Actually, A Jumpsuit Is the Best Thing to Wear in the Kitchen
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Actually, A Jumpsuit Is the Best Thing to Wear in the Kitchen

Jun 06, 2023

By Wilder Davies

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Working in a kitchen affords a great deal of sartorial options that you’d have a hard time getting away with anywhere else. Take kitchen footwear, notoriously garish in its chunky commitment to orthopedics. Even aprons, which are absolutely normal when surrounded by pots and pans, make one look like a barista on the lam elsewhere. The dichotomy between kitchen and non-kitchen attire is seldom made more clear than in our office, where food editors go between tending to boiling pots of red sauce in the Epi Test Kitchen and attending meetings in corporate conference rooms, all while wearing neon Calzuro clogs and linen pinafores.

The truth is, some items of clothing do a better job at code switching than others. Of all the culinary fashion that I’ve been witness to, the jumpsuit best toes the line between utilitarian kitchen attire and acceptable streetwear. The jumpsuit has been a trend for a while, more for aesthetics than function. It wasn't until recently, when I found a firetruck red Epicurious-branded jumpsuit in the back of a storage closet and started wearing it for messy product tests, that I came to fully understand how great it can be for cooking. Dare I say, it might even be superior to an apron?

It all comes down to the original function of a jumpsuit, which in this case, is technically called a boiler suit or coverall. (Though it's used widely now, the term "jumpsuit" historically refers to the analogous one-piece garment designed for parachuters.) Boiler suits came into broad use in the early 20th century, when they functioned as a protective layer worn over a worker's street clothes or undergarments. They were particularly popular in industrial settings.

Though the stakes may be lower in the kitchen, the practical uses of a jumpsuit are similar to what they were in the 1920s: to protect your clothes in messy situations. I don't wear a jumpsuit everytime I cook; I tend to put one on when I’m about to embark on a complicated product test or have a full day of cooking ahead. In safeguarding clothing from flour, oil, and sauces, a jumpsuit provides a layer of invincibility.

Aprons and smocks work well enough, sure, but I’ve found the feeling of imperviousness that a jumpsuit provides to surpass all other options—it does cover more surface area, after all. This is especially true in preventing odors from seeping into your clothes. If I’m frying bacon or making a curry with asafetida, my jumpsuit is the perfect thing to block out those lingering odors—something an apron certainly can't promise.

But not all jumpsuits are created equal. My firetruck red Epicurious jumpsuit is head-turning in the office for the wrong reasons, and though I like the simple look of Alex Mill jumpsuits, unless you have money to burn, I don't suggest anyone spend that much money on something that will get dirty in the kitchen.

Target and Dickies make more affordable jumpsuits that have a tailored look and don't feel too industrial.

Carhartt and Madewell also have great options, though they’re a bit more expensive.

But if ease and protection is all you desire, you might as well lean in and get the real thing.