Gloves. History of the most ordinary things
The first gloves emerged in ancient Egypt a few thousand years ago. They looked quite unusual. They looked like small bags tied around the wrist. Technically speaking, they weren’t gloves, but rather mittens. Some time later, a section for the thumb appeared. It is believed that it was predominantly Egyptian women who wore such gloves. They were necessary to perform various types of work. By contrast, the Pharaoh had gloves in which all five digits were separated.
The ancient Greeks regarded such a piece of clothing as embarrassing. People wearing such gloves were regarded as mollycoddled. If somebody did put gloves on, it was only for the purpose of performing some work.
The ancient Romans in this regard were much more straightforward, and they wore gloves without any sense of shame. Again, that was not a matter of fashion. Ancient Romans ate hot food when wearing gloves.
In the 12th century, there is a first mention of the trade of glover. It was regarded as a very honourable trade, because at around that time the glove had started to lose its practical association, and had begun to be regarded as a fashion accessory. Gloves were decorated with embroidery and precious stones and became a symbol of wealth. Gloves became a fashion accessory in the later Middle Ages. Not everyone could wear them. They .were given as a sign of honour and respect. Knights were given gloves for special achievements. Members of the clergy were given gloves on being elevated to a higher rank. Gloves played an important role in social life at that time. Gloves were used to issue a challenge to a duel. Gloves received from a lady as a sign of her favour were often kept and carried in a special little bag.
During the Renaissance the role of the glove didn’t undergo any major changes. Gloves were still regarded as a sign of wealth. They were made from silk and leather, embroidered with gold, and scented with perfumes. According to a legend, Catherine de Medici poisoned the French princess Marguerite of Navarre with a gift of gloves soaked in poison.
Some time later in the 16th century, the rules of etiquette became more complicated for men. It was necessary either to put gloves on or to take them off due to the fact that shaking hands with gloves on was regarded as rude and unacceptable. Also, people were not allowed to wear gloves at various ecclesiastical celebrations. Remarkably, the same rules did not extend to ladies’ gloves. The breakthrough of the time was the long glove. This was due to the emergence of short-sleeved dresses. It was all very simple – the shorter the sleeves, the longer the gloves. It is believed that fashion was attributed to Queen Elizabeth I, who appeared at some ceremony wearing gloves up to the elbows. But ordinary ladies started using such gloves about 200 years later. In the 18th century, men’s gloves were not as fashionable because cuffs came into fashion, and it wasn’t possible to wear both at the same time.
The 19th century saw the emergence of a fashion for ladies’ gloves without fingers. Then lace gloves came into fashion, and later they were replaced by kidskin gloves. Another fashion was for goatskin gloves. These were not decorated with anything. But the most fashionable ladies always ordered gloves decorated with embroidery or even precious stones.