Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Why Do We Wear Gloves? – Choose The Best Gloves For You

Why Do We Wear Gloves?

How much thought do you give to your gloves?  How long do you manage to hang onto a pair of gloves?  Do you have lots of odd gloves at home, where you have lost the other one somewhere?  Do you remember the days when you were a child when you had a pair of mittens attached to a long piece of elastic that your mother would thread through the arms of your coat? Gloves are a garment designed to cover our hands and nowadays we mainly wear gloves to keep our hands warm during cold weather or to protect them when we are doing heavy work or are playing sport.  However, there have been times in history when gloves were far more important as a fashion item and when it would have been a grave social solecism to go out in public without having the correct pair of gloves on.

Types of Gloves

So what are gloves? The name comes from the Old English word ‘glof’ and they are basically swathes of fabric or fur  designed to protect your hands from the elements and keep them warm with tubes of the same material to cover the fingers and thumb.  Gloves that do not have separate finger are known as mittens, and mittens actually keep your hands warmer than gloves because your fingers keep each other warm when they are bunched together.  However, wearing mittens is useless if you are working or trying to do things outdoors as you cannot get a good grip or be very dextrous, so they tend to be worn mainly by small children.  You can get fingerless gloves nowadays, which give you an even greater level of dexterity, but can leave you with very cold fingers!  With typical human ingenuity, there is now a hybrid available of the mitten and fingerless glove that is basically a pair of fingerless gloves with the added fabric to cover the whole hand like a mitten that can be folded back off the fingers and secured with a button or Velcro.  They are called ‘convertible mittens’ or ‘glittens’.

Gloves From Kathmandu

History of Gloves

The history of gloves goes back to prehistoric times when our ancestors would make a primitive type of mitten from animal skins.  Gloves became very important in mediaeval England, when the wearing of elaborate gauntlets was a status symbol.  If you wished to question a man’s integrity and challenge him to a duel, it was customary to fling your gauntlet at his feet.  If your adversary picked up the gauntlet it indicated that he had accepted your challenge.  This was enshrined in English law and was a right that any free man could claim.  We still use the phrases ‘throwing down the gauntlet’ or ‘taking up the gauntlet’ today in reference to giving out or taking up a challenge or a dare.  In suits of armour, metal gauntlets were an important form of protection, and protected a knight’s hands from being injured and leather gauntlets were used when hunting with birds of prey.

Evening Gloves For Formal Wear

By the 17th century gloves were becoming more elaborate and embellished and were jewelled, embroidered, perfumed and fur lined.  By the 18th and 19th centuries they had developed so that there were styles for day wear and styles for formal evening wear.  Ladies would wear long evening gloves with their ball gowns and there was a whole etiquette that revolved around the way that they were worn.  Long gloves would be put on before the lady left the house or came down to the dining room, and were generally white or shades of beige, ivory or taupe.  They would be kept on in receiving lines and during receptions, but removed for dinner and then replaced when dinner was over.  Generally speaking the length of the glove would be determined by the length of the sleeve worn, so a short sleeve would mean a longer glove.  Just as there was a language of flirtation developed with fans, there were also signals developed for gloves.  For example, dropping both of them meant ‘I love you’.

Modern Gloves

In these modern times, they are made from lots of different fabrics and styles.  Many people still choose to get fine leather or suede gloves, which can come in many different colours and be lined with silk or fur.  Woollen gloves are also still very popular and come in plain colours such as black, red and grey or knitted in patterns such as Fair Isle or in colourful stripes.  With the advent of synthetic materials you can now also buy gloves that are waterproof and breathable and use a variety of advanced technologies to keep the hands warm and dry.

Sports Gloves

There are now also a wide range of gloves that have been developed for protecting the hands while playing sports and taking part in physical activities.  There are specialist ski gloves that have been designed especially to keep the hands warm and dry in snowy, cold conditions whilst still enabling the skier to grip their ski poles efficiently.  You a can even get heated ski gloves that run on batteries that heat them up at a touch of a button.  Extra warmth can also be obtained from wearing silk liner gloves under the outer ones. There are special gloves for use when cycling, riding, golfing, goalkeeping, climbing and a host of other sports, including boxing gloves.  The bones of the fingers and hand are very fragile, so boxing gloves are especially padded to protect the boxer as he is punching as well to prevent injury to the boxer being punched.

Gardening Gloves

Activities such as gardening also require sturdy gardening gloves made of leather or strong nylon.  Beekeepers wear special long gloves that cover the lower parts of their arms over their protective beekeeping suits.  Beekeeping gloves have to retain an excellent sense of feel for the beekeeper, as they have to be able to handle their bees gently and be able to remove the honey from the hive with care.  Many healthcare workers, including doctors and dentists, now wear special protective latex gloves and you can now these in packs for use in the home.  Of course, women everywhere (and even some men!) are familiar with a sturdy pair of rubber gloves for washing up and dirty jobs around the house!
So shopping for gloves may not be as straightforward as you once believed!  You have to decide when you are going to wear them, what activities you will be undertaking while wearing your gloves, and even whether you want a natural fabric or a synthetic fabric.  Personally, I would like to be shopping for a luxurious, cosy pair of cashmere gloves or butter-soft leather ones, but probably will be choosing more practical woollen gloves!

Image Lavenderstreak Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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