Because I appreciate vintage styles, driving gloves are definitely on my list of things that make life worth living, but leather driving gloves do more than just look good. I'll guide you through the background and reasoning behind driving gloves, and show you my pick of the best driver-ready leather gloves online for both men and women.
Driving Gloves: History & Use
Driving gloves were originally designed to protect the brave pilots of the world's earliest cars—open-faced, dangerous carriages that left not only hands, but also faces and all other appendages exposed to the wind, rain, and elements.
Now that cars are comfortably encased in stylish bubbles of plastic, metal, and glass, driving gloves have gone the way of the dinosaur—sort of. Many men and women have actually started wearing them again, not because they need them per se, but because they're delightfully stylish, and also rather useful in other applications.
Driving gloves are an excellent, light, malleable glove to wear during spring, summer, and fall, when thick, bulky, lined gloves are both impractical and uncomfortable. They're great for bike rides, chilly strolls, shopping, and of course, driving.
I personally wear driving gloves almost everywhere outside for three reasons: (1) I am a germ phobe, and hate touching communal objects, (2) I want to protect my hands from sun, hangnails, broken nails, and chapping, and (3) Even during the spring, fall, and summer, my hands tend to run cold. Before I discovered my grandmother's vintage driving gloves, I wore crappy work gloves. Now I can finally wear things on my hands that are up to snuff with my cute little outfits.
I'm not the only one out there who wears driving gloves for non-driving purposes. German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld is also frequently seen sporting a gorgeous pair of black leather driving gloves. Michael Jackson, in his day, could also be spotted in a pair from time to time.
What to Look for in Driving Gloves
My favorite driving gloves for women have a vintage look. I am particularly partial to driving gloves with three major characteristics:
- Open backs
- Knuckle holes
- Finger vents
The porousness of gloves with these styles helps stave off any clamminess that might come with wearing an unlined leather glove (which most driving gloves are), but more importantly, I think it makes for an undeniably sexy look.
While my go-to brand for fabric gloves is Cornelia James (you'll notice this brand worn heavily by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Cambridge), they're super pricey and they don't currently sell driving gloves, so over time I've fallen in love with Harssinzanzar gloves. Available on Amazon and their own website, the gloves are very competitively priced—yet they hold up just as well (if not better) than my Cornelia James standbys (and TRUST me, I use the heck out of my gloves).
Whether you go with Harssinzanzar or another brand, look out for products:
- With good grip, breathability, and flexibility
- With high-quality materials (for driving gloves, I prefer lambskin)
- With touchscreen functionality (many traditional gloves don't support this, which is going to drive you nuts)
- With satisfaction guarantees (when gloves are really good, it's absolutely worth it to send them in for repair if something doesn't seem right)
For the record: Cornelia James and Harssinzanzar deliver on both (with the exception that many Cornelia James gloves don't facilitate touchscreen use, perhaps out of sheer insistence on being old school).
Driving Gloves for Women
I wish more women wore driving gloves—they're a slightly more masculine take on cloth gloves (which are also divine) and a nice, breathable option for female germ phobes the world round (though keep in mind that leather gloves—and frankly gloves of any material—should be worn as a reminder to not touch your face, not as a fool-proof shield; viruses can live on leather for as long as five days).
There is something just so fetching about gloves with bare knuckles - they seem to highlight the quality of the gloves and provide extra contrast while not being overly garish. I should also point out that the knuckle holes feel rather good.
Speaking of feeling good, be sure to check the sizing of the gloves before you make your purchase. You might be able to slide by with slightly ill-fitting winter gloves, but driving gloves need to have an almost skin-tight fit to really look good, so sizing is key.
If you don't end up going with all leather gloves, I recommend spandex driving gloves with leather or imitation leather accents. I inherited a pair of these from my grandmother and love them - they're washable (wash on a gentle cycle or by hand in a mesh bag and do NOT put them in the drier) and very comfortable.
Driving Gloves for Men
These days, I see more men wearing driving gloves than women. Leather driving gloves seem to surface most frequently amongst the rich, classy, and famous, so if you're going after that sort of look, have at these!
You might just be looking for something to protect your hands when going for long drives - or simply want to get a pair as a gift.
At any rate, when choosing driving gloves, be sure to mind the sizing and go with a versatile style. I recommend shying away form those cuts that more resemble winter gloves- stick with the open backs and knuckle holes, or at least some darts.
You will find that men have more limited color choices in the driving gloves department than women, but this is with good reason. Out of the predominant white, black, and brown options, I most strongly recommend black. It is the least likely to show a wee smudge, plus it goes with the greatest number of outfits.
liamhubpages on June 30, 2014:
I just can't imagine driving my car without my leather driving gloves on. I feel so damn sexy :)
jacob on January 07, 2014:
I have 8 pairs of leather gloves, 7 with "knuckle holes." I agree, they are a must. I even have a pair that i bought 1 size too large and then lined them for the winter.
Jon on March 31, 2012:
To say men can only wear black gloves is a not quite correct.
Black is probably the most popular, it coordinates with most if not all outfits and cars. What color would you wear with denim, or light colored blazer. I love my walnut colored deerskin unlined gloves. They stand out.
Amy Ka from Phnom Penh on December 15, 2011:
I wear it when riding the motorbike all the time. I like it.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on August 19, 2011:
Oh good point! I was just reading about the importance of putting sunscreen on hands while driving- wearing gloves is a convenient alternative!
ian contacts from Christchurch, New Zealand on August 17, 2011:
I too, love to wear leather driving gloves. Why? To protect my hands against the sun. The second good article of yours I have read today. A subject close to my heart. And yes, I agree with you...men can only wear black, whereas women look good in any color.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 27, 2011:
LOL that's the best!!! Hit man gloves- man, I'm going to start calling them that now XD
Maxine Durand from Idaho on February 26, 2011:
I call them my hit-man gloves- it's funny to my friends, because I drive a car with a low, wide trunk.