The History of Gloves

Fashion and Process Since the Stone Age


Gloves have been around almost and possibly since man has been around. It is unknown when gloves were invented, however that date has to be close to the date of the invention of shoes, even in a primitive form. Though the invention of such a garment was to protect the hands, the uses, styles and purpose of gloves have shifted numerous times throughout history.

The hunters and gatherers of the stone age required something to keep their hands warm and protected from other elements. This representation of gloves may not have been anything close to having individual fingers, but close to something similar to a mitten. One man had gone through further development, finger holes and more dexterous gloves were developed.

Humans have been sewing, by hand for over 23.000 years. It can be estimated that gloves, similar to the form they are seen in now, with stitched finger holes were first created and used between 18000 BC, when raw materials were first used and 3100 BC, during Egypt’s 1st dynasty. Quite possibly the oldest pair of gloves known to exist, are the linen gloves of King Tutankhamun, (1341 BC – 1323 BC.) which was some 7.000 years after the end of the stone age. The linen gloves of Tutankhamun were fairly simple as they were made with very few pieces of material. It appears that the palm side and fingers were all made from one piece, which was attached to another material with a pattern that looks like rows of eyes for the back of the hand. The sewing style is similar to that of modern day “inseam” stitch, where the glove is sewn inside-out to hide the seams. Even gloves today don’t seem to be as fashionably colorful as the gloves of Tutankhamun.

In Egypt, it is said that gloves were used to protect the hands of women and worn as a status symbol.  Of course, there must have been gloves for protective uses for hunters and other classes of people like workers, yet they may not have been as abundant until millennium later.

Later in history after the birth and death of Christ, gloves carried on their same uses by workers and status icons, only becoming more elaborate in the latter use. Stemming back to the 17th century and beyond, status gloves became increasingly complex with handmade ornate decorations like beads sewing patterns and other embellishments. Gloves at this time mostly had large gauntlet style cuffs. Going into the 19th century, they lost the elaborate cuffs and tremendous embellishments. This lack of embellishment was probably due to the invention of the sewing machine in 1846, when gloves became much easier to make. Along with the sewing machine, new ways of cutting leather were developed like large presses that could cut many pieces at once rather than cut the “trank” out by hand.

With the advent of the sewing machine, the biggest glove boom in history was probably the better part of 50 years between 1890 and 1940. In the early 20th century status gloves became more or less like standard fashion gloves of the 40s and 50s. The typical style of a men’s glove by this time was a simple wrist length glove with three draws on the back of the hand mimicking the tendons in the of the index, middle and ring fingers in the back of the hand. A typical ladies glove would be a gauntlet style glove of 6-8 button length (reaching the mid forearm) with various decorations like stitching and draws on the back of the hand and or buttons and other embellishments. In the mid 20th century gloves were so abundant that the industry was flourishing with anyone who is anyone wearing fashion gloves for every occasion. These styles were popularized by people like Hedy Lamarr and Marilyn Monroe.

In the 50s, it was standard attire for both men and women to have a pair of dress gloves even during the warmer months, particularly in the United States. Popular colors for men were brown or cognac, black, yellow and navy. Popular colors for women were often white or black. This trend lasted until the early 60s, when gloves started to fall off the radar of fashion icons. Gloves expanded in color from white to more colorful tones to match the vibes of the 60s and 70s.

By the time the 80s made way, fashion gloves became a thing of the past and were no longer worn for fashion or comfort, only simply to keep warm in the winter months, where the fashion aspect would become ancillary. Gloves had come to simply black for the most part and did not stray too far from that color. Black became the most popular color because it is the easiest color to match any outfit and one person typically would only own one pair of gloves. Due to this shift in fashion trends, global glove production shifted from the heart of update New York, to China and the Philippines, as well as Pakistan.

Between the 60s and 80s, work and other job-related gloves began to make some improvements on a fairly standard design. New ways of sewing gloves and new materials to be incorporated made gloves ever so stronger for manual labor tasks. In the 90s and early 2000s there was quite an uprising in tactical and military style gloves that presented a different use with higher dexterity and shock resistance than typical deerskin work gloves.

Today it seems that fashion gloves remain to be in a similar state they were in since the 80s being a necessity of warmth rather than a fashion statement. However, developments in production have made gloves easier than ever to produce. Styles seem to be all over the place, incorporating new types of materials, new ways of incorporating these materials into gloves and various “off the reservation” styles of gloves, that don’t really seem like the next step in glove designs. This look could also be a result of the entrance of singular brands, not glove producers entering the glove market.

Yes, gloves can still be seen on the fashion runway, but very seldom and they will typically be a pair that nobody in their right mind would wear. You could say that gloves have reached their equilibrium, not too fancy, not too dull, just a standard impression across the board that is the result of thousands of years of evolution.



New Sewing Machine


Glove Manufacturing



Polytechnisches Journals

Published by

Dr. Emil Maximilian Dingler

(pages 541 and 542)


It is known that, in spite of the versatile application which sewing machines have also found with us in more recent times, so far there has been no machine that can be used advantageously for sewing gloves. Rather that by means of auxiliary machines, gloves are actually still sewn by hand in all countries and are currently used by many thousands of girls. The mechanical engineer F. Kienast, has recently invented a sewing machine in Berlin which, it seems to us, in the future, the glove sewing will only be attributed to machine work and this work will be done cheaper than before. We cannot go into the exact construction of this machine yet, we can only state that this machine is also moved by foot, that the sewing mechanisms are driven by a horizontal shaft and the needle moves in the horizontal direction. The seam can be formed by one thread and also by two threads and appears permanent and elegant; all parts of the machine can be described as very solid. With regard to the performance of the machine, it remains to be noted that a girl does six times the previous work by means of it.

Dr. Robert Schmidt



Polytechnisches Journals

Published by

Dr. Emil Maximilian Dingler


Kienast's glove manufacturing machine

This machine produces the so-called overlock seam, with one thread as well as with two threads; in other words, it is a single-thread and double-thread sewing machine. The machine has other rotating mechanisms for grippers or shuttles, but works with ordinary sewing machine needles. In practice, it is particularly well suited for sewing gloves and will certainly fill in a gap that has existed up to now. From the accompanying illustrations of the machine (without stand), Fig. 11 is a plan view and Fig. 10 is an elevation; Fig. 12 and Fig. 13 drawn in real size represent mechanisms which are represented in other machines by grippers and shuttles. The shaft "A" located under the table (not shown) is the main operating shaft of the machine and is (as usual) driven by a foot-board by means of the line roller "B", but can also be set in rotation by the hand-wheel "v" when starting the machine. The wheel "i" is initially located on the shaft "A" for the material transport; the same thing jerkily sets the wheel "o" and this again sets the wheel "g" in motion; "g", the upper end of which carries the metal plate "f", sits on a shaft. The shaft of this plate, drives a second plate "f1" by means of the wheels "v" and "v1", the upper edge of which lies against the edge of the plate "f" and is pressed against it by a spring "h". The fabric to be sewn is placed between the edges of the mentioned plates "f" and "f1" and the pressure mentioned is exerted with the left foot by arranging a bar from "h" after a step. Incidentally, by changing the wheel "o", the speed of the transport disks "f" and "f1", ie. h the length of the stitch is changed, which makes the same machine usable for a wide variety of jobs. The other mechanisms are moved by means of part "H" of shaft "A", which is reinforced and provided with three grooves that move the levers. The groove N1, by means of levers "v" and "p", move, in a straight line back and forth, the placed horizontal sewing needle. The groove "N3", by means of lever "a", moves the cylinder "x" by means of a spiral groove, connected to parts shown in Fig. 12 or Fig. 13. We will call each of the last mentioned parts, "bow catchers" (Bogenfänger). The groove "N2" finally,  moves the lever "f", which is connected at the end to part "b" which is moved up and down. This part we will call "straight catcher" and it should be noted that both the straight catcher and the bow catcher can be adjusted in the vertical direction.


Seaming with a thread is done in the following way:

For this purpose the bow catcher "c" (Fig. 12) inserted in x is used. To do this, the thread is passed from the reel "X" through the tension disk "r" (Fig. 11) over the spiral to the needle holder "d"; then you pass the thread from bottom to top. Now press the spring "h", thereby opening the transport plate and placing the fabric to be sewn in between. Now the machine can be started with the hand-wheel "v" (the same has to be turned from left to right) and the needle will pierce the fabric. With a drop of about 4 millimeters, the thread forms an upright loop. The bow catcher "c" (Fig. 12), which moves in a circle, engages in this with the lower fork and places the thread loop over the edge of the fabric. Now the straight catcher "b" comes and presses this thread loop down so deep that the needle sticks into this loop, whereby the chain is made. By continuing this operation, a nice overlocked seam is formed.


Seaming with with two threads takes place in the following way:

For this purpose, the bow catcher "a" (Fig. 13) is first inserted into "x". It has a hole at the rear and front end and a thread groove on the outside. The second thread coming into these holes is drawn into this bow catcher from the back to the front and is now moved in the same way as for the simple thread when sewing. The current bow catcher "a", which contains the second thread, also engages in the loop which forms on the needle thread when the needle falls about 4 millimeters; as a result, the catcher thread is linked to the needle thread; The bow catcher a now carries its thread over the edge of the fabric and, as before, the straight catcher "b" presses the needle thread so deep that the needle sticks into the loop and the interlacing is finished. This seam becomes a little stronger than the previous one, which is not recommended for gloves, but is recommended for hosiery.


When sewing by hand, a girl can make 2 pairs in 12 hours, when sewing with this machine sew 12 pairs of gloves at the same time, so that the performance of the same can be regarded as excellent. The inventor of this machine is the machine manufacturer F. Kienast in Berlin, to whom it was patented in several countries. 

Dr. Robert Schmidt in Berlin





As reproduction of historical newspaper articles and/or historical sources and/or historical artifacts, these pages may contain errors of translation and/or spelling and/or missing words and/or missing pages and/or poor pictures, etc.