The attractive-yet-functional, Japanese-inspired smock is the apron you’ll never want to take off.
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Aprons have always seemed a little, well, excessive to me. Despite being an avid home cook, I just couldn’t wrap my head around why legions of backyard barbeque dads love to tie-on a battered “kiss the cook” apron before firing up the grill, or why the half-apron worn by my great-grandmother was made out of a frilly satin. (Seriously.) Even as expensive, bespoke aprons have taken restaurants—and most notably, bars—by storm as a fashionable uniform of sorts, I haven’t been able to get on board: Why should a garment that’s made to get messy cost over $100?

Turns out, I was just waiting for the right apron to come along.

The Japanese-inspired smock apron has quickly become a key fixture in my kitchen, ranking up there with my favorite Dansk pots and cast iron skillet as a beloved mealtime tool. These affordable, attractive-yet-functional aprons (I bought mine for $20 at World Market) feel artistic and quietly sophisticated, like I’ve just finished a sculpture at my country house in the South of France and am now whipping up a meal for friends to celebrate. (A girl can dream, right?) Typically made out of linen or a linen-cotton blend, the crisscross back means that slipping it over your head is a breeze, and the breathable fabric is light enough to almost forget you’re even wearing it. (That’s right: no bulky leather neck straps or ties to weigh you down!) The smock apron is also simple to wash, meaning that there’s no worry about getting a little bit sloppy (er, creative) during meal prep time.

What’s more, my smock apron has the pinnacle of clothing greatness: a giant, deep pocket on the front. This has proven to be invaluable not only in the kitchen but heading out to grab vegetables or herbs from the garden as well. Think you can’t carry any more tomatoes? Pop a few in the apron pocket! Have your hands full of basil clippings? Carry your scissors using—you guessed it—the majestic front pocket.

The aprons are available from a multitude of vendors on Etsy, in kitchen boutiques or you can easily make your own if you’re a whiz with a sewing machine, and they run the gamut of understated hues—mine is a shade of washed goldenrod that looks like it could’ve been naturally dyed. And each time I put it on, the apron serves as a costume change that signals, I’m in the cooking zone now: the outside world can wait.