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This is Stuff We Swear By, a series in which our editors expound on an item they use (and love) on a daily (or near-daily) basis.
Description: A cooking apron that’s made specifically to withstand the demands of a professional kitchen, but that translates perfectly into the home, and is designed so that wearing it isn’t a chore but a delight. I personally own the Denver style, done up in a caramel-colored cotton canvas with navy blue straps. According to Hedley & Bennett it’s their most popular style, but the options they have available are insanely varied, include those with tougher materials (like waxed canvas) and zanier designs (lemon and national park prints), and they always seem to have some new outta-left-field collaboration (Grateful Dead and Sesame Street).
How I use it: Before I took ownership of this trusty apron, I did own another: a novelty piece of merch from the musical Something Rotten! which I kept in a drawer and only wore when making omelets (IYKYK). Now, anytime I’m cooking something more involved than toast, I grab my Hedley & Bennett apron from a hook where it hangs in my kitchen and tie it around my waist. When I inevitably get grease, soup or other kitchen stains on it, it goes in the wash on cold and then I hang dry it. At first it did feel like just another annoying thing to remember, but now it’s second nature, and my wardrobe has never looked better (more on that below).
Why I swear by it: To sell products to men, lots of brands like to highlight that their gear is overbuilt and designed to ludicrous standards. This backpack can withstand explosives and was tested by ex-Marines, or this watch was brought to the deepest, darkest part of the ocean floor by James Cameron so he can keep putting off making Avatar 2. (This is our wheelhouse here at InsideHook, so believe me when I say that’s barely an exaggeration.) But the thing is, you probably don’t need a military-grade backpack or a watch that withstands more than the deep end of the pool. You do, however, need an apron that can withstand a restaurant kitchen.
That’s the promise of Hedley & Bennett, a company that’s been around for a decade now but that I first took notice of at the beginning of the pandemic when I was watching tons of cooking videos on YouTube and everyone seemed to be wearing aprons with the brand’s signature ampersand on them. It wasn’t these celebrity (and micro-celebrity) chefs who sold me on these aprons, though. If anything they put me off getting one for a while, because why would I need something the pros use?
Then in the midst of my pandemic-induced cooking spree it occurred to me, when I found myself spot-cleaning turmeric stew, melted chocolate and grease splatter stains from my clothes, that there is a better way to live. Donning my H&B apron whenever I’m in the kitchen has proved to be that way. Sure, I could have stuck with my novelty apron, something I already owned, but there’s no chance I (or most normal people for that matter) was going to stick to my apron routine when my wife and I have people over for dinner if said apron makes me look like a bumbling dad on a sitcom or my grandmother, which seem to be the two demographics for the majority of aprons available elsewhere.
The Denver style from H&B looks great on me and my wife loves it too, so in the sartorial department I recommend it for anyone and everyone, even people who are looking for something larger than their standard apron dimensions, because the company offers a line of Big Aprons. Besides the photogenic styling, which seems to be the easy part, it’s the specific details added by cooks — ones us amateaur chefs wouldn’t think of — that make this a non-negotiable kitchen essential. There’s the long waist strap so you can tie it behind or in the front (I prefer the former so I can more easily use the front pockets), the hefty fabric which keeps your clothes safe but doesn’t weigh you down, and the loop on the right side for a towel, which is better than using your apron as a towel, though it goes in the wash easy enough. Also better than Antoni Porowski’s Queer Eye tip of throwing a towel over your shoulder.
If you’re not already living the apron lifestyle, you’re probably thinking, I’ve come this far so why do I need to start wearing one now? It’s a fine argument. But if I came over to your house right now, I bet I’d find T-shirts, button-ups, jeans and khakis that have been demoted to weekend, lounge and around-the-house wear because of cooking stains. You absolutely cannot go through life cooking, baking and grilling (yes, these handle normal kitchen duty as well as summertime charcoal stoking) without putting your wardrobe in jeopardy. Unless, of course, you do as I do and pick up the king of aprons.
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