History and Origin of Work Gloves

King Tut's Glove

Like many tools that we take for granted now and seem as though they’ve always existed, but really only have a hundred years or so of traceable history, the work glove is a wonderful modern piece of PPE that was cemented as a staple for workmen around the world long ago. Surprisingly though, work gloves have a history that is a lot clearer than that of most tools and stretches even further back than most hand tools outside of the hammer and the axe. Work gloves obviously share their history with conventional gloves and mittens, but there’s a little more to it than that.

Retro Glove ad

The long history of gloves actually stretches all the way back to the Ice Age in the form of mittens and the evidence for this is believed to be cave paintings. The oldest known glove with actual fingers is a linen glove found in King Tut’s tomb (it’s in the travelling King Tut exhibit) and it’s believed that Tut wore his gloves while driving his chariot. So, KIND OF a work glove it seems, although it doesn’t look that durable. Gloves continued over the years, Greeks and Romans are believed to have used them in war and agriculture (gardening gloves are mentioned in The Odyssey) and the great historian, Herodotus, mentioned gloves were involved in bribing an ancient official. The use of gloves continued into the early 900sAD through 1100sAD where gloves were used for gardening, work and warfare. As technology and textile skills improved over the centuries, gloves became status and fashion symbols for those who probably didn’t do manual labor by some point in the 17th century. In contrast, gloves were also adopted and used in the 1660s by yarndlers who wore them for protection while applying their craft and referred to these special work gloves as “chorns.” The versatility of gloves has never gone out of style since their inception because they’re easily adaptable for fashion and for work. With such versatility, it’s easy to see why gloves were so varied and continue to evolve and improve to this day.

Retro newspaper glove ad

While gloves do have a long history and adaptability, the modern era of work gloves (as we would recognize them) for just about every purpose began in the 1890s. While people had been using gloves to facilitate work for millennia at this point, this era was important for gloves because prior to this, doctors didn’t use gloves. The idea of doctors wearing gloves actually started when a doctor provided a pair of custom rubber gloves for his nurse after learning she had reactions to chemicals and the gloves were made to protect her hands from breakouts. Not long afterwards, one of, if not the first modern work gloves were patented in 1896 by D.F. Morgan. His motivation was to make improvements to gloves particularly for laborers and rail workers (engineers, firemen, brakemen, etc.) by creating an affordable work glove and eliminate discomfort by using a seamless palm. There were a number of follow up patents improving gloves for “chippers” (jackhammer men), a washable gauntlet glove, and a more general work glove among others which undoubtedly inspired further innovation for work gloves. With the improvement of technology, gloves for work and fashion saw a huge growth in the 1900s, even with two world wars affecting the supply and demand for gloves. As work gloves also changed, they’ve continuously improved and in regards to work gloves, new designs have been made for proper protection in a wide variety of jobs.

Klein Tools Lineman Glove

With this continued improvement, today’s work gloves have been made and tailored to any number of jobs. From regular old cowhide work gloves to something as specialized as electrician’s gloves there’s a work glove for whatever job you need to do. While we’re always adding to our collections, we currently carry a few style of Hazet gloves, namely safety gloves and Hazet 1987 extra-large gloves. We have also added the entire catalog of gloves made by Klein Tools, you can see all 51 of them in our gloves collection where we’ll be adding more brands in the future. We have Klein work gloves like Heavyweight Jersey gloves, Thinsulate™ cowhide gloves, and higher end gloves like the lineman work glove, journeyman extreme gloves, and the journeyman leather gloves. You’ll want to check back as we add more!

From the Ice Age to the Space Age, gloves have had an interesting and stylish ride over the millennia and as technology and nanomaterials improve and bring new possibilities, gloves will continue to change. As our favorite toolmakers focus on adding these innovations to gloves, we’ll continue to expand our collection so keep checking back! If you grab some from us, we’d also love to have you share some photos of them on the job site with us on our social media down below. You can also sign up for our newsletter WAAAY down towards the bottom and stay up to date on all of our latest and hottest deals!

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