Design & Make

The Fascinating History of Driving Gloves

by Rebecca McCusker May 28, 2019
ReadThe Fascinating History of Driving Gloves Photo by Hannes Egler

Pass anyone on the highway and look at their hands. Chances are, they’re not wearing gloves. And why would they?

Driving gloves used to be ubiquitous. These days, you’ll see auto racers don their driving gloves as they prepare to race. You’ll see people wearing them if they’re driving a ritzy sports car through a small Italian village. But, you won’t see your average dude in a pick-up truck rocking them.

During the birth of automobiles, cars looked more like open-air wagons, which exposed drivers to the elements. Furthermore, the roads were muddy, rocky, and unpaved and were oftentimes harrowing. These conditions required drivers to don gear so they could stay protected and comfortable while on the road.

The use of driving gloves: not just a fashion statement

Early driving gloves were not meant to look fashionable. In fact, they didn’t look cool at all—these gauntlets covered a motorist’s entire arm all the way up to his elbow to protect him from the wind, rain, and cold.

Early automobile design was also carried over from wagons. They had solid front and rear axles that caused the car to pitch when it hit the slightest bump in the road. Early vehicles didn’t track straight, so motorists had to spend extra energy keeping the car headed in the right direction, which could have caused serious splintering on their hands (since early steering wheels were made of wood).

Imagine getting splinters just from driving!

Driving gloves were a status symbol—until driving became “mainstream”

Back before cars were affordable to the masses, only the richest families in society could afford an automobile. Even the material with which their driving gloves were made stood as a symbol of a family’s wealth. White leather was especially awe-inspiring because it took extra resources to keep them clean.

This all ended when the automobile became more affordable and as driving became easier. Motorist styles became less popular and eventually went by the wayside.

This is why we now keep napkins, maps, and cashews in our glove compartments instead of actual driving gloves. Most of us feel like we don’t need them while driving to work and back in our Toyota Corollas.

Reasons for the modern motorist to wear driving gloves

Driving gloves have largely gone by the wayside, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful! Driving gloves are especially useful in protecting a motorist’s hands from harsh UV rays that can end up giving your hands sun spots and freckles.

They also protect your steering wheel from the natural oils on your hands, which comes in handy for people with vintage rides or steering wheels wrapped in leather.

Gloves also offer you greater car control, especially if you’re driving down winding country roads or going on an off-roading adventure. With leather paws, you’re less likely to let the steering wheel get away from you.

Even if you just purchase driving gloves for how they look, I won’t blame you. When I see someone wearing driving gloves, I tend to consider them badass and someone who takes driving seriously.

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