An apron might be the most overlooked kitchen utensil. More trusty steed than shiny gadget, an apron can be the home cook's (and the professional chef's) saving grace when sauces splatter and grills pop. But aprons are overlooked by most folks. Most of us forget to even pull ours out of the closet until our nice shirt is covered in spaghetti sauce or red wine.

We all have at least one, right? We just might not all have one we really, really love. For example, my pantry is filled with four right now: one has black cats (a gift from a former roommate), one says "Grill Queen" (I rarely crank up my grill, but on the occasions I do, you can guarantee I'm wearing it), one frilly one that's really just for showing off when guests are over, and one prized Hedley & Bennett apron.

The latter apron is my go-to apron, the one I tie on the moment I get into the kitchen. Whether I'm making hamburgers on a grill pan or rolling dough for cinnamon rolls, it's on. The thick, sturdy cotton means business. It absorbs spills and splatters while keeping my clothes protected and clean. But the best part? The best part is that it's just plain gorgeous. So many industrial kitchen aprons are ho-hum, but Hedley & Bennett founder Ellen Bennett knew aprons had the potential to be so much more. While working in professional kitchens in Los Angeles, Bennett noticed how sad and dreary aprons can be, and she vowed to stop it. What was born--a start-up apron company--has flourished into one of the most popular and trendy apron companies in the country with a ravenous following of home cooks, professional chefs, and the food obsessed alike.

But don't take my word for it. Just look at all these Hedley & Bennett fans, including our own Test Kitchen professionals.

Here's the deal with these aprons--they're not your average mass-market linens. Each style is carefully designed and constructed so it's beneficial to cooks of all stripes. But that comes at a price--most aprons are around $80. (You can always scout the site's Sale section for greatly reduced aprons.) This is an investment piece for your kitchen--or your spouse, best friend, neighbor, boss, or whoever you gift it to. This apron will last you years, even with all the washes it will require. That's precisely why our Test Kitchen professionals chose it. Aprons are washed daily, so we need something that holds up beautifully--but also looks super luxurious when we host events in the Food Studios and need to look our sharpest. Here, some of my favorite apron options:

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