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Why Would You Wear Driving Gloves?

Take a look around the cabin of your car – or a new car – and check out all the different storage compartments.  One of the most important ones you’ll spot is the glovebox.  You’ll find many things in a glovebox – mine has a mileage logbook, a paper map, several CDs, the driver’s manual, several paper serviettes, some compostable teaspoons and a half-eaten packet of nuts.  What you’re less likely to find in just about any driver’s glovebox is… a pair of gloves.

So why is this compartment called a glovebox rather than, say, a mapbox or just a plain old cubbyhole? Well, the reason is that in the early days of motoring, wearing driving gloves was de rigueur, so one needed a place to put them when one wasn’t driving.  Hence the need for, and the name of the glovebox.

For the most part, driving gloves seem to have gone the way of driving goggles and leather helmets and similar motoring garb of the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th century.  After all, we don’t need to keep our hands warm no matter what the weather (but see below!), bees and fast air out of our eyes, and dust from gravel roads off our clothes (in an era when clothes had to be washed by hand).  However, there are some advantages to wearing driving gloves and keeping a pair stashed in the glovebox.

First of all, what are driving gloves?  If you’ve never come across them before, you can get the idea of thick ski gloves or even motorbiking gloves out of your mind.  Instead, think of something more along the lines of a golfing glove – something lightweight and supple.  Driving gloves are usually made of leather or faux leather and are not padded.  Some are fingerless (so you can use the touchscreen) and others have full fingers, and they usually stop at the wrist.  Some, especially the sort made from synthetic materials, have ventilation holes to allow breathability.

So why would you or should you wear driving gloves?

  • They keep leather steering wheels, gear knobs and the like in good condition for longer.  The skin naturally produces oils and sweat, and the palms of your hands are particularly prone to this sort of behaviour, especially if we get a bit nervous, stressed or het up.  If you don’t have gloves, then this sweat, etc. goes onto the wood or leather, and gunge builds up on them.  Over time, this can spoil the leather or wood.  Even on plastic or synthetic steering wheels, that gunge can build up and look pretty horrible.  Gloves are a lot easier to clean than a steering wheel.
  • They keep your hands comfy.  If things are a bit nippy outside, your fingers are some of the first parts of your body to get cold and are among the last bits to warm up.  Fingers that are cold are clumsy and less responsive, so keeping them warm when you’re driving is a smart idea.  However, most car heating systems, whether it’s the warm air blowing through the vents or a heated seat, don’t quite target your hands, especially if you need that warm air to demist your windscreen on a chilly morning.  Gloves help your hands stay warm, even if they’re only thin leather.
  • They improve your grip.  Sweaty hands, chilly hands, and hands with super-dry skin don’t grip as well.  However, a good leather driving glove will keep on gripping and grip well.  This is one of the reasons why racing drivers wear them.
  • They reduce fatigue.  Vibration from the engine (in an ICE or mild hybrid) and from running on the road is transmitted to the driver’s hands and wrists via the steering wheel.  On a short trip, this isn’t a problem, but if you’re driving for a longer period, this can increase your fatigue.  The mild cushioning provided by leather gloves will dampen this vibration.  If you have a harder steering wheel and you drive a lot, then wearing driving gloves will make things more softer and easier for your hands, rather like socks inside your shoes.  That’s why long-haul truckies often wear them.
  • Sun protection.  If you drive a topless car a lot, you may have remembered to protect your face and arms from getting too much UV, but you probably wash your hands a fair bit, which means that you’ve washed off the sunscreen.  Gloves make up for this by shielding your hands.
  • They’ve got style.  Last but not least, driving gloves have got style.  It’s not just that they cover up the fact that you bite your nails or haven’t quite got rid of the traces of paint on your fingers.  They have a look of their own that naked hands just don’t have.  And there’s something about the act of pulling on your gloves before you drive that makes the drive seem like more of an occasion, even if it’s just the school run.  You can opt for elegant white for the princess or police officer vibe, brown for a touch of steampunk, or black for your wilder side – and other colours are available if you look. 

Let’s make driving gloves fashionable again!