Nowadays we don’t have special clothing for driving. You wear what you wear and don’t change before taking the driver’s seat. However, in the first half of the previous century people sometimes used to wear special driving gloves. Why? What kind of advantage did they provide?
Driving glove is a type of leather glove made specifically for driving an automobile – it is interesting that everyone knows how they look like, even though no one wears them anymore. It has short cuffs in order to not interfere with wristwatches, a stud clasp going over the back of the hand, knuckle holes to aid flexibility, and perforations for ventilation.
The first driving gloves appeared almost together with the first cars back in the 19th century. They were the same simple leather gloves that wealthy people used to wear while hunting, shooting and riding horses. A specialised unique driving glove was developed in the beginning of the 20th century and remained unchanged until today. Except that today they are rarely worn and even if someone puts a pair on it is mostly a fashion statement.
Back in the day driving gloves were very functional. First and foremost, driving gloves did what all gloves do – protect hands and fingers from weather. Early cars were completely open, which did not shield the driver from the elements. And so gloves were necessary to keep driver’s hands warm and dry.
Driving gloves protected hands from calluses as well. Back in the day only the wealthiest people could afford cars and their hands were very soft and tender due to the lack of manual labor. On the other hand, steering wheels were typically made from hard materials, such as wood and metal. They were not nice to hold on to on longer trips.
And driving gloves did make driving nicer. Cold hard steering wheel was not pleasant to touch and other driving controls (levers and switches) were also nicer to use when wearing gloves.
Those hard steering wheels were also quite slippery. Driving gloves improved grip, which was especially necessary, because back then cars didn’t have power steering. Turning the wheel was quite an exercise and gloves were simply necessary to keep the grip firm.
Finally, there is no denying that driving gloves quickly became a fashion accessory as well. They were crafted from fine leather and had to fit perfectly. A nice pair of well-designed driving gloves sent out a message “I came by car”, which was a sign of wealth and skill, which was not as common as it is today.
Some companies are still producing driving gloves in the 21st century. Of course, today they are a fashion accessory, although owners of vintage cars still appreciate them for all the same reasons as drivers of the past.