I don’t understand the need for driving gloves

Do people wear them just to look cool, or do they enhance car control?

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driving gloves
The Outlierman now offers Authentic Race MK2 gloves in new colors | The Outlierman photos

OK, I admit it, I might be committing an act of sacrilege here, but I don’t understand driving gloves.

As a much younger person growing up in the Midwest, I certainly wore gloves to keep my hands warm when I drove during the winter months. I also wore special fire-protective gloves (and coveralls and socks and shoes) when I attended race car driving school (and yes, I graduated with an SCCA license).

But I don’t understand why some people who own sports cars wear special gloves when they drive their cars. Is it for show, or does it really make them better drivers?

What sparks this commentary is a news release I received recently from The Outlierman, an Italian company that produces car-themed ties and pocket squares, as well as travel bags and driving gloves.

The recent news release was about new colors being offered for the company’s Authentic Race MK2 driving gloves, no available in British Green/Cognac for the full-fingered version and in a Black/Red combination for the fingerless version.

Mind you, I am not doubting the quality of The Outlierman’s products. Indeed, the gloves are made in Italy, from nappa lambskin leather, come in a variety of sizes, and they also come in a leather case to protect them when not being worn. 

The Outlierman also offers a Heritage line of gloves in the historic stringback style.

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Prices of the various versions range from €128 to €430 ($142 to $477).

Again, I am not doubting the quality, just the need for such gloves. I annually drive around 30,000 miles, somedays I’m behind the wheel from sunrise to sunset, and my hands don’t get tired or blistered or, since I’ve moved to the southwestern section of the country, they tend not to even get cold.

So, please help a fella out here, use the Comments section below to tell me why I might need a pair of driving gloves, simply to look cool, or do you find they actually enhance your vehicle control?


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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

27 COMMENTS

  1. I always figured it was just to protect the leather steering wheel from the oils on our hands, or to help in a situation where your hands might get sweaty and hinder control to some degree

  2. In one of my past lives I drove a limo and I wore driving gloves because they helped with fatigue. Due to the combination of the size and shape of the steering wheel and the size of my hands, the gloves really helped prevent my hands from getting tired. For me, it came down to ergonomics. I don’t wear them much any more because I don’t need to.

  3. While driving my NB Miata I look cool as heck despite my dangerously advanced age. Still got the hair, the tremendous good looks, powerful physique… But the ‘liver spots’ on the backs of my gnarly old hands always give me away. So that’s why I wear driving gloves – to maintain the image!

    • Just think, if your modesty about your tremendous good looks was equated to the purpose for which the gloves were intended – to grip and better control the car in a rally, or hill climb, the gloves would cost a fortune.
      Fortunately, for the consuming public, the glove manufacturers do not know how beautiful you are, and they have not raised the prices to match your trumpian beauty.

  4. I suspect driving gloves predate leather steering wheels and protected driver’s hands when driving with a wood wheel. In terms of comfort, I’m sure it’s more aesthetic than anything else, but they do enhance the driving experience and prevent perspiration from making the wheel slippery.

    Do I use expensive driving gloves? Yes, sometimes, but it depends on what car I’m driving, how long and under what circumstances my drive is going to be.

    • Yes, my understanding as well is that when you were driving your British roadster the wooden steering wheel could get slippery, either from perspiration or rain, and the gloves allowed for a firm grip. I would love to sport some fine Italian driving gloves but since I have a Corvette coupe rather than a convertible it would seem a bit silly, alas.

  5. Some people have extremely dry skin hands included. Any gloves will help them with there grip on the wheel. Try driving a older vehicle with no power steering and a original steering wheel they can be a little slippery.

  6. I have two cars that have manual steering and the gloves give a better grip on the steering wheel. They also protect the steering wheel from the oil and salt that is on your grimy skin……….

  7. Driving gloves are meant to protect one’s hands and help maintain a good grip on the wheel under hard driving conditions. Back when most wheels were made of wood, even a slight bit of perspiration could cause the wheel to become a bit slippery. Driving aggressively for prolonged periods, in a race for instance, in a car with no power steering (or air conditioning), could result in blistering, so gloves were essential to maintain comfort and control – as they are today for race car drivers. The fact is that most of us don’t drive hard or long enough to necessitate the use of gloves, but try driving 3 hours near the limit without them.

    In any case, they do look cool.

  8. I’m enjoying all of your comments and I’m also learning why driving gloves were part of the sports car driver’s outfit in the days of the wooden steering wheel. Thanks!

  9. Interesting question — If you were to try to wrestle the big wooden wheel of the Mercedes W25, connected to the wheels with a couple of wrist joints, on one of the longer races of the 1930s, you’d want something to keep your hands from blistering and the wheel from getting slippery. Nowadays in our effete power-steering leather-rimmed wheel cars, they are totally unncessary, but every time I pull my on as part of the ritual of getting ready to go out on the track, the introduction to the movie Grand Prix plays in my head, and gets me into a track frame of mind.

  10. I like gloves and dislike steering wheel covers but I prefer Hardy Goatskin Riding Work Gloves from Harbor Freight to formal driving gloves.

  11. Mr. Edsall, I have always enjoyed reading your work, thanks. Now to add my humble and perhaps less than useful opinion.
    1. To protect the control surfaces in the car. Our hands, even if freshly washed transfer salts and other chemicals from perspiration and oils from our skin.
    2. Many believe gloves offer better control and grip. I know I do.
    3. They look cool. Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and other cool drivers use them setting the style.
    4. Full finger gloves deter hands on cell phone use because most gloves don’t register on keypad screens.
    5. If you have to display hand signals, to do so with gloves adds that touch of umm……..dignity.
    6. For British cars it allows the engine to warm up while you find and put on your gloves.
    7. My dad, my hero sports car driver wore them!
    Thank you, KO

  12. I have a 1960 Porsche cabriolet. In it’s former life it was grey with red and black stripes and wore the #30. It raced along the east coast. Have you seen this car. Did the driver wear gloves?

  13. mmm… to keep one’s hands warm? Recall that those favoring these the most, back in Brit sports car days, drove convertibles. And in the UK in particular, that could mean top-down in all but rainy weather.

    My days of cool fall – or spring- driving various Brit roadsters I used to sell were certainly enhanced by a pair of nice driving gloves…

  14. I completely agree with John above. I wear them when driving my 2002 corvette to protect the leather steering wheel from hand sweat which eats up leather faster over time plus it is cool looking. Riding gloves also are neat gifts to auto enthusiasts.

  15. If you don’t get it, then you have never driven a nasty car hard. When things get wild wooly and hairy, the added traction is helpful. With modern cars, there is no need. They are just fashion, fun, and or for winter months.

  16. While agreeing with all the above, the one I have to add is they allow to you to also grab the wheel and drive after your car has been sitting in the hot sun.

  17. Hello sir I am a transit bus operator and I can tell you driving gloves make a huge difference.The vibrations from gripping a steering wheel for ten hours a day can take its toll on your hands the gloves offer comfort and the ability to lessen the amount of pressure applied to the wheel.My first years of operating a transit vehicle I did not use gloves regularly however in my latter years I can definitively feel the difference the gloves make.Welcome relief and comfort.

  18. Go to a hot track day, and drive hard every session. If your hands aren’t sweating from nerves, focus, or the heat, then maybe you don’t need gloves.
    They give me better & consistent steering grip on the track, or mountains roads alike. And if anything else, they just look the part!

  19. I wear them because my steering wheel gets extremely hot in the warm months, and my hands get very cold in the cold months. I am looking for gloves that don’t suck the moisture out of my thin skin. Anyone have any advice in that regard?

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