How to buy and care for leather gloves
A good pair of leather gloves is one of those things you’ll never regret having.
Just like you wouldn’t show up to a formal event in an old tattered parka, you wouldn’t want to show up to an event with a pair of bulky Thinsulate gloves.
Below are some things to consider when looking for high quality leather gloves. We also consulted the experts at Hestra for some insights into caring for them.
What to look for when buying leather gloves
1. Quality Leather
Poor quality leather is stiffer, and more likely to crack and stretch out, so investing in a high quality leather is key to the longevity and comfort of your gloves. Among the best types of leather to look for are hairsheep, deerskin, and peccary.
Hairsheep are not the same as the sheep used for wool. They have longer hair and the leather is much softer and more lightweight than typical sheepskin. Hairsheep leather has a very high tensile strength, meaning it holds up better to movement and stretching. It creates a sleek, dressy look due to its smooth and glossy texture.
Deerskin leather is known for its combination of strength and softness. It has a pebbled grain, and it is one of the most durable glove leathers available. Deerskin is usually a little thicker and more rugged looking than other types of leather, similar to elkskin, making these a great choice for the colder winter days.
Peccary is the top of the line when it comes to glove leather. A peccary is a wild boar native to the Amazon, and their hides combine the best attributes of all the other leathers out there. Incredibly soft, flexible, warm, and durable, peccary leather can last decades. It can also be resewn over and over again, so if you are particularly hard on your gloves and rip a seam, it’s an easy fix.
2. Appropriate Lining
Cashmere linings are the softest and most lux option. Cashmere has excellent insulating properties, so these gloves are quite warm despite the sleek silhouette. It is breathable and incredibly soft, so your hands will feel great no matter how long you’re wearing them. This is our top choice for dress gloves.
Wool linings are durable and tend to be slightly bulkier than cashmere, but they are still often quite sleek. A thin wool lining will still be very soft and warm, but just a little less so than cashmere.
Shearling and fur linings are the warmest but also the bulkiest option. A shearling lined glove is your best bet for daily use if you’re in a colder climate.
3. Quality Construction
Drum-dyed leather will retain the natural characteristics of the hide better than any other dying process, which is why it’s our top choice.
Table cutting is a very rare skill, but gloves made by professional cutters will have a better fit than anything else you can find. They lay out the leather to inspect its properties and determine how to get the most pairs of gloves out of a single piece. Then they test the stretch manually to determine where and on what angle to cut it to ensure the best fit.
It takes many years of practice to master this craft. There are fewer than 100 practicing glove cutters in the world, two of whom are on the Hestra team.
Hand sewn gloves will have a more unique look to them, and are easier to repair in the event that a seam rips. Machine sewn gloves will look more uniform, however, and may be more durable. Either choice is fine, but hand sewn gloves look and feel a little more special.
Quirks are the little triangle pieces between the fingers. These allow for greater range of movement and help prevent seam ripping from daily use. It’s a small detail that can make a big difference in the overall comfort and longevity of your gloves.
Glove Size and Fit
To determine your glove size, measure the circumference of your hand by wrapping a tape measure around the widest part of your palm (not including the thumb). The width will coincide with a size:
- Size 8 is 22 cm
- Size 8.5 is 23 cm
- Size 9 is 24 cm
- Size 9.5 is 25 cm
- Size 10 is 27 cm
When you first wear your gloves, they should feel a little tight. Over time, they will form to the shape of your hand for a perfect fit. When trying them on, bend your hand upwards slightly, which should produce a slight fold at the knuckles.
How to care for leather gloves
1. Put them on properly
Because new gloves fit snuggly, they might be a little tough to get on at first. Pull the glove gently over your hand by alternating between pulling the palm and the back of the hand down toward the wrist. Do not tug too hard, and resist the temptation to push the glove down between the fingers. This puts unnecessary strain on the seams.
2. Remove them properly
When removing them, start by gently pulling each finger to loosen them, and then pull all four fingers at the same time to avoid putting too much strain on one finger.
3. Stretch them periodically to return their elasticity
The elasticity of leather naturally shifts a bit over time, so you may find that your gloves don’t fit the same as they used to. Don’t worry, this can be easily fixed!
To return the elasticity to your gloves, stretch them over the edge of a table by holding the cuff opening at the top, and the fingers at the bottom. Start at the tip of the fingers, stretching gently downward toward the cuff of the glove, with your upper hand against the edge of the table. Do this four or five times for the back of the glove, and repeat for each finger and thumb.
4. Keep them dry
Leather--especially light coloured, drum-dyed leather--can stain when exposed to water. Hairsheep is the most sensitive, while peccary and deerskin leathers are more tolerant.
Try to keep your gloves dry no matter what type of leather they are, and if they do get wet, allow them to air dry flat on a towel, away from sunlight. If you have a water stain that does not disappear once the gloves are dry, try using a light dusting of talcum powder and a soft cloth.
Do not try to speed up the drying process by laying gloves on a radiator or taking a hair dryer to them. Heat and sun can damage the leather, making it dry, misshapen, and brittle.
5. Store them properly
When you put your gloves away, either for the day or for the season, store them in a dark, ventilated area and lay them flat. The leather needs to breathe, so keep them in a cotton dust bag if you are storing them long-term.
6. Don’t overwear them
Leather gloves are like leather shoes: they need some time to rest between uses to stay looking their best. Ideally, you should have a couple pairs to rotate through so you can rotate through them every other day. This will give them time to dry out and allow the leather to breathe.
7. Get them relined
After a few seasons of wear, you may find that the lining begins to grow thin. This is natural, and certainly not a death sentence for your gloves. Take them to a glove finisher, who can reline them and give them a fresh lease on life.
Ready to elevate your glove game? Shop our selection of Hestra gloves.