A classic and reclusive artwork, glove making has been intertwined with human civilization since the days of the caveman. The very first gloves resembled mittens that were crude. As the decades passed, glove making became more of a refined art. Articulated fingers were stitched in to provide more dexterity and ease of movement. While glove manufacturers’ guilds once dominated in a culture obsessed with a hand, now very few remain. Fewer still will be the designs available for gloves. Machine sewn and hand-finished gloves are largely what you’ll find in the marketplace.
Gloves are observed in early writings, such as Homer’s The Odyssey, where Laertes is thought to use gloves in his garden in order to avoid the brambles. There’s some debate over the translation of the text. At The History of Herodotus, written in 440 BC, Herodotus describes how Leotychides was given a bribe in the kind of a gauntlet infused with silver, and that afterwards incriminated him.
As years passed, the more complexity and flexibility of gloves grew. Plated gauntlets are obsolete up to the early 14th century. Before that, mail gloves were worn. Some knights were cited as wearing mail gloves beneath their plated gauntlets for extra strength.
But if we look into the fashion world, we visit a marvelous collection of styles. Fabric and leather gauntlets exhibited intricate embroideries. Opera gloves were loved by ladies in the 19th century. One peculiarity is that they attempted to match their hands into gloves a size too little! This compelled one’s hands to rest in a half cupped position – perfect for greeting, although not for partying. For those who have ever tried to overlook a glove you’re just too big for, then you understand what a job these women undertook! Buttonhook and powdered alum provided some lubrication, but before an opera, determined women would sit for hourscoaxing their hands down into tight gloves.
Few tomes remain that give us real comprehension of early gloves. Among the very revered in life now is Le Gant. The publication, although completely in French, shows many patterns and divulges a succinct development and history of this glove. Also included are passages telling us of this time’s social significance and sexual importance pertaining to the glove.
Insulation from the cold or heat. Protection from cuts and scratches. The instigation of duels. Bold or moment fashion statements. Gloves have worn many hats, so to speak, during history. They continue to be a completely integral part of many jobs now. Conversely, there’s been a sharp decline in the use of gloves as fashion accessories over the past several decades. Fewer and fewer women attend their proms with gloves. Fashion is a fickle thing, and only time will inform the future of this glove.
Glove enthusiast, Taylor Hartley, conducts and posts study regarding all kinds of gloves.