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What Are Driving Gloves For: Purpose & History Explained

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drive movie scene Ryan Gosling driving gloves steering wheel

Ryan Gosling dons a pair of driving gloves in Drive
Photo: FilmDistrict

The average person most likely drives an average car and doesn’t own many fancy driving accessories. Yet, some people invest a lot of money into items—like driving gloves. Are these leather accessories merely fashion apparel for the upper class, or do these mitts serve a purpose?

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The earliest driving gloves—and why the glove box was invented in the first place and received its name—were created because automobiles were originally very dirty and uncomfortable to drive. Imagine cranking the car to get it started, then gripping a rough wooden steering wheel with no power steering for hours. Such conditions necessitated hand protection, which was only further propagated by the onset of motorsports.

While our experiences behind the wheel have certainly changed 100 years later, some people still wear driving gloves, but for a different reason. While those who own classic cars may don a pair of fabric gauntlets to protect their vehicle from oily, damaging hands, the vast majority of today’s driving gloves are strapped on for a different reason.

One obvious hint as to what the purpose of modern driving gloves are and why they’re only used by certain drivers is by watching movies. If you study characters from Drive, Spectre, or Baby Driver, you’ll notice that they in fact wear driving gloves when operating their vehicles—particularly in situations when precise, responsive vehicle performance is needed. That’s because today’s leather driving gloves have a porous, grainy palm that offers better stick and friction when gripping the steering wheel and gear shift.

There are many specific brands and styles of driving gloves today that equate the driver’s status and fashion style, but most of them still serve the same purpose: keeping your hands comfortable while better-operating your vehicle.

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Source: Gentleman’s Gazette