By Andy Gilchrist

Gloves provide protection for the hands from cold and for sanitary reasons, but they also provide a ritualistic and symbolic men’s accessory.

“A gentleman is known by his gloves”
19th century etiquette book

Glove consumption is best exemplified by dandy Count Alfred Guillaume Gabriel d’Orsay (1801 – 1852), a French émigré to England in 1815, who by 1821 was London’s reigning arbiter of men’s fashion. The Count wore up to six pairs of gloves a day: reindeer for his morning ride, chamois for hunting, beaver for the ride back to London, braided kit gloves for afternoon’s shopping, yellow dog skin to a dinner party, and then the lambskin embroidered with silk for the evening ball.

Hand Dress shirt Human body Sleeve Flash photography

If you work it right, you won’t need near that many and will probably look great.

There are three kinds of gloves: dress gloves, sports gloves, and work gloves. The specs for the first two are here. The third? Look, if you can afford the first two, you can hire somebody to wear the third.

Mittens are gloves with a thumb and one other compartment for fingers. Worn by children and skiers for warmth.

Dress Gloves
  • Material:
Skins win. There are many suitable options for the exterior of the glove. The best is pigskin, peccary pigskin, because it is a little tougher and durable and just as thin as calfskin. It’s also stain-resistant. Other leather and suede are fine too.

Leather is the skin or hide of animals, cured by tanning to prevent decay and to impart flexibility and toughness. Leather has an ability to conform to your body, provide comfort, durability, and can breathe.

The word comes from Old English lether - meaning leather (as in letherhose, leather pants).

The leather should feel firm yet pliable. The types of leather are ranked by grain, which are the markings that appear on the skins and hides when hair or feathers are removed. On cows, calf, pig, and lamb, the leather comes from the sides and shoulders to maximize production.

The term hide is used to designate the skin of larger animals (e.g., cowhide or horsehide), whereas “skin” refers to that of smaller animals (e.g., calfskin or kidskin).

The Federal trade Commission regulates to ensure what is stamped is genuine.
  • Stitches: More is best. The more stitches you find on the glove the better. In fact, if the stitches are far enough apart that you can count them, look for something else.

Fine dress gloves originally were comprised of many components: a palm, a back, a thumb, “fourchettes” (forks) for the sides of the fingers, and quirks (diamond-shaped pieces inserted at the bottom between the fingers. Now gloves are a front and back (“trank”) stitched together with gores between the fingers to give the necessary depth.

Most good dress gloves still have the three lines of pointing on the back, which first appeared in 1780 a vestige of the embroidery of earlier periods.

Types of stitches:

Cap Gesture Plant Baseball cap Grass

Full Pique
(full P.K., Overlapped): all fourchettes are inserted with one piece of leather lapped over the other and stitched on the right (out) side.

Half Pique (half P.K.): finger seams connecting the trank and fourchettes on the outside of hand are made in pique manner and seams toward the palm of the hand are stitched with inseams.

Inseams: gloves stitched together inside out and then turned so that no stitching shows on the right (out) side.

Outseam: gloves are stitched by machine on the right side, leaving edges exposed.

Overseams (round seam): stitches on the right side with an overcast stitch, which covers the two raw edges.

Saddle-stitches: small running stitches visible on the outside of the glove used to close fingers on the glove.
  • Color: match your overcoat or shoes
Dress gloves typically come in black, and brown shades resembling cork (light brown), chestnut (medium brown) and mahogany (otherwise known as dark brown). Match the color of your gloves to the overcoat or shoes you plan on wearing.
  • Lining: for warmth and luxury
If required, Cashmere lining is the best for warmth, comfort, and appearance. It’s also considerably warmer than any other natural fiber.

Formal Gloves:
  • Material:
Daytime: gray gloves in suede

Evening (White Tie): white kid (young goat) or goatskin or for summer events cotton is acceptable.

Active/Sports Gloves:
  • Material:
Weather resistant shells, Gortex, and nylon, for example, will keep out the rain and snow while wicking moisture away from your skin. Make sure the outer shell isn’t too stiff and thick, though. If it is the shell will restrict breathability and dexterity.

If you prefer toughness over sticking power, try synthetic leather palms. Leather palms will grip well in any weather.


Sports gear Sports equipment Gesture Grass Finger

These are such specialty items it depends upon the activity. Different gloves are required for using a camera at the North Pole than playing golf in Palm Springs.

Here are some things to consider:

If the grip is important, look for a glove with grippy dots on the palms and fingers. This will help when trying to get that zipper-lock bag open. Check the palms for sandpaper-like material. A good one will grip like a mean vice.

For warmth, check the inside of the glove for fuzzy thermal linings. Comfortemp, and Thinsulate are insulating fibers that increase loft which creates more space to trap warm air.

Convertible Gloves. If you’re planning for activities that require a great deal of dexterity, like photography, find gloves that allow you to peel back the finger covering. They’ll also come in handy when working on a stuck tent zipper or to light a match.

Some gloves offer extra-long cuffs which will keep your wrists warm when your sleeves creep up your arms.

Snow Reflex camera Camera lens Digital camera Tree

Adjustable wrist bands will help create the perfect fit and keep out the snow. Check for waterproof seals. Articulated fingers will allow for freedom of movement and added dexterity.

“The boots … fitted me like a glove”

-- Tobias George Smollett in Humphry Clinker (1771)

Glove Sizing

Use the following chart to determine your correct glove size.

NOTE: Use the longest "hand width" or "finger length" measurement to find your size. If your longest measurement falls between sizes, order the larger size.

Hand Product Thumb Gesture Finger

Hand Width Measurement:
Wrap a tailor's measuring tape around your dominant hand at the broadest point, excluding the thumb, and make a fist.

Finger Length Measurement: Measure from the bottom edge of palm to the tip of your middle finger.

Glove size is usually expressed in inches or millimeters, but often gloves are sold in general size designations shown on this chart:

Hand Width Measurement
US SizesEU Sizes
6-7 inchesXS152 - 178 millimetersEU - 6
7-8 inchesS178 - 203 millimetersEU - 7
8-9 inchesM203 - 229 millimetersEU - 8
9-10 inchesL229 - 254 millimetersEU - 9
10-11 inchesXL254 - 279 millimetersEU - 10
11 plus inchesXXL279 plus millimetersEU - 11
Finger Length Measurement:
US SizesEU Sizes
6 5/16 inchesXS160 millimetersEU - 6
6 3/4 inchesS171 millimetersEU - 7
7 3/16 inchesM182 millimetersEU - 8
7 9/16 inchesL192 millimetersEU - 9
8 1/16 inchesXL204 millimetersEU - 10
8 7/16 plus inchesXXL215 plus millimetersEU - 11

The length of women's gloves is measured in "buttons" with the measurement starting at the base of the thumb and measuring toward the elbow. One button is equal to one French inch (approximately 1/12 inch longer than the standard American inch). A one-button glove is wrist length, a six-button is halfway to the elbow, and a 16-button glove is a formal length.

On and Off with Gloves:

There is a correct way to put on and take off leather gloves.

Don't pull them on by the cuff as this will stretch the leather. Instead, try to coax them on to your hands by sliding for example, the finger of your right hand between the spaces between your fingers on your left glove and pushing the glove into place.

When taking off gloves, be just as deft; pull the very tips of the fingers. Leather stretches easily and will only reshape with difficulty. In addition, taking gloves to a dry cleaner that specializes in leather cleaning will also tighten them a bit.

Glove Etiquette:

Throughout the Victorian era gloves were the mark of a gentleman and were always worn to church and the theatre. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was unthinkable to extend a bare hand when greeting. This changed in the 20th century as a gentleman removed his “outdoor” glove to shake hands (ladies kept theirs on). But at a formal ball, or when ushering at a wedding the glove is not removed since it is intended to be worn indoors.

"A gentleman on the street never shakes hands with a lady without first removing his right glove. But at the opera, or at a ball, or if he is usher at a wedding, he keeps his glove on."

-- Emily Post (1873–1960) from the book “Etiquette" published in 1922.


The word Glove may have been from Anglo-Saxon “glof” which meant “palm”.

Gloves were known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, but did not become an important fashion accessory until the Middle Ages.

Kidskin gloves, as worn by ladies and gentlemen, first appear to be mentioned (though they may have been worn before then) during the reign of Marguerite of Valois (1553-1615), wife of Henry de Navarre and the daughter of Catherine de Medici, who is generally to be held responsible for the popularization of glove wearing by women. Catherine reportedly started her campaign to get women to wear gloves because she was tired of being overshadowed by gorgeously dressed men since gloves were a key part of men's costume in that period.

Napoleon I (1769-1821), emperor of the French, was a lover of gloves; in his wardrobe in 1806 he had 240 pairs! Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica, and was given the name Napoleone (in French his name became Napoleon Bonaparte).

A couple of events chipped away at gloves, for one The Prince of Wales, (briefly Edward VIII, and after, the Duke of Windsor) and fashion arbiter of the 1930’s and 40’s often forgot his gloves on visits. World War II material conservation forced style changes as “excessive” fabric in pants cuffs and pleats, vests, double breasted suits, and gloves, etc. were rationed.

By the 1960s gloves had declined in use for social occasions and by the 1970s were seldom worn except for protection from the cold or when required for sports.

Photo credit: April Cat/Shutterstock; JuYochi/Shutterstock; Photo Oz/Shutterstock; ReyRomMedia/Shutterstock; Tramp57/Shutterstock; Jeremy Walter/Shutterstock; Beliakina Ekaterina/Shutterstock; Nor Gal/Shutterstock; Yurchenko Yulia/Shutterstock; Makhakhey Yulia/Shutterstock