your clothing from top to bottom. It’s a good option if you feel like straps never sit right when you tie them around your hips or waist. However, there’s nothing that keeps the smock secured to your lower body, so if you cook or prep while bent over a smock will gap and possibly get in the food you’re working with, or on the cooking surface. 

These four apron styles are universal for many different activities and materials. Heavier materials will be better for protection, like when you’re working with hot grills or oil splatter, and lighter fabrics can be more comfortable for baking and more general protection. 

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