Grain or split leather? Clute or Gunn cut? Safety or gauntlet cuff? Lined or unlined?
The wide variety of choices in leather work gloves means that there is almost always “the perfect” one for any given application. Finding that glove, however, may not always seem so easy. By understanding the differences between available features, you can narrow the playing field and make an educated decision.
Follow the 5 steps below and you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect leather glove:
Step 1: Choose a Type of Leather
Leather is made from the tanned hides of various animals. Leather quality varies because it is a natural product. The most common types of leather used for work gloves are:
You should also pay attention to what part of the animal’s body the hide comes from and what side of the skin is processed.
Full or top grain leather comes from the external side of the hide. It is typically smooth, but can be lightly sanded or processed after tanning to feel like suede or velvet. The area where the hide is cut determines durability:
- Leather cut from the sides and shoulder of the animal offers the greatest durability.
- Belly and neck cuts are less durable, and are often used for “economy grade” gloves and trims.
Split leather or suede comes from the underside of the hide. This leather has no natural grain and is not as strong as grain leather. The area from which the glove is cut determines durability and dexterity:
- Belly split leather is the most economical, but it is not consistent in texture or appearance. It is the least durable.
- Shoulder split leather is economical, but less durable than side split leather because the additional movement in the shoulder area creates less dense fibers and more visible differences in texture.
- Side split comes from the rib area. It is very durable and consistent with dense fibers. Of split leathers, this is the best quality.
For greatest longevity, choose grain leather gloves. For temporary workers or sporadic, incidental jobs, split leathers will likely “do the job” and offer a greater cost savings.
Step Two: Choose a Pattern
The way a glove is cut helps determine the dexterity and comfort you’ll receive.
Step Three: Choose a Thumb Design
Sometimes, a seemingly small detail like thumb design can make a big difference in the comfort or functionality of a glove that is worn all day.
Step Four: Choose a Cuff Style
Application plays a large role in choosing a cuff style. Cuffs can add warmth, help prevent abrasion from particles falling into the glove, increase safety by doffing when caught in a machine and allow sleeves to be tucked.
Step Five: Choose a Lining
Although they are traditionally added for warmth, linings can also help make gloves more comfortable for long-term wear.
The Perfect Glove
Like all personal protective equipment, gloves will wear out over time and need to be replaced, but choosing the glove most appropriate for the task will help ensure the greatest longevity and help avoid unnecessary spending.
Burt Silversays:12/02/2016 at 2:24 pm
I use leather gloves all the time when I work in my yard and on my house. My current gloves are torn to shreds, so I need a new pair that will work with me and keep my hands safe. I never realized that different parts of the animal’s body could create better leather. I will have to look for some side and shoulder cut leather gloves.
Brittanysays:12/05/2016 at 10:20 am
Thanks for the feedback, Burt! Many people don’t know that leather quality can depend on what part of the body it comes from. Hope you find a dependable leather glove soon!
Lee Badgersays:09/20/2018 at 4:13 pm
Where the fingers attach to the palm on gloves is a straight line across all 4 fingers, however the human hand’s fingers attach to the palm in a slightly curved manner. From the index finger to the little finger is (again) a curve. Gloves can be dangerous that do not fit: the index finger on a glove is usually too short; whereas the little finger is too long and most always because the leather is not cut to fit a human hand, but only a machine. Why is it so difficult to make gloves that actually fit? Expense, inability to make leather cutting dies that could make gloves that fit, something else?
Karensays:09/24/2018 at 2:46 pm
Cutting dies can be made in any shape, so it is doubtful that this is part of the problem. But from a construction (sewing) standpoint, it is always easier to sew a straight line than a curved line. It’s not that gloves can’t be made that way, it is just that it takes longer, which adds to the cost. Many gloves are now produced by machine, and adding a curved palm seam may not be feasible for some production lines. Heavy fabrics (such as leather and canvas) also tend to pucker when they are forced into a curved seam—which may actually make them more uncomfortable than a straight seam.
It’s possible to get custom-made gloves that match actual hand size and finger lengths—but they are quite expensive because each pair requires a unique pattern and would likely need to be hand-cut and sewn.
For many applications, fit is an important factor when it comes to gloves. Industrial leather gloves are a mainstay that have been around for centuries, and they are commonly used in applications where fine dexterity isn’t necessary. If dexterity is important, leather work gloves in pigskin, goatskin and many other finer grades of leather tend to be more form-fitting.
It’s also important to note that glove technology has come a long way in the past decade and that many industries are switching from leather gloves to knit or synthetic gloves that are more comfortable and breathable but provide the same levels of protection as their leather predecessors.
Thank you for your question, and please call on us for anything further.
Rob237says:06/05/2020 at 1:48 pm
We do a lot of forestry work, the bark on the ponderosa pines will eat a pair of inexpensive leather gloves-up in a few days to a week of handling. Your website has taken pretty much all of the trial and error out of understanding what works best.
Isabella Andersensays:06/08/2020 at 10:23 am
Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad this article has been helpful for you.
Paul Wsays:09/13/2020 at 2:38 pm
Excellent information! Helped me narrow my decision after my last pair gave out. Thank you
Isabella Andersensays:09/14/2020 at 12:02 pm
Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you found the info helpful.
Eliseo Bonapartsays:09/16/2020 at 3:12 pm
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