Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Historical Gloves" from The Time Seller

These are offered as "Historical Gloves" by The Time Seller, a Spanish firm.

The thumb pattern appears to be a Boulton or Bolton Thumb, what I originally believed was a late 19th century innovation in which a gusset for the thumb is formed from the same piece of leather used for the palm of the hand. However, some medieval gloves seem to have used a thumb gusset of this construction. On these gloves the thumb is joined to the palm with an overlapping seam and a double row of machine stitching.

The medium brown color is atypical for medieval gloves. White, off-white, or very light brown are most often seen in medieval iconography. Red and green are also sometimes shown, although more rarely. Black is rare at best: I can’t thing of a time I’ve seen black gloves in medieval art.

The gloves are made from fairly stout cowhide. Judging from surviving examples, kid or chamois would be more appropriate for gloves used to line gauntlets or for fashionable wear.

There are other un-medieval details that would be generally concealed when seen from the outside if the gloves were sewn into gauntlets.

The front and back of the glove are joined on the thumb side by a seam rather than a fold.

There is a seam at the wrist I have not seen on medieval gloves. With some gauntlet styles, such as the Black Prince’s, this would be visible at the inside of the wrist.

The cuff has insufficient flare. To line an hourglass gauntlet the seams would need to be opened and, ideally, the gap filled with triangular gussets. There’s probably enough excess length in the current cuffs to provide material if used for that purpose.

The knuckle sides of the fingers are sewn to the fourchettes at the sides of the fingers with overlapping seams and visible machine stitching.

These are not accurate reproductions of medieval gloves. That said, as far as commercially available gloves go, I haven’t seen better alternatives, and you could do a lot worse.

As far as I can tell from the catalogue photos, these seem very similar if not identical to the gloves offered by Westland Crafts as Swordsman Gloves. Westland offers a wider range of colors, red and green in addition to brown and black. Westland doesn’t post their prices online, instead offering a form for submitting inquiries on their website, so I can’t say how pricing compares.

The Time Seller charges a substantial minimum shipping and handling fee, but it seems to be a flat charge up to a weight limit that covers several gloves, so a multi-item order will be significantly more economical. I suspect the same would be true for Westland.

My order to The Time Seller was accepted March 22 and shipped April 12, 21 days later. These seems a bit long for items they advertised as being in stock. I received the shipment a month later on April 12.

These gloves are advertised as cowhide, and appear to be robust and well made. They are not as supple or comfortable as kid gloves, but should be more durable than gloves made from thinner and more flexible leather. According to their sizing directions, my hands are size eight, and their gloves of this size seemed to be a fairly good fit out of the box. Size seven is distinctly snug on my hands out of the box, although I’ve been advised by one source I respect that for a really good fit you should choose gloves one size smaller than your hands, make the leather wet, and wear them for several hours while gripping a steering wheel or similar object. I haven’t tried this.

Their size nine is no more comfortable than their eight on my hands, and has some empty space at the ends of the fingers.

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