From Homer to the catwalks
Gloves have been a major part of history from primitive times until the present
Ranging from the incriminating glove in The History of Herodotus to the discriminating gloves featured on the catwalks of today, gloves have always been part of the history of prosperous and exciting people.
Early days of gloves
Certain translations of The Odyssey by Homer describe Laertes wearing gloves in his garden to avoid the brambles.
In The History of Herdotus, the main character describes how Leotychides was incriminated by a gauntlet glove filled with silver as a bribe.
Pliny the Younger wrote that the shorthand writer for his uncle wore gloves in the winter so he would not impede the work of the elder Pliny.
Primitive people wore hand coverings to protect them from the elements.
Bishops began the tradition of wearing gloves for Holy Sacrament, which become a religious ritual.
Traced back to the 10th century, it is believed that popes, cardinals and bishops wore gloves to keep their hands clean for holy mysteries.
Another historical theory suggests that gloves were adopted for pomp in the Frankish kingdom.
Wearing gloves then spread to Rome, where liturgical gloves were first used during the early half of the 11th century.
Gloves and royalty
Kings started to wear gloves for certain ceremonies and later as ornamental accessories that represented luxury.
Matthew of Paris reported that Henry II of England was buried with gloves on his hands in 1189.
When King John's tomb was opened in 1797, he was found wearing gloves, as was King Edward I after his tomb was opened in 1774.
During the 13th century, gloves become a symbol of elegance and status for queens and often they were made of silk or linen that went to the elbows.
By the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth set a new trend for gloves by wearing them richly bejeweled and embroidered.
The evolution of gloves from the 12th to the 16th centuries
While the existence of weather-proofing mittens predates medieval Europe, gloves started to come to the forefront of fashion between the 12th and 16th centuries in Europe and the British Isles.
Early gloves were offered in two styles, three-fingered and five-fingered.
Three-fingered gloves were only worn by working class men and never by women.
In the Luttrell Psalter of the early 14th century, there is a man and woman shown weeding with just the man wearing gloves.
A similar version in a fur-lined form is shown 100 years later in the Robert Campin painting, "The Nativity".
In Fairhold's Costume in England, three-fingered gloves are called "country man's gloves".
According to the book, Dress in the Middle Ages, "Furniture inventories and builders' account books confirm that sheepskin gloves were worm by masons and other workers using dangerous tools or corrosive materials."
Five-fingered gloves were also worn by working class men on occasion but never by women.
Prior to the 15th century, there are few depictions of anyone wearing five-fingered gloves.
In describing 13th century apparel in Dress in Ireland, "Hose, pointed shoes and gloves were worn by all who could afford them."
Hunting scenes in the earlier centuries show a protective glove made of heavy leather that flares past the wrist and has a tassel. Early hunting gloves resemble gloves used in modern times.
During the 15th century, gloves become a fashionable accessory for both men and women.
During the 1400s and 1500s, the glove designs were plainer, as evidenced by the painting "The Family of Uberto de'Sacrati" that shows the lady wearing gloves with the fingertips cut off and the gentlemen wearing a single glove.
By the 16th century, gloves become a highly decorated accessory with slashing, gems, pearls, lace, embroidery, tabs, ribbons and elaborate cuffs.
High ranking clergy are also depicted wearing thin, white leather gloves with tassels, cuffs and sometimes a bell.
Most depictions show a glove with a cuff for liturgical purposes but there was also a shorter glove worn.
After workmen, hunters and clergy discovered gloves, they became a symbol of rank for kings.
The tomb sculpture of Henry II in Fontevrault Abbey, France shows the king wearing wrist-length gloves with embroidery.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has a glove that dates to 1220 Palermo that is embellished with gold, pearls, cloisonne, gems and embroidery.
Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a wardrobe featuring many pairs of gloves, some knitted and some perfumed.
King Henry VII also had a wardrobe that included highly decorated pairs of gloves.
Rich in history, gloves have been an integral part of the changing times for centuries.
Read more about gloves and etiquette.
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