Second Skin

 Hi there: gloves at the ready.

Hi there: gloves at the ready.

    The second half of February might seem a tad late to begin a discussion on gloves—sort of like writing about linen when the leaves have already turned.  I wonder though: are gloves really only for the depths of winter?  Between walking dogs, commuting and exploring the city, I spend plenty of time outside and my few pairs of unlined leather gloves are indispensable late autumn through the chilly opening of spring.  

    I don’t understand lined gloves though.  A thin cashmere lining hardly protects fingers from proper cold, and yet changes entirely the chemistry of glove wearing. Wallets are inoperable with lined gloves.  Worse, they don’t fit rakishly into the breast pocket of overcoats and tweed odd jackets.  Some might suggest silk lining, but the slight increase in insulation is hardly worth the extra cost and reduction in dexterity.  When it is really cold, I’m afraid the only response is the mitten—hardly dashing, but very effective, particularly if made of densely piled shearling.

    Unlined gloves have other advantages, both practical and stylish.  Remarkably, most unlined gloves seem to work with touch-screens.  There’s likely science behind this; all I know is a well-cut unlined glove looks much better than those nylon things with mesh fingertips.  You will also be able to access your pockets with a hand closely gloved in leather where a bulky lined glove would clumsily  have been removed in the past.  This is where style comes in.  Just as a good shoe closely follows the line of the foot, making it appear slim and elegant, so too does a well-cut unlined glove compliment the hand.  This is especially true of finer-grained leathers, like capeskin (sheep), that have a little gloss to the surface.

    Speaking of materials, I strongly suggest seeking out unusual skins.  Peccary—the hide of a smallish wild pig—is very handsome with its recognizable follicle pattern.  The leather is supple but almost indestructible; not refined, but ideal for casual gloves.  Deerskin is curiously strong too; it is light in weight compared to other leathers and some say warmer.  Real kidskin is very luxurious but rather expensive.  Suede is another favorite, especially in charcoal and dark green. Chamois is good too, although you will have to field questions about why your gloves are pale yellow.  (The best answer: because my glove maker was out of pale pink.)

    Finally, there are all sorts of arcane rules about the formality of the various leathers and shades outlined above.  I have no real opinion here, although obviously darker gloves tend to be better at night and lighter ones during the day.  Cream or parchment-light versions seem like a good idea, but always look like costume pieces.  On the other side of the spectrum, black gloves are about as exciting as rubber overshoes.  Reddish browns, tans, grays and greens seem to look good with all sorts of things without matching any of them—which is ideal for an accessory.  In fact when spring finally does appear, and your unlined gloves have become like a second skin, you’ll wonder what to do with your suddenly rather naked hands. 

 Three of a kind:  from left, peccary and crochet, hand-stitched deerskin, chamois.

Three of a kind: from left, peccary and crochet, hand-stitched deerskin, chamois.