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Aprons are not a fashion statement

May 24, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

Aprons: Quaint piece of culinary Americana, or a Communist plot to overthrow the United States?

This was a question not answered in a Herald-Mail Lifestyle story this week on the common apron, once a kitchen staple as common as the toaster, but now a vague memory and grist for those societal buzzards, the collectors.

Aprons, the article says, have become a new fashion accessory.

This has to be a chick thing, right? I mean you would never find a retired Mack Trucks employee with a collection of steel-toed shoes. Former Fairchild employees don't go around wearing welding helmets.

But it's true. Women are now collecting and wearing the one thing they so roundly scorned not so very long ago as a symbol of oppression. What's next, women are going to start stringing clotheslines through the den?

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I don't know when women stopped wearing aprons. Probably about the time they realized it's awfully hard to spill a frozen pork chop.

Women never spill anyway

Women who are careful enough to wear an apron in the first place never spill anything. The great irony is that women who are cooking don't need to wear them but do, while men who are eating do, but don't.

The idea of an apron for men shoveling spaghetti into their pie holes never caught on, even though the sum total of tomato sauce spilled on men's shirts would fill the Exxon Valdez.

Women who wear aprons today always apologize for it. "Oh I'm sorry, I know it looks goofy, but ..." And then they kind of trail off, because they realize they are wearing the device not for practicality, but for the quaintness of it.

(It's OK guys, it's a nesting thing, you wouldn't understand.)

Although the kitchen of the 1950s has been roundly assaulted as a housewife Guantanamo, where she was forced to have supper waiting on the table and wear cute little dresses - while secretly taking long pulls off the bottle of cooking sherry - there seems to be something appealing to it now. I blame the Vermont Country Store.

And an apron is a gingham time machine.

It doesn't mean you'll be baking bread and shelling peas for six hours, but at least you can look the part. Guys wear aprons sometimes, too, but it's more ceremonial, like the cloak Fred Flinstone wore as the Grand Pubbah of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo.

A guy will don a man-apron at the volunteer firefighter pancake supper or the July 4 backyard barbecue. This is right before he either loses interest, or sprains his ankle playing volleyball and has to leave the cooking to his wife.

But it's only a symbol - like the way a weekend hiker will make such a grand deal out of his walking stick and Indiana Jones hat, even though he really has no use for either one.

Not an emotional thing

Personally, I don't think you ought to wear anything for the sake of emotion. Football players don't wear leather helmets because it reminds them of Harvard-Yale, 1938. I have no mind to dress in a bear skin because some ancient relative used to chill in a limestone cave.

But no matter what I think, aprons are cool today because they are "retro-chic."

Uh-oh. Anytime you see those two words together, it can't be good. Nothing was more hideous than 1960s furniture, and just because it was a bad idea then doesn't make it a good idea now.

There ought to be strict, federal limits on nostalgia. The purchase of bell-bottomed jeans ought to require a three-day waiting period. There have been quite enough songs written about Route 66. People who are trying to bring back the J-Lo track suit look ought to be shot. I don't know why every chi-chi restaurant today thinks the living end in artwork is exposed ductwork.

Look, if you want to decorate your home office around a Seth Thomas wall clock and a Kenner Easy-Bake Oven, knock yourself out. And if your idol is TV's "Hazel" and you have a secret dream of going to work for the Baxter family, by all means grab an apron as well.

All I'm saying is that these things can be overdone. I understand there will be a nice exhibit of aprons at the Washington County Ag Center opening June 23. This is the right and proper place for them.

But girls - as a fashion statement? I never thought I'd say this, but couldn't you just buy yourself another pair of shoes?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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