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Gloves vs Mittens: Side by Side Comparison

In the battle of Gloves vs. Mittens, much like The Highlander, there can be only one. Or can there? They each have pros and cons, and each has many users planted firmly in their respective camps. In this hard-hitting comparison, the gloves are off, uh or on. Haven’t made your mind up?Read the article below for more infos.

What A Glove Is? Full History

What is a glove? This question may seem silly, but what are the defining qualities? To begin with, they are items of clothing that can be made from a nearly endless variety of materials. Primarily what makes them distinct is there are individual openings for each of the five digits on the hand. Each finger is encased in its own sheath.
Gloves are intended to protect hands from the extremity of temperature, friction blisters, sharp objects, slivers of wood or metal, chemicals, allergens, and disease. Some, however, were worn merely as fashion, a statement of modesty, to show faith, or social status. Still yet, others are worn for therapeutic benefit as is the case with arthritis gloves for instance. Mittens are worn for the very same reasons.

Materials Used In Gloves!

Many materials have been used in the making of gloves and mittens through the ages. One of the most popular is animal skin leather. It is a supremely comfortable material to wear, known for its flexibility and strength. The longer they are worn, the better they will adapt to the wearer’s hands. Over time they become increasingly softer to the touch, which many wearers prefer. The downside to leather is with age comes damage. Especially with prolonged exposure to water. In light colored leather, this can cause staining. It is not uncommon to see creasing on the palm of these gloves from repeated bending and flexing. Wool, cashmere, and silk are common lining for these gloves.

Typical kinds of leather:

  • Slink lamb: used only inexpensive gloves.
  • Peccary: the rarest and most epicurean glove leather. Though difficult to sew, it is among the softest.
  • Lambskin: used heavily worldwide, hugely popular in Europe, the most used material there.
  • Deerskin: offers strength and stretch equally, has a more rustic look.
  • Goatskin: used seldom, it’s not considered mainstream, it’s rougher than most other leather.
  • Shearling: the warmest of leather because of the wool inside the glove.
  • Hairsheep: comes from hair growing, as opposed to wool growing sheep. Used for dress gloves mainly, desired for its softness and lasting nature.
  • Cowhide: too heavy and bulky for more refined styles. Occasionally used in casual gloves, but mostly work gloves for its exceptional strength, thickness, and comfort.

Less common types of leather have been utilized to craft gloves. Some of them are downright odd like soft chicken skin. Gloves made of this material became a big fad in the 17th century along with Limericks, named after their place of origin in Ireland, and produced from the skin of unborn baby calves.

The Antiquity Of Gloves: Old History

Gloves have been around for centuries. The truth is no one can be entirely certain as to when they were created, but references have been found to them BC in numerous sources. Leotychides was implicated in accepting a bribe of silver in a gauntlet overflowing with it in The History of Herodotus 440 BC. Laërtes was described to have worn gloves to protect against the brambles in his garden in Homer’s The Odyssey, according to some scholars.

There is reference made to gloves in multiple Roman texts as well. A bit of fascinating, definitive proof of the antiquity of gloves is their discovery in Egypt. When archeologists explored and cataloged items found in King Tut’s tomb, they discovered no less than twenty-eight gloves that were buried with the young Pharaoh Tutankhamen. One of Tut’s riding gloves had an intriguing design. It was much like a mitten. It was made of three pieces of material to create more finger room. This same technique wasn’t developed and protected by patent until 1945 in the United  States.

Queen Elizabeth I

Monarchs And Their Gloves

In 1774 when they opened King Edward I’s tomb, and again in 1797 when they opened King John’s tomb, gloves were found to be adorning the royal’s hands. In 1189 when Henry II of England died, Matthew of Paris recorded his burial in detail, stating the King was laid to rest with his crown of gold, his coronation robes, and gloves.

Of the monarch family Queen Elizabeth I stands out, she wore some of the most elaborate bejeweled and embroidered gloves in the 16th century, and she set the bar quite high for the nobles who followed. There are many accounts of how she would put them on and take them off with great flare when there was an audience, so as to draw their eyes to her hands, which have been said to be delicate and remarkably beautiful. Judging by the extraordinary ornate adornments and the slender, dainty examples of the Queen’s gloves that still exist today, it’s not hard to imagine her regal hands befit the gloves.

Coronation of Louis VIII of France and Blanche# of Castile at Reims in 1223

The Symbolism Of Gloves

A monarch’s pledge of tenure was symbolized at their inauguration ceremony by the delivery of a glove. This designation was to represent the King’s new power and highest authority in society. Archbishops would sprinkle the gloves with holy water, and say a dedication prayer over them. Following this ritual of anointment, the King would place the gloves on his hands.

Gloves have had a steady presence in religious sects for centuries. Their symbolism is well established. Religious gloves are considered liturgical, or of the people and have been worn throughout history typically by Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops. Gloves are worn commonly at the celebration of mass. At a German tomb in 1297, liturgical gloves were discovered.

During what is known as investiture ceremonies, to consecrate a Bishop or other high members of a church, a glove has been granted. These gloves are usually fringed with gold, and of a light lavender color, the Bishop’s usual tint of color, and have been blessed with prayer. In the circa 1450 miniature painting from the Grandes Chroniques de France, at the Coronation of Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile at Reims in 1223, the religious officials are depicted wearing gloves.

Advantages Of Gloves

What is the biggest advantage glove lovers tout? Dexterity, dexterity, dexterity. Because gloves encase each finger individually the allow for a better free range of motion. Many tasks can be performed nearly as well with gloves on as can be carried out with them off. A prime example of the dexterity a glove offers vs. a mitten is a surgical glove. You’d never find a surgeon operating on a patient while wearing mittens right? So the dexterity argument is a valid one. Modern gloves are crafted using some of the newest synthetics with an emphasis on waterproofing. Many are insulated with Thinsulate for warmth, but on that front mittens still reign supreme.

What A Mitten Is? Full Story

A mitten is defined as a hand covering that encases the thumb and the other four fingers separately. Though wool is traditionally popular, mittens have been made of many materials from leather, to linen, to synthetics like acrylic. A mitten is considered a glove. While most are of the usual encased thumb, four finger design, some, such as Danish fisherman’s gloves employ a two thumb design. The reasoning behind them is that when the fisherman wears out one side, he can turn them over to use the other side.

The Antiquity Of Mittens

Latvian mittens have been dated to about 100 A.D. by archeologists. These ethnographic mitts are recognized as the earliest discovered. In Latvia, there are many symbols interwoven in mitten’s designs. They told a sort of story, depicting Gods and items in nature. Wool is a very traditional mitten material, but it degrades rapidly, so it’s possible other mittens existed but didn’t manage to stand the test of time.

Since before medieval times, mittens have been a part of everyday life for ordinary people. They were the hand covering of choice for countryman who wore them to work. Mittens have also played a significant role generation after generation in important events in people’s lives. They have been used in weddings, religious ceremonies such as baptizing or christenings, and funerals.

In Estonia knitted mittens have been given as a gift of standing for over 800 years. In Jouga, 1949, by the northern Estonian coast, a fragment of a knitted mitten was discovered in a 13th-century cemetery. The mitten piece was unearthed at a grave marked 1238-1299. It was made of white wool, dyed with blue from indigo, and red from madder.

While other early examples have been found in Estonia, Russia, and Finland, this one is highly unique. Most mittens found prior were made with a technique of needle binding, referred to as knotless, or single needle knitting. Nalbinding is possibly the oldest style of knitting. It has been around since at least 300. The Egyptians used to to make gloves and socks. The technique is referred to in museums as single needle knitting and is similar to crocheting. This mitt, however, was made by a modern like two needle knitting technique. Until this historic find the earliest example of a knitted textile was found in Las Huelgas in Burgos, in royal burials.

Mitten Symbolism and Ceremonial Use

In Estonia, mittens were considered to be very symbolic. The were held in high reverence as they represented fertility. Mothers of suitors courting girls would send the girl’s family a bottle of spirits. If the girl’s family returned the bottle empty with a pair of mittens attached it was a sign the suitor had been accepted. The couples would later marry and exchange rings that were worn over gloves.

In Joutseno, a small southeastern town in Finland, couples getting married often paid the clerk of the church for their ceremony, with mittens. Nailbound were more desirable than knitted. In the 1860’s a clerk in the town, presumably unhappy that too many couples had paid him with knitted mittens, announced from the pulpit that he would only accept nail bound mittens or money as payment.

Finnish women and men alike have traditionally worn nail bound mittens. Some were worn for work, like the conventional gray design, others were worn for festivals. These were usually white but adorned with red and green stitches and fringe, or tassels. Fringe was more commonly used in East Finland, and tassels in West Finland.

Highly decorated mittens were reserved for gifts of prestige, often given to guests of honor at gatherings. In-laws, male fiancés, and even hired help at weddings and engagement parties were given these handmade gifts from the bride. In church, most Finnish patrons wore their Sunday mittens. These were usually of a spotted black and white design. In neighboring countries, the customs were similar, though the design varied and included intricacies such as floral adornments in Sweden and Norway.

Advantages Of Mittens

What is the biggest advantage to which mitten wearers lay claim? Warmth. Mittens have a clear edge in offering the wearer warmth. In a typical glove, the fingers lose heat rapidly because they are divided away from each other with the material of the glove. There is more surface area on a glove than a mitten. More surface area means there is a larger area exposed to the cold. Mittens allow the wearer’s fingers, minus the thumb, to accumulate more heat because they are not separated from each other.

The Baltic people, near the Arctic Circle, Natives, and Vikings have all chosen to wear mitts for the added warmth the offer. Modern mittens incorporate the newest synthetic materials that competitive gloves do, including Thinsulate. Some have tried to tackle the dexterity problem by implementing a new design of thumb and index both encased separately from the other three fingers. This design is popular for skiing and snowboarding.


debate of which is better in gloves vs. mittens will probably rage on forever. Ultimately they both offer advantages to their wearers. One is not reasonably better than the other. In the end, it all boils down to the preference of the individual. Thanks for reading!

sagi shiffer
He lives an active lifestyle and wearing gloves are part of his daily routine. This drive his passion for sports gear and accessories to share his ideas through this blog. He would like to educate readers about how important it is to take care of our hands.

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