Gloves have been used since the ancient times and their making has been an art refined over the centuries. The earliest gloves were crude mittens. As the art of making gloves was refined, articulated fingers were added to make the gloves more dexterous and to provide better movement to the fingers. At one time covering the hands was considered essential and gloves were made by a number of glove makers who formed guilds. These guilds have vanished and so have the handmade gloves. Now gloves are machine made and finished by hands.
Homer’s Odyssey mentions the use of the gloves. Laertes is described as wearing gloves in his garden so as to avoid the prickly brambles, though historians dispute the translation of this text. In his book History of Herodotus, there is mention of how Leotychides was given bribe of silver in a gauntlet.
As their use increased, gloves of all kinds were made. In the 14th century, plated gloves were common. Mail gloves were used even earlier to that. Many knights are described as using both mail gloves and plated gauntlets for extra protection.
Gloves also grew in style over a period of time. It became an essential item of ladies clothing and a fashion statement. Cloth and leather gloves were embroidered according to the latest fashion. In the 19th century opera gloves became popular. Gloves were worn by ladies in sizes too small for the hands to fit in so that they remained bent. They wore it like that in line with the fashion trend and often spent hours before an opera trying to fit their hand into the gloves with the lubrication provided by alum powder.
There are few books available on the history of the gloves. One of the leading authority is the French book LeGant which gives the history of the development of the gloves of a certain period. The book also deals with the patterns of gloves and the social milieu of the fashion in gloves.
Gloves have had a chequered history. They have been used for mundane purposes such as protection from heat and cold as well as scratches and cuts. They also been used to make subtle and bold fashion statements and have donned a variety of shapes and sizes either for the purpose of utility or for the purpose of making fashion statements. However, such is the fickleness of fashion that the gloves are hardly used by the girls these days as a fashion accessory.