Assorted gloves (a museum collection)
Typehand's protection

A glove is a garment covering the hand, with separate sheaths or openings for each finger including the thumb.[1] Gloves protect and comfort hands against cold or heat, damage by friction, abrasion or chemicals, and disease; or in turn to provide a guard for what a bare hand should not touch.

Gloves are made of materials including cloth, knitted or felted wool, leather, rubber, latex, neoprene, silk, and (in mail) metal. Gloves of kevlar protect the wearer from cuts. Gloves and gauntlets are integral components of pressure suits and spacesuits.

Latex, nitrile rubber or vinyl disposable gloves are often worn by health care professionals as hygiene and contamination protection measures. Police officers often wear them to work in crime scenes to prevent destroying evidence in the scene. Many criminals wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, which makes the crime investigation more difficult. However, the gloves themselves can leave prints that are just as unique as human fingerprints.[2][3]

If there is an opening but no (or a short) covering sheath for each finger they are called fingerless gloves. Fingerless gloves are useful where dexterity is required that gloves would restrict. Cigarette smokers and church organists sometimes use fingerless gloves. Cycling gloves for road racing or touring are usually fingerless. Guitar players may also use fingerless gloves in circumstances where it is too cold to play with an uncovered hand.

A hybrid of glove and mitten contains open-ended sheaths for the four fingers (as in a fingerless glove, but not the thumb) and an additional compartment encapsulating the four fingers. This compartment can be lifted off the fingers and folded back to allow the individual fingers ease of movement and access while the hand remains covered. The usual design is for the mitten cavity to be stitched onto the back of the fingerless glove only, allowing it to be flipped over (normally held back by Velcro or a button) to transform the garment from a mitten to a glove. These hybrids are called convertible mittens or "glittens".


Minoan youths boxing, Knossos fresco. One of the earliest documented uses of gloves.

Gloves appear to be of great antiquity. They are depicted in an ancient Egyptian tomb dating to the 5th dynasty.[4] According to some translations of Homer's The Odyssey, Laërtes is described as wearing gloves while walking in his garden so as to avoid the brambles.[5] (Other translations, however, insist that Laertes pulled his long sleeves over his hands.) Herodotus, in The History of Herodotus (440 BC), tells how Leotychides was incriminated by a glove (gauntlet) full of silver that he received as a bribe.[6] There are occasional references to the use of gloves among the Romans as well.[5] Pliny the Younger (c. 100), his uncle's shorthand writer wore gloves in winter so as not to impede the elder Pliny's work.[7]

A gauntlet, which could be a glove made of leather or some kind of metal armour, was a strategic part of a soldier's defense throughout the Middle Ages, but the advent of firearms made hand-to-hand combat rare. As a result, the need for gauntlets disappeared.

During the 13th century, gloves began to be worn by ladies as a fashion ornament. They were made of linen and silk, and sometimes reached to the elbow.[5] Such worldly accoutrements were not for holy women, according to the early 13th century Ancrene Wisse, written for their guidance.[8] Sumptuary laws were promulgated to restrain this vanity: against samite gloves in Bologna, 1294, against perfumed gloves in Rome, 1560.[9]

A Paris corporation or guild of glovers (gantiers) existed from the thirteenth century. They made them in skin or in fur.[10]

By 1440, in England glovers had become members of the Dubbers or Bookbinders Guild until they formed their own guild during the reign of Elizabeth I. The Glovers' Company was incorporated in 1613.[11]

It was not until the 16th century that gloves reached their greatest elaboration, however, when Queen Elizabeth I set the fashion for wearing them richly embroidered and jewelled,[5] and for putting them on and taking them off during audiences to draw attention to her beautiful hands.[12] The 1592 "Ditchley" portrait of her features her holding leather gloves in her left hand. In Paris, the gantiers became gantiers parfumeurs, for the scented oils, musk, ambergris and civet, that perfumed leather gloves, but their trade, which was an introduction at the court of Catherine de Medici,[13] was not specifically recognised until 1656, in a royal brevet. Makers of knitted gloves, which did not retain perfume and had less social cachet, were organised in a separate guild, of bonnetiers[14] who might knit silk as well as wool. Such workers were already organised in the fourteenth century. Knitted gloves were a refined handiwork that required five years of apprenticeship; defective work was subject to confiscation and burning.[15] In the 17th century, gloves made of soft chicken skin became fashionable. The craze for gloves called "limericks" took hold. This particular fad was the product of a manufacturer in Limerick, Ireland, who fashioned the gloves from the skin of unborn calves.[16]

European gloves, late 17th century, silk, metal thread. Metropolitan Museum of Art.[17]

Embroidered and jeweled gloves formed part of the insignia of emperors and kings. Thus Matthew of Paris, in recording the burial of Henry II of England in 1189, mentions that he was buried in his coronation robes with a golden crown on his head and gloves on his hands. Gloves were found on the hands of King John when his tomb was opened in 1797 and on those of King Edward I when his tomb was opened in 1774.[5]

Pontifical gloves are liturgical ornaments used primarily by the pope, the cardinals, and bishops. They may be worn only at the celebration of mass. The liturgical use of gloves has not been traced beyond the beginning of the 10th century, and their introduction may have been due to a simple desire to keep the hands clean for the holy mysteries, but others suggest that they were adopted as part of the increasing pomp with which the Carolingian bishops were surrounding themselves. From the Frankish kingdom the custom spread to Rome, where liturgical gloves are first heard of in the earlier half of the 11th century.[18]

Portrait of Mme. Paulin wearing gloves, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
A glove commemorating the visit of General Lafayette to the United States in 1824.[19]

When short sleeves came into fashion in the 1700s, women began to wear long gloves, reaching halfway up the forearm. By the 1870s, buttoned kid, silk, or velvet gloves were worn with evening or dinner dress, and long suede gloves were worn during the day and when having tea.[20]

Mainly during the 19th century, the generic or trade name "Berlin gloves" was used for washable, thin white cotton gloves often worn by servants, such as butlers or waiters, and the less well-off in civilian life. The term was also used for white cotton gloves worn with the dress uniform by the American military in the First World War.[21]

In 1905, The Law Times made one of the first references to the use of gloves by criminals to hide fingerprints, stating: For the future... when the burglar goes a-burgling, a pair of gloves will form a necessary part of his outfit.[22]

Early Formula One race cars used steering wheels taken directly from road cars. They were normally made from wood, necessitating the use of driving gloves.[23]

Disposable latex gloves were developed by the Australian company Ansell.

Types of glove

Commercial and industrial

A disposable nitrile rubber glove

Sport and recreational

Dry scuba gloves
Racing drivers gloves
Three finger army shooting gloves.
Touchscreen gloves, fingertip type

Women's fashion

Main article: Evening glove

Western women's gloves for formal and semi-formal wear come in three lengths: wrist ("matinee"), elbow, and opera or full-length (over the elbow, reaching to the biceps). Satin and stretch satin are popular and mass-produced. Some women wear gloves as part of "dressy" outfits, such as for church and weddings. Long white gloves are common accessories for teenage girls attending formal events such as prom, quinceañera, cotillion, or formal ceremonies at church, such as confirmation.


In Japan, white gloves are worn frequently. Work-oriented white gloves are worn for activities such as gardening and cleanup; "dress" white gloves are worn by professionals who want a clean public appearance, such as taxi drivers, police, politicians and elevator operators.[28] However white gloves are not recommended for touching old books and similar antiquities.[29][30]

Fingerless gloves

Leather fingerless gloves

Fingerless gloves or "glovelettes" are garments worn on the hands which resemble regular gloves in most ways, except that the finger columns are half-length and opened, allowing the top-half of the wearer's fingers to be shown.

Fingerless gloves are often padded in the palm area, to provide protection to the hand, and the exposed fingers do not interfere with sensation or gripping.[31] In contrast to traditional full gloves, often worn for warmth, fingerless gloves will often have a ventilated back to allow the hands to cool; this is commonly seen in weightlifting gloves.

Fingerless gloves are worn by bicyclists and motorcyclists to better grip the handlebars, as well as by skateboarders and rollerbladers, to protect the palms of the hands and add grip in the event of a fall.[31][32] Some anglers, particularly fly fishermen, favour fingerless gloves to allow manipulation of line and tackle in cooler conditions. Fingerless gloves are common among marching band members, particularly those who play the clarinet or open-hole flute, due to the difficulty of covering small holes while wearing gloves. The lack of fabric on the fingertips allows for better use of touchscreens, as on smartphones and tablet computers. Professional MMA fighters are required to wear fingerless gloves in fights.

Leather gloves

Motorcycle riding gloves, gray deerskin, some points reinforced
Lined black leather gloves with red leather fourchettes

Common uses

Leather gloves have been worn by people for thousands of years. The unique properties of leather allow for both a comfortable fit and useful grip for the wearer. The grain present on the leather and the pores present in the leather gives the gloves the unique ability to assist the wearer as they grip an object. As soft as a leather glove may be, its pores and grain provide a level of friction when "gripped" against an item or surface.

A common use for leather gloves is sporting events. In baseball, a baseball glove is an oversized leather glove with a web used for fielding the ball. Leather gloves are also used in handball, cycling, and American football.

Early Formula One racing drivers used steering wheels taken directly from road cars. They were normally made from wood, necessitating the use of driving gloves.[23]

Leather gloves provide protection from occupational hazards. For example, beekeepers use leather gloves to avoid being stung by bees. Construction workers might use leather gloves for added grip and for protecting their hands. Welders use gloves too for protection against electrical shocks, extreme heat, ultraviolet and infrared.

Criminals have been known to wear leather gloves during the commission of crimes. Gloves are worn by criminals because the tactile properties of the leather allow for good grip and dexterity. These properties are the result of a grain present on the surface of the leather. The grain makes the surface of the leather unique to each glove. Investigators are able to dust for the glove prints left behind from the leather the same way in which they dust for fingerprints.[33][34]

Leather dress gloves

Main types of gloving leather

Leather is a natural product with special characteristics that make it comfortable to wear, and give it great strength and flexibility. Because it is a natural product, with its own unique variations, every piece has its own individual characteristics. As they are worn and used, leather gloves (especially if they fit snugly) will conform to the wearer's hand. As this occurs the leather of the glove will become more malleable, and thus softer and more supple. This process is known as 'breaking-in' the glove. Overtime wear spots may appear on certain parts of the palm and fingertips, due to the constant use of those areas of the glove. Creases and wrinkles will appear on the palm side of the leather glove and will generally correspond to the locations of the hinge joints of the wearer's hands, including the interphalangeal articulations of hand, metacarpophalangeal joints, intercarpal articulations, and wrists.

Because the leather is natural as well as delicate, the wearer must take precaution as to not damage them. The constant handling of damp or wet surfaces will discolor lighter-colored gloves and stiffen the leather of any glove. The wearer will often unknowingly damage or stain their gloves while doing such tasks as twisting a wet door knob or wiping a running nose with a gloved hand.[35]

Leather dress gloves that are worn very tight and possess very short, elasticized wrists, are most often referred to as cop gloves or law enforcement gloves because of their prevalence as issued duty gloves for many law enforcement agencies. It is common attire in leather subculture and BDSM communities.

Leather glove linings

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Component parts

The component parts that may be found in a leather dress glove are one pair of tranks, one pair of thumbs, four whole fourchettes, four half fourchettes, two gussets, and six quirks. Depending on the style of the glove there may also be roller pieces, straps, rollers, eyelets, studs, sockets and domes. Finally, linings will themselves consist of tranks, thumbs and fourchettes.


The most popular types of leather glove sewing stitches used today are:

Some glove terms

Driving gloves

Driving gloves are designed for holding a steering wheel and transmitting the feeling of the road to the driver. They provide a good feel and protect the hands. They are designed to be worn tight and to not interfere with hand movements. The increased grip allows for more control and increased safety at speed.[38]

True driver's gloves offer tactile advantages to drivers frequently handling a car near the limits of adhesion. Made of soft leather, drivers gloves are unlined with external seams.

Further information: Driving glove

Safety standards

Several European standards relate to gloves. These include:

Antivibration protective gloves.

These exist to fulfill personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.

Notable gloves

Michael Jackson often wore a single jeweled glove on his right hand, which helped develop his signature look. It has been the object of several auctions.[39]

A dark leather glove became an important piece of evidence in the O. J. Simpson murder case. Simpson's defense counsel famously quipped "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit". The glove presented as evidence shrank from having been soaked in blood, according to some analysis.[40]

See also


  1. ^ Picken, Mary (2013). A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern. Dover Publications. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-486-14160-2.
  2. ^ Sawer, Patrick (Dec 13, 2008). "Police use glove prints to catch criminals". Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved Jul 18, 2019 – via
  3. ^ James W.H. McCord and Sandra L. McCord, Criminal Law and Procedure for the paralegal: a systems approach, supra, p. 127.
  4. ^ Kanawati, N. (2000). The Teti Cemetery at Saqqara 5: Tomb of Hesi. Australian Centre for Egyptology. pp. 11–15, 53.
  5. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911, p. 135.
  6. ^ "The History of Herodotus by Herodotus, Volume VI, at". Retrieved 2023-12-29.
  7. ^ "Pliny the Younger: Selected Letters". Archived from the original on 2014-03-14.
  8. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Ancrene Wisse, 8. The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle: Ancrene Wisse (Early English Text Society, CCXLIX) London 1962, noted by Diane Bornstein, The Lady in the Tower (Hamden, Connecticut) 1983:25 note 4.
  9. ^ Marjorie O'Rourke Boyle, "Coquette at the Cross? Magdalen in the Master of the Bartholomew Altar's Deposition at the Louvre" Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 59.4 (1996:573–577) assembles numerous historical references to gloves, with bibliography.
  10. ^ Étienne-Martin Saint-Léon, Histoire des corporation de métiers depuis leurs origines jusqu'à leur suppression en 1791 (Paris) 1922, noted by Boyle 1996:174:10.
  11. ^ "Other [Wiltshire] industries". British History Online. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  12. ^ Roy C. Strong, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (Oxford) 1963:18f.
  13. ^ Charles VIII of France received some gloves that were scented with powder of violet, but they were not of French making (Boyle 1996:174).
  14. ^ In the earliest usage, bonnet was the woolen thread worked by hand with the needle or a spindle (Boyle 1996:174).
  15. ^ Boyle 1996:174
  16. ^ Jenkins, Jessica Kerwin, The Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, p. 85
  17. ^ "Gloves, European, late 17th century". Metropolitan Museum of Art website. Retrieved 2023-12-29.
  18. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 136.
  19. ^ "Glove | American | The Met". The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  20. ^ "HISTORY OF GLOVES AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE". Nov 12, 2013. Retrieved Jul 18, 2019.
  21. ^ "A.E.F. Gloves, Gauntlets & Mittens 1917 to 1919". 2016-09-06. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
  22. ^ Horace Cox, ed. (1905). The Law Times: The Journal and Record: The Law and The Lawyers. Vol. CXIX. London: The Law Times. p. 563.
  23. ^ a b Formula One [1] retrieved on 02/01/2011
  24. ^ Green, Nicholas; Gaydos, Steven; Hutchison, Ewan; Nicol, Ed (2019). Handbook of Aviation and Space Medicine (1 ed.). CRC Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-138-61787-2.
  25. ^ "Driving Gloves - The Coolest Accessory". Retrieved 2023-12-29.
  26. ^ FIA Standard 8856-200 Protective clothing for automobile drivers [2] Archived 2011-07-10 at the Wayback Machine pg 2
  27. ^ "Best Shooting Gloves". TheGunZone. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  28. ^ Gordenker, Alice (Mar 19, 2013). "White gloves". Retrieved Dec 29, 2023 – via Japan Times Online.
  29. ^ "Conservation | British Library" (PDF).
  30. ^ "J. Willard Marriott Digital Library" (PDF).
  31. ^ a b LaBat, Karen; Ryan, Karen (2019). "7 - Designing for Hand and Wrist Anatomy". Human Body: A Wearable Product Designer's Guide. CRC Press. pp. 374–375. ISBN 978-1-498-75571-9.
  32. ^ "Why We Use Bike Gloves?". bicycling. Retrieved 2023-12-29.
  33. ^ "Crime Labs". Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Retrieved Jul 18, 2019.
  34. ^ "Personal Identification: Fingerprints". Archived from the original on May 22, 2009. Retrieved Jul 18, 2019.
  35. ^ "Held Phantom Glove: Initial Impressions". BlakeBlog. Retrieved Dec 29, 2023.
  36. ^ Chambers, Helen G., and Verna Moulton. Clothing Selection: Fashions, Figures, Fabrics. Page 349. Literary Licensing, Whitefish, United States. 1961. ISBN 1258228173, 9781258228170.
  37. ^ "New Zealand Sheepskins - Sheepskin Rugs - Real Sheepskin | Ecowool". Retrieved 2023-12-29.
  38. ^ Knowledge Center "What Are Leather Driving Gloves". Archived from the original on 2012-04-24. Retrieved 2012-05-22. Retrieved on 02/01/2011
  39. ^ BangShowbiz; Duncan, JJ; Bustillo, Deena; Robberson, Joe; Thomas, Darrick; Wenger, Adam; Newlin, John (June 28, 2010). "Michael Jackson's Jeweled Glove Sells for $190K". Zimbio. Retrieved December 23, 2012.
  40. ^ "List of the evidence in the O. J. Simpson double-murder trial". USA Today. October 18, 1996. Archived from the original on 2008-03-14.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Glove". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 135–137.