Have you ever wondered where gloves come from? Have you ever stopped to think about the history of gloves? Gloves as we know them today have come a long way from their humble beginnings, but you might be surprised to find out that there are still some types of gloves that exist even now that are not too far off from their early predecessors. The history of gloves is an interesting one, and if you are looking to learn something a little bit different about these important parts of any wardrobe, read on.

The Complete History of Gloves

Ancient Gloves

One of the earliest references we have to gloves in any sort of record dates back to a fresco from Knossos, which was an ancient Greek city on Crete. This fresco features a picture of two young men boxing each other, and while boxing, they are wearing gloves. It may be surprising to think that boxing gloves could date back so long ago, but it is true! There are also references to gloves in The Odyssey, when they are specifically mentioned as being used to help avoid getting cut on brambles in the garden. It seems that gardening gloves, in a sense, also date back to the time of the ancient Greeks.

References to gloves appear throughout Roman records as well, so it is safe to assume that gloves were present as long ago as ancient times. These civilizations had access to gloves, but there is no real way to tell how gloves first came about. There is no record of the first invention of gloves, and there are not a lot of references to what gloves at this time period were made out of, either. It is probably safe to assume that they were most commonly made out of animal skins, although metal gloves were also probably in existence, especially for military use.

Middle Ages Gloves

During the Middle Ages, gloves become much more commonly used in battle. These gloves, made of metal and designed to cover the hand as well as the arm, were known as gauntlets. They were meant to keep the hands and arms safe while practicing hand to hand combat, such as with a sword. However, as bows and then firearms became more and more prevalent, gauntlets become obsolete and soon faded out of existence.

Gloves during the Middle Ages, however, did not disappear completely. At the time, ladies started adopting gloves as an important part of their fashion statements. They began to wear gloves that were made out of fine materials such as silk and linen, and they chose designs that covered their arms all the way to their elbows, usually in the name of modesty. These types of gloves, however, were usually frowned upon by Christian groups at the time, and they were seen as something that made women unholy if they wore them. They were looked at as a type of personal adornment that was unnecessary and could cause one to become too vain or too worldly. Therefore, while gloves became popular among some groups, they saw a bit of a setback with others during the time of the Middle Ages.

Elizabethan Gloves

By the time the Middle Ages drew to a close, gloves were back in fashion among both men and women again, and glovers became important members of society. They usually made gloves out of furs or animal skins at this time period, but fabric gloves were also used, particularly by women. Queen Elizabeth I was very fond of gloves, especially those that were decorated with jewels and other unique and beautiful adornments, and she set the precedent for ladies all over Europe to begin wearing the same style of gloves—or at least a version that they could afford. She was fond of leather gloves that were perfumed with natural aromas, but these types of gloves were quite expensive. Therefore, around the same time period, knit gloves made of silk or wool started to come into fashion as well. These were slightly more affordable, although they could not be scented the way leather gloves could.

Strangely, for a short time, gloves made from the skin of unborn calves or from chicken skin became very popular, and these types of gloves fetched a high price when they were made well. Glove making guilds sprung up around Europe, and many of them focused on making these bizarre variations of gloves for a short time. However, they soon fell out of fashion, but other types of gloves lingered on.

Further European rulers followed suit behind Queen Elizabeth I and began wearing gloves that were adorned with jewels and other trinkets as well. Male and female rulers both wore these types of gloves, most of the time up to their elbows, and this was seen as a sign of utmost nobility at the time. During this time, the church began to use gloves more prominently as well, taking a big turn from when they believed these items to be unholy. Bishops, Cardinals, and even the Pope began to wear gloves during most of their ceremonies, most likely in order to keep their hands clean. This practice dates back a long time, and even today, some leaders of various types of churches around the world still wear gloves during their practices.

Turn-of-the-Century Gloves

As time wore on, gloves turned a bit more fashionable and a little bit less practical. Women began to wear short sleeves around the 18th century, and therefore, they had a need for longer gloves that could cover much of their arms for the sake of modesty. Women still could not show that much skin, so very long gloves became the norm, even for daily wear around town. Suede gloves were popular for daytime use, and almost every woman who had enough money to afford a pair wore them whenever she went out or even stayed in and drank tea. For formal evening wear, women wore similar buttoned gloves made of silk or even luxurious velvet.

Unfortunately, it was around this time that gloves first started to be used by criminals in order to hide their fingerprints. One of the first records of this taking place happened at the turn of the 20th century, although it is quite possible that it was already happening a while before this. As the ability to take fingerprints from a crime scene become more and more prominent, the need for criminals to hide their prints also did too. Therefore, gloves saw a rise in popularity among criminal types even as they became more and more popular as a part of the fashion world, as well.

Modern Gloves

Gloves have shifted in their uses over time significantly, and today, gloves come in a wide variety of different types that are all unique and may not look too much like the gloves worn by ancient boxers in Greece. However, in some instances, gloves have not changed all that much. Leather gloves, for example, are still very similar to the ones that existed back in the Elizabethan era. Although they no longer go all the way up to the elbow and they are not decorated with jewels for royalty, they are still made in much the same way, and they still offer the same durability and level of protection that their ancestors once did.

Suede gloves have changed quite a lot since they were worn by women during afternoon teatime visits with friends at the turn of the century. Where these gloves of old were buttoned and worn all the way up the arm, today’s suede gloves pull on just like any other type of glove and are not considered a fashion statement. They are most commonly worn for work, much like promotional work gloves, and since they offer a lot of protection against cuts and other damage to the skin and bones, they are more highly prized as part of a construction uniform than something a high-class woman might wear to show off to her friends.

Knit gloves still exist today, as well, but rather than being made by glove making guilds and built of silk or wool, they are almost always made on machines of manmade materials. They come in many different colors, but usually are designed to fit only the hand and maybe the wrist, without traveling up the arm at all. These types of gloves are most commonly worn as part of winter wear to keep the hands warm, and they may be worn by men, women, or children equally.

Today, fabric gloves also exist, and they are most commonly made of either cotton or spandex depending on the type of glove. Custom imprinted cotton canvas gloves are usually paired with other types of materials, such as rubber, latex, nitrile, or canvas, to create durable gloves meant for working and exposure to chemicals, heat, cold, or potentially dangerous situations. Spandex gloves are designed for driving, mechanical work, or touchscreen phone use, and they are usually meant to keep the hands warm and slightly protected while providing a lot of flexibility, range of motion, and ability to stretch out as well. Although these types of gloves are a far cry from the gloves of the past, they still have their roots in the same ancient beginnings.

Gloves today are used for a variety of different purposes, and for the most part, they are not often considered a part of fashion anymore. They are used for necessary purposes much more often now than they were for some time, although very high fashion such as that you might see at fashion shows still includes gloves much of the time. However, most men and women who try to dress fashionably in everyday life do not rely on gloves any longer as a part of their regular ensembles. Gloves serve more of a purpose now than they ever have before, and it is not uncommon to find a wide variety of gloves for just about any use on the shelves of your local clothing stores.

Where gloves were once made either from silk or leather and used mostly for fashion—and sometimes for protection—gloves today can be made from many different materials in several different colors and are almost always used for protection first. One of the most common uses of gloves today is simply to keep the hands warm during the winter. When it gets cold outside, gloves are an important part of any outfit. They are available in lighter materials that can keep you warm when it is just a little chilly outside, and they also come in very thick and durable double layer materials that are sure to provide you with plenty of warmth no matter how cold it might get. These freezer gloves are especially popular with individuals who live in colder climates.

There are so many different uses for gloves today that it may be hard to imagine them coming from a time when they were not used very widely at all. However, gloves have had an interesting history that has wound its way through time and seen the rise and fall of the popularity of fashionable gloves as well as unique types of gloves like gauntlets. Although you might not see anyone out on the streets today wearing gloves made out of metal, it is a lot more likely you will still find someone wearing silk or leather gloves if you look hard enough.


As you can see, the glove has come a long way to become what we recognize it as today. Now that you have learned a little bit more about the history of gloves, you might be better able to truly appreciate the many styles and selections available to you when you go shopping for the perfect pair of gloves for any need. You have a lot to choose from when you shop for gloves, and you have the long and unique history of these important products to thank for that. The next time you need to buy a new pair of gloves, do not forget where they came from.