Comfort, dexterity, durability, flexibility, protection, and cost are the key considerations when choosing leather gloves for a specific job environment or as a general purpose work glove. A comparison of leather work glove material options, pattern variations, styles and applications will help you choose the most suitable glove.
Glove Leather Types and Quality
The type and quality of leather used are significant considerations in choosing leather work gloves. Gloves are manufactured primarily in cowhide, pigskin, goatskin, and deerskin, each offering unique characteristics specific to the animal.
Cowhide leather is one of the most rugged and economic leathers used to manufacture gloves due to its availability, comfort, and durability. Specifically, cowhide is good for dexterity, durability, pliability, abrasion resistance, and puncture resistance. Cowhide is also very good in keeping hands warm, but is limited in the leather's breathability. Cowhide dries stiff when it gets wet, becoming hard and losing its flexibility.
Pigskin leather is a soft and supple leather that is more porous, which makes a glove that is comfortable and resistant to moisture, but not quite as warm as cowhide. High lanolin content keeps this leather soft which does not dry out and crack after repeatedly getting wet. Pigskin is an economic alternative to cowhide, offering more dexterity and breathability with superior pliability. Pigskin leather is the most durable and provides the greatest abrasion resistance of cowhide, goatskin, and deerskin.
Goatskin leather has the highest natural lanolin content, which makes a very soft and flexible glove that keeps its pliability after getting wet. Goatskin offers the improved dexterity, pliability, and breathability of pigskin over cowhide, but does not offer the durability. Abrasion and punctuation resistance are about the same as cowhide, while goatskin does not provide as much protection from the cold as cowhide.
Deerskin leather is extremely soft and supple offering very good dexterity and excellent pliability. Deerskin gloves do not stiffen after getting wet repeatedly and form to the hand over time. Their flexibility also causes them to easily lose their shape with rough wear. Deerskin gloves are the best for comfort, but sacrifice durability, abrasion and puncture resistance. Deerskin glove breathability is limited, like cowhide, and they provide less protection from the cold, similar to goatskin and pigskin gloves.
Leather types are further branded by cuts or splits which offer different levels of quality.
Full-Grain leather , also called top-grain leather, reflect to the finest raw material including the outer waterproof skin which provides a thicker, more durable glove with greater abrasion and puncture resistance.
Split leather is obtained by splitting the rougher interior side of the skin (drop split) from the supportive outer part (grain) yielding a softer and more pliable glove with greater dexterity. Split leather can be divided into 3 types, depending upon which part of the animal the hide is cut:
- Side split leather is made by splitting the hide in half along the backbone and is the most durable and uniform split because of its high fiber density.
- Shoulder split leather is taken from the neck and shoulder area of the animal and provides abrasion resistance in a more economic grade of leather.
- Belly split leather is cut from the underside or belly of the animal and is less consistent in texture and appearance, but the most economic split leather.
Leather Work Glove Linings
Obviously, the lining of the glove is a big factor in hand comfort with a variety of options from no lining to synthetic and natural materials. The most popular leather work glove lining options are listed below:
- 3M Thinsulate utilizes extremely small fibers of polyester to provide one of the most effective insulating linings without the bulk of natural materials. Manufactured by 3M, it is breathable and retains its exceptional insulating ability in damp conditions.
- Pile is synthetic wool that is very popular due to its low cost and similarity to wool.
- Thermal linings are manufactured by creating a first layer overlapped by a second layer of material creating a heat insulation pocket between the layers.
- Fleece is soft bulky napped cotton with a deep pile and is one of the most common glove liners.
- Foam lining features a layer of foam insulation between cotton fleeced jersey and a layer of interlocked cotton.
- Thermo lined gloves are thermal gloves with waterproof linings.
- Wool linings are odor resistant and provide excellent warmth, even when wet.
Leather Work Glove Patterns
The most common construction for leather work glove styles is the Gunn pattern, but the Clute pattern offers an economic alternative:
Gunn pattern is manufactured with fully wrapped fingers and thumbs, while the palm side is a separate glove pattern which is sewn at the base of the middle two fingers. This cut allows flexibility with the seam at the natural crease of the fingers and the seamless back affords greater comfort. The finger seams being away from the work area help the glove to last longer.
Clute pattern reiters to gloves with a roomy comfortable fit and seams along every finger and the thumb, down the back of the glove. The palm and bottom of the fingers is covered with one piece of material and no seams on the palm side of the glove.
Leather Work Glove Cuffs
Leather work gloves are available in a wide range of cuffs. Hemmed cuffs offer medium wrist protection; shirred and knit wrists prevent debris from getting into the glove, and safety and gauntlet cuffs offer maximum wrist and forearm protection:
- Rolled hem or turned cuffs feature a narrowly rolled hem and create a very finished and clean look.
- Hemmed cuffs may use color-coded fabric to hem the cuff of the glove.
- Knit Wrist cuffs provide a snug fit to prevent debris or liquids from getting inside the glove.
- Shirred cuffs use elastic to gather the glove around the wrist when worn, but not as tightly as the knit wrist.
- Safety cuffs provide a higher degree of wrist and arm protection with large 2 1/2 "cuffs. Safety cuffs are manufactured from a variety of materials and include: rubberized, plasticized, starched, denim, leather, and canvas cuffs.
- Gauntlet cuffs are a larger form of the safety cuff and provide the highest level of wrist and arm protection with large 4 1/2 "cuffs.
Leather Work Glove Thumb Types
Work gloves are manufactured using one of the following thumb types:
- Keystone thumb is a type of thumb stitched separately to conform to the natural position of the thumb. The keystone thumb offers the greatest flexibility and comfort.
- Wing thumb is manufactured with the thumb angled diagonally across the palm to improve comfort and natural movement without a seam between the thumb and palm area.
- Straight thumb is manufactured with the thumb lying vertically straight from the wrist and is good for gripping.
Leather Work Glove Styles
Leather work gloves can be divided into three basic style groups:
Leather driving gloves or drivers are one of the most rugged and comfortable work gloves made, featuring flexibility and abrasion, puncture, moisture, and heat resistance. Leather drivers are excellent in a variety of applications, including equipment operation, such as farm, construction, tractor-trailers, and forklifts. Leather drivers are also ideal for general purpose work environments requiring largeer dexterity and flexibility, such as material handling, general industrial work, stamping, packaging, fabricating, lumber industry, chainsaw operation, automotive, mining, furniture industry, pipe fitting, assembly and other medium to heavy duty industrial applications.
Leather palm gloves are one of the most popular and widely used work gloves because of their lower cost, abundance, and ability to handle a wide variety of general industry work applications, such as agricultural, automotive, gardening, construction, landscaping, parks and recreation , large material handling, oil rigging, refinery work, and other heavy industrial environments.
Welding gloves or welders are a very heavy duty superior heat resistant leather work glove providing hand protection from metal splashes, flames, sparks and ultraviolet radiation for applications in welding, molten metal, and foundries.
Choosing the right leather work glove for you or your workers is simply a matter of understanding your options and their benefits. Leather work gloves offer durability, dexterity, flexibility, comfort and protection in a wide range of quality and costs to accommodate automatically every industrial job setting.