Gloves have been around for centuries and are typically worn as an accessory on the hand. I’m sure I don’t need to explain how they work, and if you’re not familiar with their use, you will know by the end of this guide.
What is pertinent to mention is that despite what many believe, there are variations of the typical gloves with separate sheaths for each finger and the thumb. One style that differs is the mitten, which is predominantly used for cold weather protection and encapsulates all of the fingers with only the thumb reserving its individual sheath. Another variant is the fingerless glove, which is exactly what it sounds like. Finally, there are gauntlets, which feature one large opening for all the fingers including the thumb. In this particular guide, we’re going to focus on the traditional glove that has five separate sheaths, one for each finger and, of course, the thumb.
Gloves are primarily used to protect the hand and its digits. Whether it be from cold weather exposure, debris, damage from abrasion, friction, disease, and chemicals or a baseball traveling close to 100mph, gloves are used in a variety of ways, including simply being fashionable accessories, which they have been for some centuries.
There are sporting gloves, work gloves, and fashionable gloves, not to mention various other kinds. Doctors use disposable gloves to protect themselves and their patients from disease. Firefighters use protective gloves to prevent burns and police officers use special kevlar lined gloves to prevent being poked by needles or for protection in hand to hand combat with assailants. Just as police need them for protection, so do athletes such as professional and amateur boxers, wrestlers, baseball players and those playing a wide variety of other sports.
Made from one of the widest array of materials, they can be constructed using leathers, rubbers, latex, cloth, wool and even metal. Even astronauts traveling to space use custom gloves to shield their hands from the elements and protect them from the elements of space.
The History of Gloves
Gloves have been around since the antiquity. Even Homer’s The Odyssey mentioned the use of gloves when Laertes wore them to avoid the brambles in his garden. In the History of Herodotus from 440BC, the story tells us how Leotychides was incriminated by a gauntlet full of silver pieces that he ad received as a bribe. The list goes on, and the use of gloves is widely documented, dating back to the dawn of mankind.
One of the most important historical uses of a glove was in chain-mail armor worn by soldiers and knights during the medieval ages. The gauntlets were a significant piece in any combat arsenal and were used to assist in defensive maneuvers against sharp and blunt instruments such as swords. However, with the decline of archaic weaponry and the advent of firearms, the chances a soldier would have to fight sword-to-sword were becoming increasingly rare as time progressed, therefore leaving the metal gauntlets as showpieces on statues of knights as well as on the knights themselves.
Members of royalty began to embroider the gloves with jewels and their crests. It is said that King Henry II was buried in 1189 wearing his coronation robe, a crown and his gloves on his hands. King John and King Edward I were also buried in a similar fashion.
Drawing off the support of kings and other nobles, the pope, bishops and cardinals began to wear gloves called Pontifical gloves during celebration of mass. Liturgical ornaments continued to be worn and protected the hands of their wearers for what was believed to be cleanliness well into the first half of the eleventh century.
By the mid-thirteenth century, gloves became a fashion statement for women and therefore became highly ornamental. Made of silk or fine linen, they were forearm length, sometimes reaching and mildly covering the elbow. Initially believed to impart some modesty by covering her up, men took notice and felt they were being used for vain purposes and laws were enacted in the hopes of ceasing this so-called vain behavior.
In the Middle Ages, the term of “throwing down the gauntlet” first appeared meaning that a Knight was prepared to fight and defend his or his lady’s honor. Interestingly, this saying is still used today.
Then, in the sixteenth century, the gloves reached the pinnacle of popularity when Queen Elizabeth I began wearing ornate and embroidered gloves in front of guests and then proceeding to remove them to showcase her feminine hands.
One other reason and method for wearing such gloves was that they could easily be aromatized using perfume, which assisted in enhancing the smell of those who didn’t bathe on a regular basis. This was the norm in the sixteenth century as daily showering or bathing only became popular in recent times.
Then, in the early seventeenth century, a glove by the name of the Limerick took its place as the must-have fashion accessory of the year. Made from the skin of unborn calves, the comfortable – and rather delightful to wear – Limericks were a new product made in Limerick, Ireland.
In the 1700’s, as short sleeves came about, women began to adopt long gloves again, although this time it was deemed acceptable. By the latter part of the 1800’s, men and women were now proudly wearing buttoned silk and velvet gloves with evening attire and suede gloves during the day. This continued to progress, and even today, men and women around the world will often wear elegant white or cream colored formal gloves to black tie and white tie affairs.
It wasn’t long after that when men began adopting gloves for new purposes. With steering wheels being made of wood, they created driving gloves to protect their hands from splinters. With sports, came the advent of protective wear, and when latex was developed in Australia, workers in various professions such as construction began wearing gloves to protect their hands while at work.
Gloves, whether noticed or not, have become an accessory and tool that most men at once point or another wear. In cold climates, we wear them outside to resist frost bite, on the golf course to reduce friction and maintain grip and in the boxing ring to physically dominate our opponent before raising our gloves high into the air as a symbol of victory and defeat.
Types of Gloves
There are so many types of gloves worn by men that to focus on each of them would take hours to read and days to write. I love writing, but this isn’t a book.
Here are just some of the types of gloves we wear today:
Specifically designed to withstand the cold and sometimes wetness, these gloves range from sports styles for athletes and youth to beautiful cashmere lined leather gloves that pair well with a business suit. One standard that’s come to be known is a “touch screen glove,” where the finger is made using conductive material, which allows the wearer to use smartphone or tablet touchscreens without first having to remove the gloves. Gloves for winter activities range in quality and resistance, with some providing just enough warmth on a chilly but not cold day to others being rated for outdoor use in the Arctic. I happen to live in a region that gets some of the coldest winters in the world, so I’m all too familiar with the big bulky gloves required to keep your finger tips intact. Of course, this doesn’t mean that to provide warmth, the glove has to be bulky. It often comes down to the quality and type of material used in manufacturing.
The range from boxing gloves and golf gloves to baseball mitts and everything in between. The purpose of these gloves is to provide protection from various issues including, but not limited to, friction, abrasion, laceration, and thrust. They can also be designed to provide grip as is the case with rock climbing gloves and golf gloves. Odds are if you play a sport, you own one or two pairs of athletic gloves.
Often made of velour, satin, silk, cotton, linen and various other materials, true evening gloves are made of kidskin or Nappa leather. Ideally, they are unlined to get the tightest, most elegant fit. In the past, it was difficult to dye leather pure white, and so cream was also acceptable. Today, white glove leathers are not impossible to produce anymore, and hence, a pure white that matches the white shirt is always preferable. They are worn at formal events with everything from a dinner jacket to tails. Some men involved in organized meetings such as the Freemasons will wear marked gloves indicative of their status within the fraternity while conducting official business. Other men will opt to wear them to the theater, dinner parties or celebratory events. In some cases, but not all, it’s expected that formal gloves will be worn to funerals, particularly for those who are actively participating in the burial. When you wear white gloves with your evening ensemble, make sure to remove them when you eat because keeping them on would be a faux pas. Take a look here for high quality white evening leather gloves for men.
Often made of high-quality suedes or leathers, these are thin, snug fit gloves worn by men to accompany business attire worn during the day. While these aren’t often seen during the summer months, they are particularly popular in the autumn when it’s not cold enough for winter gloves, but there is a slight chill in the air. Other men will also opt to wear them when they have concerns about germs such as those who travel via public transportation and hold onto subway rails or touch knobs and handles frequented by others. For a selection of quality men’s leather dress gloves, click here.
These are similar but differ from that of athletic gloves. Protective gloves are specially designed for those working in inhospitable environments. From firefighter gauntlets to police and military gloves, other styles of gloves include those worn by welders and construction workers as well as medical staff in hospitals and astronauts. Generally speaking, if you work or operate in any form of dangerous environment, there is probably a glove that can help keep you and your hands protected.
Originally developed due to the wooden steering wheels in the original Formula One cars, driving gloves have remained as staple in the gentleman’s wardrobe when driving luxury or sport automobiles. Obviously, you might look a little silly putting on leather driving gloves to take your kids to soccer practice in the Dodge Caravan, but if you own a Ferrari or a Rolls Royce, no one is going to give it a second thought. Not only does it assist with grip, but it also helps maintain soft leather that’s often wrapping the steering wheel and shift knobs of luxury cars.
Fingerless gloves are exactly that. They have no fingers, or the fingers are cut at the first joint. Generally speaking, these gloves are used for protection as well, often having protective qualities for the hand, but still allowing freedom to the fingers. These are very popular with military and police snipers because it allows them to shoot easier. They are also quite popular with weightlifters, bikers, fishermen and skateboarders.
Types of Materials in Gloves
Of course, the list of materials and fabrics that have been used in gloves is extraordinary. For those simply investing in a basic pair for daily wear, here are some of the most common materials used to make them:
Often mistaken for peccary leather, Carpincho leather is derived from the capybaras, a semi-aquatic rodent native to South America. It has an effect similar to suede with a look similar to peccary, yet it is inferior to peccary leather in durability, and softness. As such it is also less expensive.
Cow Hide Leather
Typically used in lower price gloves, cowhide is quite thick for a day or evening glove but is very suitable for those who either lose their gloves or want some winter protection.
Very rugged and coarse, but offering decent strength, deerskin gloves are sturdy and show a more pronounced grain making it popular with outdoorsy folks who hike in cold climates.
These are sometimes the least expensive gloves as they are firm and far more harsh to the touch. Often people misconstrue this type of glove as being a premium material because they associate the goat with certain materials like pashmina.
Lamb Nappa leather is chrome-tanned producing an extremely soft and supple leather that is used in top quality leather gloves only. The touch, thinness and flexibility make it ideal for elegant dress gloves for menand women.
Finer and less bulky than most leather. It’s very supple and soft to the touch but offers enduring resistance to wear and tear. Sometimes it is also referred to as Cape Skin, which refers to hairsheep from South Africa. Usually it is sourced in Ethiopia and Nigeria, whereas the Brazilian hairsheep leather is called Cabretta.
Sheep Skin & Lamb Skin
Often called shearling, this particular skin is used significantly in casual and country riding gloves. It has impeccable resistance qualities to cold weather and usually has another material such as wool as its lining. Although you do not need a lining for these gloves, the wool is so thick and dense that it is not suited for elegant men’s dress gloves.
Slink lamb is similar to sheep skin and comes with the wool on the inside. It is a bit thinner and softer than sheep skin leather and usually comes from New Zealand. Just like with sheep skin, it is too thick to produce elegant, tight fitting men’s gloves.
One of my favorite materials for gloves, peccary is bar none, one of the most superlative and rare materials found in gloves. Therefore making it the most resplendent style available on the market today.
Peccary leather is derived from the Peccary animal, which is part of the pig family. The best quality hides come from wild animals in Peru, where they are harvested under strict CITES regulations. Since the animals are wild and hence little scuffs and marks in the leather are not a defect, but much rather a sign of quality and wild origin.
Genuine peccary is identified by characteristic 3-prong pores.
Peccary leather has been so popular for gloves due to its extraordinary characteristics. It is both incredibly durable while being supple and soft. While a hand sewn seam can rip under extreme conditions, the leather can be resewn over and over again, and you will likely never be able to destroy peccary leather in the course of normal use. The leather will also grow softer the more you wear it.
A less expensive and less refined option that looks a bit like peccary, but it is neither as soft nor as durable as peccary leather. One could also call it a poor man’s peccary leather.
Most gloves today are lined. However, there was a time when the majority of men’s gloves were unlined. The purpose of gloves was simply to keep one’s hands dirt-free and the overall look elegant. Today, things are more practical and most men wear gloves only when it is cold outside, thus requiring a lining. However, if you live in warmer climates or if you want to wear gloves during fall and spring, I strongly suggest you give unlined gloves a try. Not only do you get to feel the leather directly, which is perfect for driving gloves, but due to the lack of glove lining, your gloves will fit tighter to your fingers and create refined look than lined gloves. Often gloves will feature linings to ensure warmth or comfort. Here are a few of the most common linings found today:
When it is cold outside, lined gloves are the way to go, but you can choose from a range of linings. Think of the lining as a separate glove within the glove, that way the fit is ideal and comfortable.
Royal Baby Alpaca lining is one of the secret top performers in glove linings because it insulates better than any other animal hair or natural fiber. It is about 7-8 times warmer than cashmere because it is hollow and has an air chamber that acts as an insulator. Alpaca is slightly thicker than cashmere. With a thickness of about thicknesses between 19 – 22 micron for quality Alpaca hair, it is quite a bit thicker than cashmere hair, which means that it is less soft. However, the surface of Alpaca hair is smoother than cashmere, making it almost as soft as cashmere. Furthermore, Alpaca is elastic, lanolin free, and hypo-allergenic, making it ideally suited to people who are allergic to wool or cashmere. Since the best Alpaca fibers and peccary leather come from Peru, all Fort Belvedere peccary gloves are lined with Alpaca, in vibrant custom colors.
Incredibly soft and luxurious, most high-end gloves are lined with cashmere. It is an expensive lining option, and it comes in many colors though most gloves are lined in beige-brown cashmere, so your hands won’t show little knots in contrasting colors.
Unlike Alpaca linings, with colorful cashmere linings, one might sometimes see the fuzz on one’s hand after having worn the gloves for a bit, and cashmere lining also wears out faster than Alpaca. At the same time, it is incredibly soft and having a glove lining exchanged is not a problem for a skilled glovemaker. All Fort Belvedere Lamb Nappa gloves are cashmere lined.
One of the biggest benefits to silk is its warming and cooling qualities. It’s also very luxurious to the touch. It is mostly used for women’s gloves or as an alternative to unlined gloves. Your fingers will slip in more easily, but I personally prefer unlined gloves over silk lined gloves.
Most gentleman’s gloves are probably wool lined because it is affordable and functional. At the same time, it is not as soft as Alpaca or cashmere, and it also doesn’t insulate as well. As such, one could also refer to wool linings as poor men’s cashmere linings. Personally, I would always prefer cashmere or alpaca to wool, and you should do the same.
Cheaper gloves are often fleece lined, and while it is warm, it pills more heavily, and your fingers are much more prone to sweating. Just like in suiting, you should stick to natural materials.
Shearling gloves are sewn with the wool fur facing inwards keeping your hands warm. However due to the thickness of the material, these gloves are just functional, and neither look handsome nor elegant. Only wear these if you are in a ski resort town and it fits the overall theme. Otherwise, go with regular gloves.
Handsewn vs. Machine Sewn
Gentlemen’s gloves are either handsewn or machine sewn.
Handsewn gloves take more time to produce and are hence more expensive. Usually, they are sewn with a contrast thread in order for the stitch to be more visible. Handsewn gloves are a bit more chunky, and depending on how well it is sewn; it can be prone to opening. At the end of the day, handsewn gloves combine more craftsmanship. When you think about watches, it’s like the mechanical watch that was skillfully assembled but is not 100% accurate, whereas the machine sewn glove is more like an atomic clock that is super accurate. Overall, a gentleman should have both versions – handsewn for precious leathers and casual outfits, machine sewn ones for durability and elegant or very formal events.
Machine sewn gloves are less expensive to produce, but it still requires a skilled sewer to complete the job. Machine sewn gloves are sewn inside out, and then turned out once completed. That way, they are less chunky than handsewn gloves and better suited to more formal gloves. Also, the seams are generally more durable. For evening wear, I would always suggest machine sewn gloves, and for daywear, you can wear both, depending on your mood.
Gentleman’s Gazette offer both kinds of gloves in unique colors with a button closure that is very rare and hard to find.
The points are the little decorative stripes on the back of a glove. While designing Fort Belvedere glove prototypes, I experimented with 4 and 2 points, but it simply doesn’t look as good as 3. Although just simple stripes, there are many ways to make those, either with just machine stitching, hand stitching or both. For Fort Belvedere gloves, we used more labor intensive points that are more decorative and well suited to the glove. For example, the white unlined evening glove for black tie and white tie events just received very subtle straight lines, whereas the most colorful gloves have more detailed points.
Quirks are the little diamond shaped pieces of leather at the base of the fingers. The purpose of those is to enable a wider range of movement for your fingers with less resistance. 100 years ago, they were the standard for fine men’s gloves, but since it requires a few extra steps of work, most glove manufacturers have skipped that step. Fort Belvedere gloves come with these little quirks and the latest glove collection even features quirks in Fort Belvedere Signature Green. Under normal circumstances, they will often go unnoticed them. At best they will get a glimpse otherwise, it’s just a little feature that is a secret between the wearer and Fort Belvedere, the maker.
Most gloves today feature a little slit on the inside of the wrist, which is supposed to facilitate putting it on. While this is the most inexpensive way to do it, you can find many other closures out there. Sometimes, you will see snap buttons, adjustable straps or other innovative solutions. However, the classic glove closure for gentleman is the button closure. Since it requires more time and skill to complete, it is very rarely found nowadays, and Fort Belvedere is one of the only companies that offers this kind of style with either handsewn buttonholes or piped buttonholes and leather covered buttons. That way, it fits tightly to your wrist and can be worn comfortably with shirt barrel cuffs as well as double cuffs. On the other hand, Fort Belvedere evening gloves have a side slit so they can be easily taken on and off because that’s important when you are at a black tie or white tie event.
When every man would wear gloves, you could get gloves down in quarter sizes, but today nobody does that anymore because it would require too much stock to keep which would mean the gloves would have to be sold at a higher price to offset the cost. In the pursuit of always lowering costs, most stores offer gloves in S, M, L and XL nowadays. At Fort Belvedere, we offer traditional glove sizing in 6 sizes ranging in half steps from 7.5 – 10 which covers 99% of men out there.
To determine your size, you basically measure around your dominant hand, excluding your thumb. The measurement in inches is your glove size. If you measure in centimeters, you have to divide the measurement by 2.54 to determine your glove size.
Gloves can easily transform an outfit from drab to chic with a simple stretch over the hand, especially if the color of the gloves sets an accent that harmonized with the rest of the outfit. However, like most outfits, gloves come with their own sets of rules and regulations. Here is a sample of some of the most fundamental etiquette requirements when wearing gloves.
There was a time when a gentleman would always wear gloves on the street when in town. Today, that’s certainly not required anymore, but it is perfectly okay to wear gloves when in public. During spring and fall, unlined gloves are the way to go.
Fit the Occasion
If you’ve opted to wear gloves to a wedding, ensure they are formal. On the contrary, a night at the cinema would easily require nothing more than a beautiful pair of unlined peccary gloves. With this in mind, winter and sports gloves need to be reserved for playing in the snow – there is no need to wear a pair of oversized ski gloves on a date to the art gallery.
How to Wear Gloves
It is always necessary to put your gloves on in the convenience and privacy of your own residence. It’s often unnerving trying to figure out when to remove your gloves and when to leave them on, particularly with elegant gloves. The standard rule is to leave them on for greeting guests, but, unlike women, the gentleman should remove the glove as a sign of respect to shake hands. It is also worn while performing activities including dancing or posing for photographs. Contrary to that, remove the gloves while dining to avoid staining them, first at the commencement of the meal, followed by putting them back on at the end. In addition, keep all jewelry off your gloves with the exception of a bracelet or watch touching the cuff, but not over. For any other additions, a crest, monogram or icon is only acceptable when it has some meaning. As an example, often Freemasons will wear formal white gloves with a blue Masonic icon embroidered on the backside of the palm. When removing gloves, one should practice enough that they can be swiftly removed ideally in private. Like a bow tie, however, it is always suggested that they remain on through the entire duration of the event as a sign of respect to your host or guests.
How to Maintain & Care for your Gloves
1. How to put on gloves: When you put on a glove, you should ideally not pull on the cuff, but gently push down in between the fingers
2. How to take off gloves: Gently pull the glove on each finger, until the entire glove comes off.
3. How to store gloves: Ideally, a glove should be pulled in shape and stored flat because it is a soft material, and if you roll up your gloves or stuff them in your pockets, and you maybe forget them in there, they will be out of shape and wrinkled when you remove them. Before putting them into your coat pocket, gently pull them in shape and put both gloves together in your pocket, so they stand out.
4. Wet Gloves: If your gloves get wet, lay them on a towel and let them dry naturally. Under no circumstances should you use a hair dryer, a radiator or direct sunlight. I once lost a peccary glove, and it laid outside in the water for a full day. It was soaked, and it took two days to dry it. Afterward it felt a little stiff, but as soon as I put it back on the leather became soft again. If you were not able to dry the glove properly, you would likely see some water stains. In that case, carefully dampen the glove equally, so it is wet all around. Then let it dry, and just like with shoes, the water stains should disappear.
5. If your glove is very wrinkled, you can use an iron on the lowest heat setting and use a dry piece of cotton to protect the leather from the iron. Lay the glove flat and without pressure, gently iron the glove. This needs some skill, and is best done by professionals. Otherwise you may run the risk of damaging your glove. Look for dry cleaners who specialize in leather, they should be able to help you.
6. With a good leather glove, the lining will wear out long before the leather. If that’s the case, you can have them relined.
Where to Buy Quality Men’s Gloves
For a selection of the best peccary and lamb skin gloves available, please visit our shop. All of these gloves were carefully designed by me and individually cut with special details such as quirks, contrast piping and button closure that you don’t find anywhere else.
Also, the colors chose are unusual but proven classics from the heyday of classic menswear. Apart from that you can find gloves at thousands of places out there, because gloves are often sewn at home, and so even larger brands produce allover the place. Every haberdasher carries gloves though usually you will only find versions in brown and black. More exquisite gloves usually will set you back more. Make sure to go with natural linings such as Cashmere, Alpaca or wool and avoid polyester and fleece lining. A hand sewn glove will be more expensive than a machine sewn one simply because it takes more time.
Whether hand stitched or done by machine, gloves play an active role in our wardrobe. They serve a purpose but also function as an accessory. Unless you happen to live in the tropics, I would highly recommend investing in a few pairs of nice leather dress gloves. It will certainly add something to your personal style that others will notice, and you can feel proud of. What are your favorite gloves?
This article was written by Sven Raphael Schneider with the help of J.A. Shapira.