An apron is an outer protective garment that covers primarily the front of the body. It may be worn for hygienic reasons as well as in order to protect clothes from wear and tear. The apron is commonly part of the uniform of several work categories, including waitresses, nurses, and domestic workers. Many homemakers also wear them. It is also worn as a decorative garment by women. Aprons are also worn in many commercial establishments to protect workers clothes from damage, mainly bib aprons, but also others such as farrier aprons.
In addition to cloth, aprons can be made from a variety of materials. Rubber aprons are commonly used by persons working with dangerous chemicals, and lead aprons are commonly worn by persons such as X-ray technicians who work near radiation. Aprons, such as those used by carpenters, may have many pockets to hold tools. Waterproof household aprons, made of oilcloth or PVC are suitable for cooking and washing dishes.
The word apron is from the metanalysis of the term "a napron" as "an apron". The original spelling of napron has been lost.
An apron is usually held in place by two ribbon-like strips of cloth that are tied in the back. A bib apron may either have a strap in around the neck (perhaps the most widespread use today), or shoulder straps that criss-cross in the back and attach to the waistband. The advantage of the former design is that it makes it especially simple to put on the bib apron. The advantage of the shoulder strap design is that it makes the apron more comfortable to wear; a neck strap can slightly impair ease of movement.
Some modern day aprons will have humorous expressions, designs or corporate logos.
The apron was traditionally viewed as an essential garment for anyone doing housework. Cheaper clothes and washing machines made aprons less common beginning in the mid 1960s in some countries such as the United States. However, the practice of wearing aprons remains strong in many places.
Today, the apron has enjoyed a minor renaissance in terms of both women and men now wearing them when performing household chores. For instance, an article in the Wall Street Journal claimed in 2005 that the apron is "enjoying a renaissance as a retro-chic fashion accessory" in the United States. However, it still is not as prevalent as it was prior to the 1960s.
Aprons are nowadays considered equally appropriate for both women and men by most people. However, prevailing social norms ensure that women frequently wear more delicate clothing, and may therefore be more likely to want the protection an apron offers.
The term is further used more generally to refer to an expanse surrounding some object; for example, an airport can have a concrete "apron" around it, where planes and other vehicles can move about. The flexible lower container of the air cushion of a hovercraft is also called an apron or skirt.
An apron stage is any part of a stage that extends past the proscenium arch and into the audience or seating area.
An apron of a racetrack is the part going around the track below the yellow line.