John B Keane: Get a better grip on life without gloves

The only gloves I ever wore, at least that I can recall, were boxing gloves.

It is true to say that most young fellows wore boxing gloves at one time or another.

Most, like myself, did not wear them for long. Our deficiences were exposed by handier and craftier chaps.

This, however, is not an essay on boxing gloves. It is an essay on gloves of all kinds but primarily on the kind which are a mixture of ornament and protectiveness.

When I was younger, it was widely held, that it was sissyish to wear gloves on one’s hands as a protection against the cold and the wet.

Those who defended this view most stoutly were those who could not afford gloves.

This applied to most of us, when we were young fellows. It is ture to say, therefore, that we were somewhat prejudiced against gloves.

Indeed, when a sister of mine, for want of something better to do, knitted me a pair of woollen gloves, I lost them deliberately rather than be the butt of jibes and barbs from my gloveless contemporaries.

It was an understood thing, of course, that girls and women were expected to wear gloves and some of these would make a great show before Mass when they took their seats in the church.

They would hold their hands far out in front of them to let less fortunate women see the quality of the gloves they were wearing.

Gloves, in those days, were a most important part of a woman’s dress not like now when you only see them on brides and bridesmaids and purely for effect at that.

The glove that stuck out the most, as I recall, was the heavy gauntleted glove which reached almost to the elbows.

It was rimmed with fur and was a heavy object, often used by women on their children and indeed, their menfolk.

It was made from leather but it was also lined with fur on the inside.

Then, of course, who hasn’t heard of kid gloves. Once when a girl in our street got a present of a pair of gloves from here fellow it was the talk of the place for several days.

Kid gloves were soft and supple and were most worn by pretty girls.

Nowadays when a woman buys a new outfit the first thing she does is to institute a search for a hat and a pair of shoes to go with it. In my youth the gloves, as accessories, were far more important than the hat or the shoes.

On Sundays when the style at the day’s Mass was being reviewed, often unkindly, one would often hear the question “what sort of gloves had she with it?”

While the outfit under the spotlight might be accepted for its own sake many an innocent woman who was a poor judge of a matching glove was often badly criticised because of her choice of the latter and it is true to say that the glove was more often than not the Achilles’ Heel of a woman’s general appearance.

Amongst lost objects gloves must number very high and I remember very few pews after Masses which were without their own pair of forgotten gloves.

Indeed, I have lost count of the number of times I was sent by mothers and sisters, neighbours and acquaintances to the church where they had left their gloves.

The good thing about leaving gloves behind in church was the fact that they were nearly always recovered although some people, when they could not locate their own, brought the next best thing.

They would always justify this by inferring that fair exchange was no robbery.

When gloves were stolen from churches and when they were later seen on the hands of guilty parties no comment was passed, but it was generally felt that those who took the gloves from the pews of churches were very hard up indeed for gloves.

I have often been tempted to wear gloves especially in recent years.

Hints have often been dropped around Christmas and before birthdays.

I am always opposed to the idea lest the people who are near to me get into the habit of glove-giving, but I daresay the real truth is that I have that old fear of being considered a sissy. It’s foolish I know but what can I do - I’m stuck with it.

I much prefer umbrellas as presents, and as I say this I am fully conscious of the animosity I might arouse in the breasts of glove makers. Let them adorn and protect the tender hands of the opposite sex. I find I have a better grip of life without them