Does everyone still remember when we wore aprons?
I got to thinking the other day about aprons. This may sound silly to most people, but if the name of this blog tells you anything, this is not out of the ordinary for me. When I moved to Birmingham this past summer, and I did not think to bring an apron with me. I know I have a few stashed somewhere deep in a kitchen drawer at my parent’s house, but nowhere on the long packing list I created before moving did it say “apron”. I would venture a guess that most 20-something/Millenial-types do not own an apron, and I am sure most people in the United States do not use aprons when they cook. So, randomly the other day, I was somehow reminded about aprons. And now I am going to remind you.
(n) outer protective garment worn on the front of the body and ties in the back
The early aprons were worn by laborers to protect their clothing while they worked. Think bread bakers, wood workers, blacksmiths, kitchen workers, maids, etc. Similar to chefs wearing white jackets, a white apron is an outward sign that if the worker maintains an apron free from stains and discolorations, they are doing their job well. While this probably wasn’t as easy for some of the aforementioned occupations, the white apron of the kitchen is a well-known symbol.
Aprons have evolved greatly in their design over the centuries. What was once simply a white cloth hung over clothing is now a canvas for creativity that can display the unique personality of the individual donning it. A brief history of the evolving styles of aprons is reported by Flirty Aprons:
No frills or ruffles here, just plain fabric to protect garments while cleaning and cooking.
The 1920-30′s they began getting a little creative with patterns and printed material. However they were still more reserved, simple and long in design.
In the 40-50′s aprons were popular with wide shoulders and the bowtie in the back began. This is the era that the media portrayed the “perfect housewife” in an apron at all times, making them increase in popularity.
Smocking became popular in the 60′s & 70′s, along with a fuller skirted bottom and smaller waistline. However with the invention of washing machine and clothes being made and sold at cheaper prices, aprons slowly started to lose popularity after this generation.
Aprons weren’t as popular or used as frequently which caused the apron to go into a fashion slump. There wasn’t a demand for aprons or new styles. As you can see, they slowly started regressing from fashionable to sensible.
Aprons are making a come back! Featuring trendy prints and flattering patterns they have become not only an accessory but also a fashion statement. They attract all generations from the young and modern, classy and fashionable, to the vintage lovers of romantic past times. Both fashionable and sensible, they are growing in popularity.
I am only scratching the surface on the topic of aprons (I realize how nerdy I sound), as it is a garment that stretches into areas well beyond that of food purposes. However, it is of note that aprons have fallen out of favor in the past several years due to the rise of the feminist movement. To many who fall in this camp, the apron is seen as the quintessential housewife uniform which dooms a wife to forever cook and clean without learning her true potential beyond the home’s four walls. An unfortunate stigma, however not without merit, the view of aprons in our modern world is muddled. Additionally, cooking is not as laborious or involved a task as it used to be, and the need for aprons to protect clothing during the cooking process has fallen to the wayside.
And so today I ask: Where have all the aprons gone? Though maybe the better questions are: Why have all the aprons gone? Have we decided that aprons are no longer necessary? Or, have they subconsciously slipped from our memory, either due to falling into poor favor or simply due to disuse? These are the questions that keep a food brainiac like myself up at night.
A Case for Aprons
So what’s the big deal? Why am I making you think so much about this simple garment? Why does it matter today? I want to make a case for aprons.
The fact that we have thrown aside our aprons symbolizes how we have thrown aside our meal integrity. Bold, I know, but bear with me.
When donning an apron, you take on the persona of someone who is truly about to engage in what they are doing (i.e. cooking). Just as how a superhero puts on their cape before heading off to fight crime, putting on an apron prepares you for the act of cooking. This extra piece of clothing plays an important role in the coming event. It is to say that the meal you are about to prepare will be made with intention, care, and confidence. It is the uniform of the kitchen.
If we continue to shed the apron, we allow ourselves to take a step back and disengage from the cooking process. And in an era where microwave meals and fast food are common dinner trends, we cannot afford to take anymore steps back.
So go find your old apron or buy a new one. Get it in white or try a more creative style. Whichever you choose, I guarantee your cooking experience will be transcended to a new level of creativity, passion, and deliciousness.