All You Need To Know About Leather Aprons

When should aprons be worn?

An apron is designed to protect your clothing from substances which might splash onto it during an activity.  Tradesmen were once known as apron men because they habitually wore an apron to protect their clothing.  Aprons have also been used for generations in the kitchen in order to protect clothing from food stains or oil splashes.  An apron should be worn in any situation where you wish to protect your clothes from substances which may stain or damage them.

Aprons for welding

Welding without adequate protection will result in serious burns.  A full leather apron provides protection from sparks, slag and heat and is a key component of a welder’s equipment.

Aprons for painting

Aprons have been used by artists for centuries.  Not only does the apron protect the artist’s clothing from paint splashes, its pockets are also a convenient way to hold brushes, palette knives and tubes of paint.

Aprons for cooking

This is the activity, which is now most closely associated with the apron, although a range of other uses pre-date its appearance in the kitchen.  By the late 20th Century the kitchen apron was seen to represent constraint and the imprisoning of women in the kitchen, but it is now very much back in favour and flourishes in a bewildering variety of styles and prints.  The beauty of an apron is that you can do something quite messy without having to wear specialist clothing and it can be donned or doffed in an instant.

Aprons for men

Originally, aprons were worn predominantly by men: blacksmiths, stone masons, butchers and barbers and a variety of other trades all had their particular style and colour of apron.  In the 20th Century the apron came to be seen as a garment worn by women in the kitchen.  Now, you are more likely to see an apron being worn by a bearded, tattooed, muscular male barista than by a woman in the kitchen.  Men have adopted aprons, particularly leather aprons, for working with food and drink.  The sight of a bartender in a leather apron is a sure sign of a hipster bar.

How to wear an apron

There are a number of different apron styles but the most common is the full- length apron with a neck loop and waist ties. If the neck loop is not fixed, you will need to tie this first.  The apron should cover the top of your clothing, but it should not be constraining in any way.  Cross the waist ties at your back and tie them in a bow at the front, not so tight as to be uncomfortable but tight enough to prevent the apron from getting in the way of your work.

Aprons without ties

Cross back, no tie aprons are slipped on over the head and do not require any tying.  The lack of ties makes these aprons a less snug fit and therefore you need to ensure that the apron is the right size.

Aprons without a neck strap

The traditional apron features a neck strap.  If the apron has pockets, the weight of the pockets’ contents will pull on the neck strap and cause it to ride up over a collar and create discomfort.  A cross back design dispenses with the neck strap in favour of adjustable straps which rest on the shoulders and cross at the back.  Manufacturers claim that this design is more comfortable and better for your posture.

Aprons without bibs

Aprons without bibs are the oldest form of apron design.  A sheet of material is tied around the waist to provide protection to the front of the legs.  This design is only practical if the activity involved is only likely to result in splashes to below the waist.

Aprons with and without pockets

Pockets in aprons provide swift, easy access to tools or accessories however, too much weight in apron pockets will pull on the neck loop and cause discomfort.  Chefs’ aprons often don’t have pockets because the apron is there to do one job only and that is to keep the chef clean and not get in the way.

Aprons with sleeves

Aprons with sleeves are required when the work is particularly messy, the materials involved are toxic or where high levels of hygiene are necessary.

Aprons with leather straps

Aprons made from material such as canvas often feature leather straps for the neck and waist ties.  Leather straps are chosen because they are strong, durable and comfortable to wear.

Aprons with ruffles

Ruffles on an apron transform it from a utility garment to an ornamental one.  The ruffle has traditionally been seen as a feminine addition.  The pinafore, as worn by Alice in Wonderland, was a popular decorative/protective garment for girls but ruffles are also a feature of aprons for women.  The ‘hostess’ aprons of the forties and fifties deployed textured fabrics and plenty of frills and were more of a fashion garment than a utility one.  Aprons with ruffles are once again available but their owners probably wear them with a certain sense of post-modern irony.

Aprons with a cap

Chefs’ aprons are usually worn in conjunction with a hat or cap in order to ensure that loose hair does not contaminate the food.  In a domestic setting caps or hats worn with aprons are only usually done so in a spirit of jokiness.

Aprons with a towel loop

When working in the kitchen it is convenient to have a tea towel close at hand, either for wiping spills or picking up hot dishes.  For this reason, many aprons, intended for use in the kitchen, feature a towel loop.  The towel loop means that you don’t have to look around for a towel and that the towel can be used without the need to remove it from the loop.

Aprons with a bib

A bib apron provides maximum protection to the front of the body, whilst leaving the arms free.  A bib apron is an ancient design which has never lost its simple functionality and convenience.

Aprons with shoulder straps

With a shoulder strap apron, the weight of the apron and more importantly anything you may be carrying in the pockets, rests on the shoulders rather than the neck.  This design lacks the pleasing simplicity of a neck hoop apron but if well fitted it is, arguably, more comfortable to wear.

Aprons with a cross-over back

Another alternative to an apron with a neck hoop is a cross-over design with adjustable straps which cross in the middle of the back.  As with shoulder straps, the intention behind this design is to give greater comfort, however, unless you are carrying lead weights in the pockets it seems unlikely that a neck hoop apron would ever be uncomfortable.

Aprons with long sleeves

Aprons with long sleeves provide additional protection and consequently they are used when the substances involved are either very messy or toxic.  Primary school children are often provided with long sleeved aprons during painting classes.

Aprons with frills

Like aprons with ruffles, aprons with frills have long been associated with women playing the role of hostess, where the purpose of the apron is to signify a role rather than provide protection.  Popular in the fifties this style of apron came to represent a negative stereotype of women in the kitchen.  Its resurgence has been driven by its retro chic appeal and it is now worn by women and men with a playful sense of irony.

Aprons with a beer can holder

For much of the 20th Century the domestic kitchen apron was predominantly a female garment.  The rise in popularity of barbecues gave men an acceptable domestic role in the preparation of food.  An apron is a practical necessity when barbecuing and in order to make the garment more masculine a beer can holder was added, because once upon a time, only men drank beer.

How to wash an apron

How you wash an apron is dependent on the material from which it is made.  A leather apron should never be washed, only wiped with a damp cloth.  Aprons with leather straps or neck hoops may be washed but the leather should be treated with conditioner afterwards in order to replace lost oils.  Begin by reading the washing instructions on your apron.  Soak the apron in soapy water for thirty minutes prior to washing.  Stubborn stains can be removed by applying lemon juice and then rubbing the area with salt.  Tie the apron strings in a bow before machine washing, in order to prevent tangling.  Do not put stained fabrics in a dryer because this will fix the stain. For stubborn stains, rewashing the apron may be necessary.

How to make an apron

There are a number of guides, of varying complexity, available on the internet, but the simplest form of apron that you can make is a waist apron or what is known in the UK as a ‘pinny’.  To make this simple apron you need fabric of sufficient dimension to cover the front of your legs and as far down them as you wish.  You will need to attach ties at the waist by which the apron is secured.  These could be glued, stapled or sewn.

How thick are aprons?

The thickness of an apron will depend on the purpose for which it is intended.  A welding apron, which must provide protection from sparks and molten metal, will usually be made from thick full grain leather whereas an apron intended for light domestic use need only be light cotton.

How to make a pattern without a pattern and without sewing

A great way to upcycle an old pair of jeans is to make them into a waist apron.  Cut the jeans through the inseam, about an inch below the back pockets.  Remove the front of the jeans and zip, leaving the waistband and button in place.  Instant, almost, apron.

Embroidered aprons

Though the apron is principally a utility garment, since at least the 1500s it has also been used to signify wealth and status.  Embroidered, ornate aprons were worn by wealthy and upper-class women as a badge of wealth and even the servants of wealthy households wore embroidered aprons as a reflection of their employer’s status.  Today, embroidered aprons are available for domestic use and are used as a form of corporate advertising by restaurants and the service sector.

Aprons with logos

Just like T shirts, aprons are available with thousands of different humorous or inspirational logos.

Aprons with a custom logo

Restaurants and catering companies use aprons bearing a custom logo in order to promote their business.

Personalized aprons with your name on

Personalized gifts are an extremely popular and personalized aprons are a useful and inexpensive example of this trend.

Aprons you can write on

These white aprons are sold with coloured marker pens so that you can design your own apron illustration or text.  When the apron is dirty the colours come out in the wash and you can start in on a new design.

Aprons you can decorate

White bib aprons serve as a blank canvas for you to decorate.  This can be done with marker pens, paint, embroidery or iron on decals.

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