What are Gauntlet Gloves?

G. Wiesen

Gauntlet gloves, often referred to simply as gauntlets, are a style of gloves that increase the protective nature of the glove by extending beyond the wrist and protecting the forearms of the wearer as well. They may be made from traditional materials such as leather or metal or modern materials such as Kevlar and were worn in the past by combatants in hand-to-hand combat. Modern gauntlet gloves, however, are typically worn as part of a protective outfit, such as suits that protect from harmful environments or working conditions. Leather gauntlets can also often be seen worn by motorcyclists looking for protection in case of accident.

Gauntlet gloves were worn by warriors to increase protection.
Gauntlet gloves were worn by warriors to increase protection.

In a historical context, gauntlet gloves were often an important part of the armor worn by a warrior who would engage in hand-to-hand combat. This type of close quarters combat left the hands of a combatant open to potential attack, which could easily disarm or severely injure a fighter and make continued use of a weapon impossible. These types of gauntlet gloves were often made from leather and could include metal segments, either in plates or chains, which would cover the leather to provide further protection from attack.

Today, gauntlets are often used in the sport of falconry to protect the falconer's hands and arms.
Today, gauntlets are often used in the sport of falconry to protect the falconer's hands and arms.

Gauntlet gloves worn by warriors could even be designed to provide some limited offensive options as well as their notable defensive capabilities. By covering the knuckles of a fighter in metal, a punch delivered during combat would cause far greater pain and damage than an unarmed strike, and could be used to disorient an unsuspecting opponent. As firearms began to dominate the field of battle across the world, however, hand-to-hand combat became a secondary concern, and so gauntlet gloves became less popular for use in battle and are preserved today mostly in specialized industries and for historical recreations.

Metalworkers can sometimes be seen wearing heavy gauntlet gloves made from leather or other similar durable materials. These provide the wearer with protection not only to his or her hands, but also to the forearms, which can easily be hit by red-hot debris when working with metal. Astronauts also typically have gauntlets as part of their suits, to provide greater protection from the atmospheric pressures of space.

Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism often include gauntlet gloves as part of their costumes to better recreate the look of historic clothing and armor. Gauntlets are also often seen on characters in films and video games set either in historical eras or in alternate fantastical universes built around medieval technology and fashions. The expression “throw down the gauntlet” stems from the practice of medieval knights removing a gauntlet and throwing it to the ground as a challenge of combat to someone else. A person challenged in this way would then pick up the gauntlet to accept the challenge, or walk away and potentially lose honor.

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