The Male Apron

There is a magazine that I, being a man who can hardly dress himself, had never heard of before beginning my embark on a study of women’s history. It is dynamic. It is iconic. It has been around for over 100 years. It is Women’s Wear Today.

This so-called “bible of fashion,” with so many years of fashion prestige behind it, has become a wealth of commentary and insight on women’s history. A very interesting quote from a 1942 edition of this magazine tells an American story in concise, compact manner. Here it is:

“Much has been heard about the ‘Mother and Daughter’ fashions which stores took turn in promoting. Recently something new was added to tie the family closer together: The proverbial apron-strings of which men have always been warned are invading the man’s world, drawing him into the realm of domestic duties.”

Women’s wear daily then reported:

“Father and Son aprons for doing dishes” were advertised by Bloomingdale’s. But to soften this revolutionary statement they added that they are also good when ‘fooling with tools.’ Now many of the stores are in full cry. All this domesticity is , of course, due to the present wartime living conditions, but for all we know it isn’t a bad idea to “housebreak” the aloof male.

Topics addressed in the 2 paragraphs above:

  1. Domesticity
  2. Gender roles
  3. Mother-daughter relations
  4. Womanhood
  5. Manhood
  6. Revolution
  7. Public opinion
  8. War
  9. The American home front during WWII
  10. The American home front after WWII

We will discuss further soon:

“Men’s dress modes A century behind women’s in ease, efficiency,” says writer. (1928, Aug 21). Women’s Wear Daily, 37, 1. Retrieved from

“Twirl Style: “the Male Apron”.” 1942.Women’s Wear Daily, Dec 08, 3.


10 thoughts on “The Male Apron

  1. I liked that they had to “soften” the idea of aprons for men. It showed that they really were considered “women’s” clothing. Were these aprons for men and boys very different than the ones for women and girls? Did they come in unique styles and colors and even material? How long did the trend last for?


  2. It is interesting that the article pointed out that men could wear them while using tools. Society has convinced men that cooking and cleaning are not men’s roles and that if they enjoy cooking, then they are feminine. How did men respond to this article?


  3. It is interesting and funny that if society seemed to feel a great need to justify creating an apron for boys and men to do dishes with, that they created it at all. Even though society during the 1940s generally discouraged men from domestic work, how often did men actually do things like the dishes for practical reasons?


  4. We also saw in this period that men had more of a role with children, mostly thanks to the bottle-feeding craze. Are there other normally roles and items traditionally ascribed to women that men also took on at this time?


  5. It’s great that they had to make a whole new apron just for males, as if an apron is inherently female, when in history men have always used aprons as butchers, blacksmiths, etc…


  6. Advertising an apron as being both for housework and “fooling with tools” illustrates how rigid our gender roles are. Society views men doing housework as so unnatural that men must almost be tricked in advertising to buy an apron.


  7. The fact that the apron had to be softend for males is both sad and humorous. Gender roles took such a strong hold on society that practicality of keeping food and other substances off of your clothes had to be softened for men to wear them.


  8. This is an interesting example of how advertisements can work to both sustain and subvert domestic ideals (even simultaneously). This also makes me curious of how much advertising has been geared toward women v. men. I have always thought there was more out there for women/bombarding women, but I have never taken a deep look at the images sent to men and how much they compare to those for women.


  9. The apron that was marketed to men had to be softened in order to be somewhat accepted. Was this apron made out of stronger cloth since it could also be used with forging tools? Was it more like a blacksmith’s apron, a butcher’s apron, or a woman’s apron? Why were men so reluctant to help out in the kitchen?


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