Gloves – A Range of Purposes

Check our Latest products!


Gloves are an integral part of human dress to protect the hands, much as shoes and other footwear is designed to protect the feet. There have been many different purposes and specific types of protection required.

Metallic gloves were included in traditional mail in ancient amour used in warfare. Leather gloves were part of the regular apparel of horsemen and soldiers. Amongst the specific orders of Knights of the realm, certain customs prevailed as to the gloves and their design and symbolism. This caused the expression ‘throwing down the gauntlet’ when challenging an opponent not only in the lists, but also when challenging the honor of another before engaging in a duel to settle an issue.

In social life in earlier centuries, gloves were given as a customary New Year gift. They were considerably more expensive articles than modern gloves and occasionally money was given instead which earned the term ‘glove-money’. It is on record that Sir Thomas More, as Lord Chancellor, after deciding a case in favor of a certain lady was sent a gift of a pair of gloves with forty gold coins in them. He returned the gold with the following note: “Mistress, since it were against good manners to refuse your New-Year gift, I am content to take your gloves, but as for the lining I utterly refuse it”.

Perfumed gloves served as a real protection for Queen Elizabeth, when the inhaled perfume was believed to be a real deterrent against picking up disease. She started the fashion, which spread throughout Europe as those who could afford it, tried methods to keep the terror of the plague at bay. Scented gloves provided an easily accessible and enjoyable inhalant at any time. Scents that were used for this purpose ranged from common garden herbs such as the aromatic essential oils of rosemary, thyme and lavenders to citric bergamot, sweet orange, tuberose, jasmine and the rare sandalwood which together with cedar and pine, provided a more masculine choice as an alternative to the more feminine sweet smelling ones.

History records that gloves were also used as a means of poisoning in methods that were made infamous by the dubious art of the Medicis.

Gloves for ornament were highly sophisticated in style and embroidery, with the wealthy classes employing fine colors and design. It was generally only royalty who could afford the embellishment of gloves with precious stones, but it became popular enough with all the nobility. There are some beautiful examples of embroidered gloves surviving in museums today.

Ecclesiastical gloves were used to symbolize a distancing from the material world in performance of religious ritual. Ceremonial gloves are used in state and religious ritual and in Freemasonry.

At one time fashion demanded that both men and women of refinement wore gloves when out in public, or as a regular part of traveling apparel. Sometimes, this was extended to include indoor social custom also. But in the main, gloves were taken off when indoors.

Gloves can be of several types: the regular type being those allowing freedom of each individual finger and mittens which separate the thumb from the other digits that remain to share one covering. This was often a distinction in the dress of those of social class when the poorer people were usually only able to afford to wear mittens or crudely made gloves as a protection from cold.

In modern life glove-making has a wide range of special purposes including the following:

– Soft baby mittens to prevent them from scratching their skin

– Padded gloves against cold for arctic travelers and mountaineers

– Padded boxing gloves, cricket gloves, baseball gloves and other sports gloves

– Gardening gloves to protect against earth, soil friction and thorns

– Laborers gloves for use when handling stone bricks or other rough material

– White gloves are used by policemen on point duty

– Surgical gloves of fine material for use by doctors

– Dentists’ gloves to avoid direct contact with saliva as protection against Aids

– Veterinary elbow length gloves for animal work and farm use

– Protective gloves in industry against contact with harmful chemicals

– Driving gloves to strengthen wheel grip when steering

– Antiquarian library gloves to protect books and manuscripts against handling

– Rubber gloves for domestic use when cleaning, washing up etc.

– Oven mitts in kitchen used to protect hands against heat

– Bath mitts and gloves for body hygiene and stimulation of the skin surface

– Formal evening attire still includes gloves

– Fashion gloves are still employed as an accessory to complement dress.

Fashion gloves can be adapted beyond the serviceable purpose of protecting the hands, to offer a beautiful decorative note to dress and to highlight certain colors and qualities through their tones and design. However, today there are few examples of fashion focus upon decorative gloves although sometimes beaded gloves and occasionally bejeweled ones can be seen. Modern taste is for more obvious reflection of the color theme of dress and to match the handbag, shoes and hat of the completed outfit. With the increasing trend towards casual clothing, there is little call for fashion gloves today. No doubt they will return in the cyclic habit of fashion and taste.

write by Bertram

Leave a Reply