What Kind of Material Is Chef’s Clothing Made From?

When we hear the word “chef,” we all get the same stereotypical image in our head: a big, broad Italian man dressed in all white, with a curly mustachio and a tall hat.


But cutting through the Hollywood baloney, the most iconic image of a true chef is not the hat – what is all that height even good for, anyway? Instead, it’s the apron.

A chef’s apron is unquestionably useful, both to protect clothing from splashes and spills, as well as to substitute for other kitchen tools. An apron can serve as a pair of hot pads, a hand towel, or even a third hand for holding kitchen utensils.

There’s no doubt that a good apron is a staple in any chef’s kitchen, and you can find bib aprons in all shapes and sizes. The most commonly used aprons are probably bib aprons, which have a loop (or “bib”) around the neck and extend down to the knee. Bib aprons offer the most protection and functionality.

Most of the bib aprons you’ll see in stores are cheap, and feature some silly phrase like “kiss the cook” or my personal favorite, (being Italian), “I don’t need a recipe, I’m Italian.”

It’s even possible to make your own apron. On her website, Martha Stewart provides a template for cutting your own bib apron from wholesale fabric.

Now making your own apron certainly seems like a tall order. Not only does it take a certain amount of arts & crafts ability, but it’s also a bit of a fashion statement! Rachael Ray’s blog recently featured an article about how fashionable bib aprons can be and how integral for dinner party decorum.

But the idea of “cooking up” your own apron from scratch begs an even bigger question: what type of fabric should you use? And even when purchasing an apron, the question remains: What type of material is chef’s clothing made from?

While major chef wear suppliers will have their own opinions on what you should buy, the more important thing is to know what you intend to use the apron for.

Let’s take a look at the top three factors chefs take into account when selecting their clothing materials.

1.      Water-Resistance

The most important factor in selecting a material for your chef wear is how much water you’re dealing with. For kitchen jobs that have the potential to get very messy with sauces and other liquids, a water-resistant material like rubber or plastic is a good option. For drier jobs like some baking projects, you can get away with cotton or muslin.

2.      Durability

The kitchen can be a hostile environment for fabric. Between heat, flames, knives, sharp edges, and liquids of varying acidity, a fabric needs to be pretty tough to hold up under pressure. Leather is certainly the most durable and long-lasting fabric, along with some types of rubber, though a high-count polyester might do just as well.

The other factor that impacts durability is your washing machine. For most people, the first place an apron goes after a kitchen job is to the laundry room, and cheaper cotton fabrics have the potential to shrink after several washes. Depending on how often you intend to use your apron and for what kinds of jobs, you may need a more or less durable material.

3.      Feel

By ‘feel’ we mean both looks and comfort: A hazmat suit would certainly protect you from getting dirty better than any apron, but would you enjoy wearing it?

Fabrics that stain or wrinkle easily can start to look bad after little use, so that could be another strike against cheaper cotton aprons. However, a primarily rubber or leather apron can be heavy and uncomfortable. To compromise between these two, a cotton base lined with thin rubber is often a good solution, or a high-count polyester.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide what type of material you need for your chef’s clothing. In fact, the best chefs will have a full selection to choose from, depending on the task. So long as you know how you’re going to use your chef’s clothing – whether a bib apron or a full suit, hat included – you can’t go wrong.