PART II, CUSTOMS AND SYMBOLISM ASSOCIATED WITH GLOVES
INTRODUCTION ( SEE Part 1 HERE)
In this part of the article, we draw upon data that exposes the meaning of the usage of gloves in the conduct of human affairs, conduct that is mutually recognized in ceremonies, rituals, customs, and practices associated to fashion. We begin by exposing the meaning of gloves in the investiture of monarchs, church dignitaries, and knights, then make reference to the etiquette on the wearing of gloves in social interactions. We then provide examples that bring to light various principles, ideals, and values associated with the usage of gloves in human interactions. The article concludes by throwing a quick look at gloves in the last century.
GRANTING OF POWER AND AUTHORITY BY THE DELIVERY OF GLOVES
Gloves formed a symbolic part of the investiture ceremony of monarchs, church dignitaries, and knights since feudal days.
The delivery of a glove to a monarch at an inauguration ceremony symbolized the granting of tenure, and a pledge of tenure. This action denoted the recognition of the new monarch’s kingly power and authority in society. Gloves were put on the king after a ritual of anointing them. The ritual of the blessing of the gloves was carried out by the officiating archbishop who would say over them a dedicatory prayer, and would then sprinkle them with holy water. In France, once the gloves had been anointed they were brought forward by the Lord Chamberlain to be placed on the hands of the sovereign. By vesting power and authority on a king or a queen it was mutually understood that the monarchy could, in turn, relegate power to others by the delivery of a glove (Beck, 1969, p. 28-30, 38).
Since 1002, bishoprics and other church offices have been granted by the delivery of a glove. In the old ritual proper to the consecration of bishops an invocatory prayer or blessing was invoked on the gloves which were then given to the bishop during the investiture ceremony. This symbolic ritual meant that the bishop’s authority as a church leader was recognized by others. Beck (1969) describes these gloves as usually fringed with gold, and always of a light lavender tint—the bishops’ own colour (Beck, 1969, p. 17).
When a noble was knighted during the Middle Ages, he received a glove. The glove symbolized a mutual understanding between a feudal superior and landholder that the knight would provide him with military service, or other duties. If a knight committed a crime or was disloyal he could be deprived of the glove in a ceremony of degradation.
ETIQUETTE ON THE WEARING OF GLOVES
There were precise guidelines in past centuries as to when a person should or should not wear gloves. The etiquette of glove-wearing was well-defined in royal and church protocol, and among members of the upper classes. Conformity to etiquette can best be understood by what Berger & Luckmann (1967) describe as a process of habitualization and institutionalization internalized by persons themselves that can actually limit their flexibility and actions (p. 72-76). Many of the customs connected to gloves gradually faded-away in the 1800s.
Royal and Church Protocol on the Wearing of Gloves
Beck (1969), in citing Professor Thorold Rogers, states that to offer a bare hand in ancient days to someone else was a symbol of hostility or enmity, whereas offering a gloved hand was understood as a token of peace and friendliness. However, there were some exceptions to these rules. For instance, it was held disrespectful to come into the presence of the sovereign with gloved hands, and it was once obligatory to doff gloves on entering a church (p. 56).
There were regulations within the church when the wearing of gloves was essential. Gloves were particularly required to be put on by the priests before the consecration of the Sacrament as they symbolized purity, chastity, and cleanliness. In many churches, priors and cantors had to wear white gloves when holding staves and in processions (p. 16-17, 56).
Etiquette on the Wearing of Gloves
Fashionable men and women had their own etiquette on when and how gloves should be worn. For instance, there were several short lived trends after the 1590s that a chic person was to carry gloves and hold them in the hands. Another trend was to carry one glove and tuck the other into the belt or girdle. These common practices were neither entirely useful nor altogether ornamental (Beck, 1969, p. 112; Laver, 2002, p. 102; Sichel, 1977, p. 11).
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, etiquette dictated that a sophisticated lady’s hands had to be covered at all times. This meant that a lady was to wear gloves not only outdoors, but also indoors, while having tea, and even at home “en negligée” (Gernsheim, 1981, p. 26, 29; Kybalova, et al, 1968, p. 471).
There was a tacit understanding between refined gentlemen who lived in London as to the kinds of gloves that should be worn for hunting different animals, and for participating in social activities. For example, chamois leather gloves were to be worn when hunting fox; when returning to London in a Tilbury after a drive to Richmond in the morning, gloves of beaver were a necessity; to visit a lady or to shop in London, coloured kid gloves were essential; to attend a dinner party, yellow dog skin gloves were the norm, but a well-informed gentleman would always bring an extra pair of gloves if a dance followed the dinner as it would be inexcusable to lay a hand on a lady with the gloves he had worn at dinner (Gernsheim, 1981, p. 35).
GLOVES USED IN THE CONDUCT OF HUMAN AFFAIRS
The role of gloves in human affairs characterizes the shaping of conduct and the procedures people followed in order to secure their ends, pursue their goals, and to meet their needs. In this section, brief explanations on the usage of gloves and their purpose are presented in the following order: gloves used to signify honor and defiance; justice; peace, friendliness and goodwill; faith in transactions, and as favors and bribes; for the protection of one’s creations; to show appreciation of others; as recognition of the worth of others; and, as expressions of love and affection.
Gloves as Pledges of Honor and Defiance
The employment of gloves as pledges of personal honor and as a prelude to combat was practiced during the medieval period and the middle ages. Knights would convey defiance or launch a challenge toward another knight by casting down a gauntlet. This ritual was applied in jousts and tournaments which attracted many people. The practice of tossing down a gauntlet likely originated in the sixth century with the Burgundi, a clan of old Gaul (Beck, 1969, p. xi, 78, 201, 201, 205-206).
The act of the throwing down of a gauntlet as an incitement to a duel, which usually resulted in death, was practiced for several centuries. According to Beck (1969), there were separate jurisdictions in the court of chivalry and honour, such as in cases of felony and most notably in civil disputes as to possession of real property. In England, for example, the last appeal to force in a civil cause occurred in 1571. The appeal arose out of a dispute as to the ownership of some lands in Kent. Beck relates that the plaintiff appeared in court, demanded single combat, and then threw down his glove which was immediately taken up by his opponent on the point of a sword. A day of combat was then appointed (p. 206).
Gloves and Justice
Gloves played an important role in the courts during the1500s to 1700s as they denoted probity, and justice. White gloves, for instance, were presented to a judge by the Sheriff when he presided over an assize at which no prisoner was capitally convicted. Such cases were commonly referred to as a maiden assize (Beck, 1969, x-xi, p. 53; Cockburn, n.d., p. 301).
Gloves as a Symbol of Peace, Friendless, and Good-Will
For many centuries it was common practice to use gloves as messengers of good will between sovereigns, nobles and dignitaries, and on missions of peace. In many cases, the presentation of gloves was used to bridge over breaches of friendship, to bind up broken ties, to disarm hostility, or to invoke intercession between factions (Beck, 1969, p. 249).
Gloves were also given as tokens of amity, and kindly feeling. In many instances, they would be sent to wish a person well, to congratulate them, or to console them. It was also common practice to offer gloves on memorable anniversaries and on New Year’s Day to friends and staff (Beck, 1969, p. xi, 114, 227, 230).
Gloves and Business Transactions, Favors, and Bribes
The ancient practice of binding a bargain or the transfer of property by the delivery of a glove was continued over the centuries. In these contexts, gloves were a general pledge of security, promise, and faith in the negotiation of a transaction. During mediaeval times, gloves formed part of the rents paid to a landholder (Beck, 1969, p. xi, 199, 200).
Gloves were also employed to introduce some deputation praying a petition, or in soliciting a favour from some great man. In soliciting a favour from a government minister or from a great man, it was usual to break ground by presenting gloves and other valuables to the man’s lady. Also, it was not uncommon for a father to present gloves as a bribe to procure a commission for his son (Beck, 1969, p. 55, 149).
Gloves Used in Secrete Correspondence
To protect his inventions, the Marquis of Worcester (1601-1667) knew well the value of forming varying combinations of arbitrary symbols for cypher or secret correspondence. He therefore endowed gloves with a language. For example, Invention 34 is “A glove with knotted silk strings;” Invention 35 is “A glove with fringes and knotted silk strings;” and, Invention 37, “A glove pinked with an alphabet.” He stated that, “The knots shall signify any letter with commas, full points, and interrogations, as legible as with pen and ink and white paper” (in Beck, 1969, p. 131).
Gloves as Recognition of Distinction
Gloves were customarily given to guests and visitors of distinction to acknowledge their worthiness, and to staff and workmen for work well-done.
In the 1400-1500s, Universities in England presented gloves to a visitor or notable personage as an indication of their dignity and learning, thus making them worthy of remaining with covered hands, even in the presence of the highest collegiate dignitaries (Beck, 246-249).
Monarchs would sometimes give out gloves to the people who assisted them, and to musicians, jousters and athletes. Henry VIII (1491-1547), for instance, gave a pair of leather gloves to Sir Anthony Denny, his Privy Councillor and personal friend, whom he had appointed as executor under his will. These gloves are described as being richly decorated. The cuff is embroidered with silk, gold thread, and seed pearls on a satin ground, and fringed with gold and silver lace (Beck, 1969, p. 250-251).
In 1521, the Queen of Portugal rewarded the success of the jousters with perfumed gloves. Other athletes were also rewarded wholly or in part by gloves for their outstanding performance (Beck, 1960, p. 80-81).
Gloves were given as a gift of harvest to labourers after they had finished their hard work of gathering in the fruits of the early crops (Beck, 1969, p. 230-233). The historian, Worsley (2007), in her writings on the Lord Cavendish’s who lived during the 1500-1600s, states that sometimes a master gives his masons who are building a castle for him a gift of gloves at the start of their work, as well as livery in the household’s colours (p. 29).
Gloves as Tokens of Love and Pledges of Affection
Since the opening of fashion houses in the late 1800s, designers have used gloves to accessorise their day and evening wear collections. Between 1925 and 1940, the Hermès fashion collections included a variety of long and short styles gloves, many of which were richly embroidered, and in the 1930s they set a trend when they presented leather gloves with matching handbags. In 1938, Elsa Schiaparelli promoted a wrist length gauntlet made of netted silk in her showings. In the 1950s, Gabrielle Chanel was known for her day suits worn with short gloves. And, in his 1997/8 Autumn/Winter collection, Alessandro Dell’Acqua had a model wearing long light brown leather gloves (Fogg, 2009, p. 92, 98; The Fashion Book, 1998, see designers Gabrielle Chanel and Alessandra Dell’Acqua). Well-known designers are still crafting fine leather gloves for men and women, for instance, Giorgio Armani, Ann Demeulemeester, Fendi, Lavin, Paul Smith, Versace, Gucci, and many others.
Movie stars from the 1950s and 1960s often wore gloves in the roles they portrayed. For instance, Grace Kelly (Princess Grace of Monaco), Ava Gardner, and
Joanne Crawford (The Fashion Book, 1998). A very popular fashion icon, Jacqueline Kennedy, and wife of President Kennedy, was always seen wearing her trademark white gloves when on state or official visits during the 1950s. Michael Jackson (1958-2009), the King of Pop, loved extravagant gloves. His iconic Swarski crystal studded gloves worn during his 1984 Victory tour sold at a Las Vegas auction in June 2010 for $190,000.00 (Go Planet Gloves, 2011).
Conclusion. In present time, gloves have a broad range of utilization such as keeping the hands warm and protecting them from harm. They are worn by persons who work in commercial, agricultural, and industrial environments. They are also used by people who participate in sports and other recreational activities. Besides their utilitarian value, gloves over time played a substantial role in the conduct of human affairs and social interactions. The early customs, values, and symbols linked to gloves have lost much of their relevance. However, there are still people today who maintain the tradition of wearing gloves at funerals, weddings, state functions, formal events, and the opera.
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- Redwood, Mike (2013). About gloves. http://www.mikeredwood.com/about_gloves
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