Driving gloves are an iconic piece of classic menswear, and they’ve been worn by famous people like Ryan Gosling, Steve McQueen, and many Bond characters. Driving gloves exude the classic style charm of a classic car, but driving gloves can be very difficult to pull off in an outfit as they often look costume-y.
We’ll teach you how to wear driving gloves properly and in what occasions to incorporate them into a classic wardrobe so you never look like you’re wearing a costume. And as always, we’ll add a little bit of history, too.
Please keep in mind, though, that this guide is not about leather day gloves; Raphael will tell you more about that in another guide. But, if you also want a full, written explanation of driving gloves, we have a separate definitive guide as well.
History of Driving Gloves
Modern driving gloves evolve from driving gauntlets, which were full-sized, flared leather gloves worn as a practical solution to the difficulties of early motoring. After all, the earliest automobiles had no power steering, no climate control, and no protection from dust and mud, and they were subject to massive vibrations in the steering wheel. So, heavy gloves were essential as they kept the driver’s hands warm and clean as he operated a motored vehicle. Also, having gloves made of leather allowed for a better grip on this steering wheel.
As car technology improved, the gloves were slimmed down and were made into a luxurious product for those who drove really nice cars. They exuded class and luxury, and stylish gentlemen continued to wear them. After all, they were still very useful for better grip, regulating temperature, reducing hand fatigue, improving insulation, protecting the steering wheel from sweat and moisture, and they just looked so cool.
These are all the reasons why driving gloves can and should still be worn today. And that begs the question: If driving gloves are so awesome (and they are), why don’t more gentlemen wear them today?
Where Don’t Men Wear Driving Gloves Today?
On the one hand, driving gloves are very functional as they were engineered for practicality. Many of the details that make driving go so practical also make them very hard to style. The ventilation seems very odd at first because driving gloves were originally meant for insulation and warmth.
Driving gloves also tend to be cut shorter than other gloves for increased mobility. This can seem odd at first glance, and having snaps on them can also seem clunky and obtrusive. However, these characteristics also make driving gloves very unique. So, you have to be a little bit more attentive when it comes to wearing driving gloves and the situations where you wear them.
2. Anti-Driving Glove Sentiments
On the other hand, driving gloves have seen a lot of “anti-driving glove” slander. Because people who wore driving gloves would act superior to others or because they wanted to look the part of someone who was a real motorhead but also didn’t know how to actually use the car. So, driving gloves quickly became associated with snobs and posers.
As an example, here’s excerpt from a 1989 article from motorhead journalist, Brock Yates.
“Picture this: here’s a guy decked out in a soft wool turtleneck and a leather jacket so lustrous, it looked like congealed 30-weight motor oil. His long fingers are sheathed in supple, leather driving gloves; the kind with wrist snaps and holes on the backs. But why would any normal human want to drive around suited up like that? Showing up behind the wheel of a Toyota dressed like the runner-up in a Marcello Mastroianni look-alike contest makes no more sense than boarding the next shuttle flight to Gotham wearing Charles Lindbergh’s leather helmet and flight suit.”
3. Sinister Associations
Finally, driving gloves and leather gloves, in general, are often associated with villains and criminals in pop culture. This is an idea that Preston broke down in greater detail here.
How to Wear Driving Gloves
Besides these minor road obstacles, we believe the driving gloves definitely deserve a place in any well-appointed, classic style wardrobe. So, let’s discuss how you can look great in this classic menswear accessory.
Wearing Driving Gloves Inside Your Car
Because driving gloves do improve your driving experience, it’s best to wear driving gloves while you’re driving. Surprise, surprise! And no, you don’t need a vintage Porsche or a supercar to enjoy driving gloves.
Really, they can make any drive feel more luxurious. After all, quality driving gloves can make any car feel like a Ferrari. So, if you primarily wear your driving gloves in the car, pick a color and style that suits your automobile. Your outfits will consistently change day by day, but odds are, the interior of your car won’t. Unless, of course, you live in Liberty City.
1. Consider the Color
Most contemporary car interiors are fairly neutral so they will look good with most classic glove colors like blues, reds, greens, and blacks; and if your car has a more exotic or vintage interior that’s more exclusive or unique, it gives you the opportunity to create an even more unique pairing. But, you’ll want to keep in mind the following advice that also applies to matching your driving gloves to your paint job: Complimentary or contrasting colors will add a pop of personality, while still directly associating your driving gloves with your car.
And while we’re not typically fans of the color black, black has a really nice place in the classic menswear history of this glove, so it’s acceptable here. Now, exactly matching the color of your gloves to your car for more common colors, such as red or black, is perfectly fine. But, if you have more unique colors, this can look a little too matchy-matchy. And unless you’re doing it intentionally for effect, doing clashing colors really isn’t a great idea.
For a full breakdown of colors in classic menswear, check out our guide on that.
Secrets of Color: What Your Outfit Colors Say About You
2. Store Them Properly
Because driving gloves will typically live inside your car, it’s also perfectly acceptable to switch over to different gloves when you get out of your car. On a cold day, unlined driving gloves make sense in your car, but once you get out, your hands will be quite cold. And when you’re not wearing driving gloves, it’s best to keep them stored properly to extend their life.
Keep your driving gloves stored flat with the fingers extended; some great spots might be in the console, under the dashboard, or in the glove box. I mean, hey, it’s in the name! And, yes, driving gloves can be worn outside of your car.
Wearing Driving Gloves Outside Your Car
While they were designed for cars, other practical accessories like aviator sunglasses and Bean boots, driving gloves can be styled outside of their original intended use for a great effect.
1. Wear Them During Transitional Seasons
Driving gloves are a great way to exude a casual and dynamic style. They can add a touch of personality and can be combined with various outfits. They can add the perfect finishing touch to a casual outfit or add it to a more formal one to keep it from looking too stuffy. And because they’re typically unlined, they can be worn in warm weather without any issue.
They’re also perfect for those transition seasons, as they keep your hands warm and comfortable.
2. Make Them a Statement Piece
The most individual way to try out driving gloves is to merely experiment with them and go for it. You want to do this to find unique and exciting ways to combine them into your own wardrobe.
This is best practice when combining an outfit around these driving gloves as the statement piece. But, in general, leather driving gloves follow the same general style as other winter gloves, and Kyle has a guide on that here, but to get you started, here are our favorite style tips when it comes to driving gloves.
How to Pair Overcoats with Gloves and Scarves – Gentlemen’s Winter Outfit Ideas
3. Wear Them with Casual Outfits
So, if you’re first getting started with driving gloves and you’re not sure if they’re for you, the best way to start is with casual outfits. Full suits typically work best with daytime dress gloves, although they can be worn with driving gloves. But, ensembles that are combinations of jacket and trousers work a lot easier when it comes to driving gloves.
4. Avoid Pairing Them Formal Wear
As we said, they can be worn with more formal ensembles, but the key is to wear refined and very neutral colors that will harmonize with the overall ensemble because, if the gloves have too much pop, they will clash with the formality of the outfit; unless, of course, you’re trying to go for a bolder look. After all, there’s a reason why these are so popular at Pitti Uomo.
However, you should avoid them when it comes to formal wear; instead, opt for proper day-dress gloves. In general, driving gloves are even easier to bring into an outfit that has casual, more rugged elements, such as a bomber jacket or a motorcycle jacket.
5. Wear Them with Outwear
They also work well with top coats and trench coats, and it’s typically easier to wear long sleeves rather than short sleeves when it comes to driving gloves. Because, quite frankly, wearing short sleeves can look a little odd, unless you really lean into the preppy sort of motorhead vibe.
Overcoats, however, typically look better with traditional dress gloves, and odds are, if you’re wearing an overcoat, it typically is too cold to wear unlined driving gloves. You want to go for a lined, longer glove. Trust me, your fingers will thank you.
When it comes to color, as with dress gloves, adding a little bit of color and spice is perfectly fine and, in fact, this typically leans more into classic style than boring plain black and brown.
As long as the formality level allows for it, they can fit right in place. Driving gloves can add a refreshing, complementary, or contrasting color, and because it’s a more casual accessory, it’s supposed to have more color and pop. And because they’re typically made with very smooth leather with not a whole lot of grain, you don’t have to worry about it clashing with other textures in your outfit. But, please note some of the more casual details, such as the contrast stitching or perforations.
Choosing Quality Driving Gloves
While all the hallmarks of driving gloves can be found in our guide, here are a few more tips. We can really quickly highlight three of the most important characteristics right now.
1. Classic Colors
You want to pick a classic color and, by classic, we don’t necessarily mean boring and dull. But, also don’t get sucked into trends or wacky colors and Hues like lime green or bright purple.
A classic color palette will keep them very interesting without going overboard, especially if the gloves have contrast detailing.
2. Exceptional Fit
Oftentimes, driving gloves look off because they have a really baggy or mismatched fit. So, fit is very important. The most common offender is knuckle holes that don’t perfectly line up with your knuckles.
So, avoid manufacturers with a typical small, medium, or large sizing as these won’t have a precise fit – or even worse, one-size-fits-all. I mean. who thinks that hands are all one size. Instead, stick with brands with genuinely-sized gloves. In addition, they compensate for your hands, which are difficult, to fit with things to adjust like snaps, and replace hard-to-properly align knuckle holes with an elegant woven panel section.
3. Invest in Craftsmanship
At the end of the day, cheap gloves look cheap, and this is especially true when it comes to driving gloves as cheap examples are intended to look costume-y.
Many of the quality hallmarks for driving gloves also apply to dress gloves, and if you want more of a guide on dress glove leather and quality, Raphael has got you covered.
How High-End Leather Gloves Are Made
But, in general, go for rich, supple, durable leather that has been expertly assembled with quality seams that ensure flexibility with functional details that you actually need, like no lining or unique treatments like touch screen functionality.
If your car has a touchscreen GPS or console display, you’ll find great use for that. So, whether you drive a vintage Mercedes-Benz or a Lotus or a Toyota or Honda, these gloves will work great for you.
The right pair of driving goals will set the mood for your driving, whether you’re invoking the bygone elegance of classic touring or the white knuckle intensity of racing. Even though driving gloves can typically seem like a niche accessory, they really can be incorporated in classic style ensembles, which is unlike a lot of the other vintage motoring accessories.
Let us know in the comment below what car you drive and what driving glove colors you wear while driving it.
My outfit today is pretty simple for the spring-summer season. It features a blue knit polo shirt with a four-button placket and a pop-over style. It was made-to-measure for me by Proper Cloth. My pants are in cream cotton. They’re a high rise with a single pleat from Calero.
I’m wearing a pair of dark brown leather loafers from Skolyx and wearing no socks with them since it’s hot outside.
On my wrist, I’m wearing a Nomos Neomatic with a blue dial. And when it comes to cologne, I have on the Roberto Ugolini Azzurro. This has a really nice, light scent for the spring and summer months.
If you want to check out any of the Fort Belvedere products, check out our shop.