It may come as a shock to many of you, but Drivl can officially confirm that not ALL bellends who sport leatherette gloves when behind the wheel of their jalopies are in fact, former Mercedes F1 One driver and all-round Lewis irritant, Nico Rosberg. And that it’s technically plausible that instead they could be someone we could collectively hold in some sort of esteem (and potentially look up to). Providing they’re categorically NOT perma-sulky German-Monacan – and rubbish Leonardo DiCaprio look-a-like - Rosberg. Which is indeed, a difficult ask when we attempt to reason with you that it’s physically possible to drive a car whilst clad in supple moleskin-crafted gloves specifically designed and manufactured to provide maximum control and gentlemanly decorum when positioned in the front seat of an automobile. But it REALLY is; and by way of providing circumstantial evidence to support this claim we have lined-up 10 of the very best exponents of this movement on which we plan to rest our cases. Once we’ve rid ourselves of the mental imagery closely associated with Rosberg and his gloves….
Ten of the otherwise most unconnected individuals of both fact and fiction you’re ever likely to witness on the same page, unless your imagination is as vivid (and let’s face it, warped) as mine. A veritable wall of absolute unruffled types who habitually ooze cool through every pore, simply by existing. At least they do when they slip their hands in their leather driving gloves and clutch the steering wheel of their preferred means of personal transportation. Forget all about those biker boys and their Belstaff jackets and Brando quiffs, I’m talking 100% debonair driving accessories, the type which gets you instantly noticed by people, and the wearing of which marks you out as a man of impeccable good taste. The living, driving embodiment of the archetypal gentleman racer. Put succinctly, NOTHING adds as much class to the art of driving as a pair of leather driving gloves; an accoutrement which not only keeps you warm and give you the extra grip when your hands are placed firmly on the steering wheel, yet all the time casts the driver in an irresistibly dapper and elegant light.
Having first being invented in the 1890s, the leather driving glove has indeed come a long way over the following century and a bit; not to mention borne witness to an array of men and their fantastic machines. Originally crafted in the late 1800s to counter the perceived roughness associated with driving (remember, there was no power steering back then, while steering wheels were manufactured from metal or wood; both of which were pretty hostile surfaces). What’s more, the majority of the time early vehicles were neither covered – in terms of driver and passengers – nor internally heated, as they are today. Unless you elect for a KTM Cross-bow, Aerial Atom or some other rudimentary means of pissing your money up against a track day weekend wall. Hence the need for some form of wardrobe item which would keep a gentleman’s hands both clean and warm, as well as ensuring they had a firm grip on the jalopy’s tiller. Or steering apparatus.
As a point of interest, those first driving gloves didn’t resemble the look and feel they do here in 2017, and instead of masquerading as a short, close-fitting glove which finished at the wrist, travelled significantly further up the driver’s arm in a more gauntlet-esque fashion. So far up the arm the driver would be pre-prepared to birth a cow, should they ever need to, given that said glove travelled all the way up to their overcoat. Think Dick Dastardly, not that he was a farmer to the best of our knowledge. Material-wise, the glove was crafted from a thick leather and sometimes lined with wool. Sadly any sensitivity in the driver’s fingers was fleeting, however because the steering wasn’t what one might refer to as ‘sophisticated’ in days of yore (not YAW), feeling wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite.
All Gloved Up....
The 1930s saw the style of driving gloves change quite dramatically, as they became shorter and more in keeping with what we’re familiar with today. In addition to this perforation holes became a noticeable thing, which minimised any perspiration forming in the driver’s hands. Also this was roughly the period in which the glove ascended to the lofty position of being considered a stylish fashion accessory as such, whereby no gentleman motorist would leave the house without his elegant leather driving gloves. Speaking of gentlemen, if the opportunity arose to don driving gloves on a regular basis, more especially light coloured examples, society looked upon you as a doyen of luxury and good breeding. The notion being that you must have employed ‘staff’ to maintain the condition of said driving gloves, and therefore you were a gentleman of considerable means.
Sadly, driving gloves lost much of their status symbolism over the following few decades, notably in conjunction with cars getting warmer and most enjoying ceilings as part of their basic constructs, and by the 1960s manufacturers had hit on the idea of cladding hitherto thin steering wheels with various layers of grip. Having said that certain icons of male fashion started reaching for leather driving gloves once again, viewing them as essential kit and caboodle for the driving scene of which they themselves willingly subscribed to. Such stars of the silver screen as Steve McQueen and Paul Newman; undeniable men’s men who instantaneously made it acceptable to pull on leather gloves before getting behind the wheel of their automobiles.
These very visible advocates of driving gloves continued to champion them still further in spurts over the next couple of decades, until another gradual decline in the 90s and 2000s (save for a brief renaissance under the trusted guidance of Alan Partridge, lest we forget). But fear not dedicated followers of fashion, as Daniel Craig’s incarnation of 007 in 2015 saw a mainstream return of driving gloves, thanks to James Bond’s (then) latest cinematic vehicle, Spectre. However while that timely interjection might have been, arguably more mainstream in its broad appeal, some four years earlier Ryan Gosling’s mesmerising portrayal of ‘the driver’ in the cult indie flick, ‘Drive’ thrust driving gloves back into the public’s conscience.
So below Drivl honour those who have heroically put leather driving gloves firmly on the automotive landscape over a number of more recent years (in most of our lifetimes, any road), by way of offering this list of peeps who I believe would figure prominently in any (albeit at this juncture, purely hypothetical) countdown of the Top 10 Coolest People to Ever Wear Driving Gloves. You may or may not agree with my choices, but at the end of the day there’s no denying that they all volunteered to sport leather driving gloves at some point in their motoring-celebrated careers.
1. The Driver – ‘Drive’ (Movie)
Dialogue-lite 2011 pulp fiction movie, which cast an unflinching Ryan Gosling as a driver for hire brought a timely renaissance of the driving glove (plural). Long overdue, after a couple of decades spent in the automotive wilderness
2. Dick Dastardly – (TV’s ‘Wacky Races’)
Few people could carry off red driving gloves which fit almost halfway up the arm of the driver, aside from the enfant terrible of Wacky Races himself
3. Steve McQueen (Actor and star of Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Bullitt, Le Mans, The Getaway’, etc)
This man sweats cool by the bucket load and never missed a chance to slide into a pair of leather driving gloves once the cameras started rolling
4. Alan Partridge – (‘I’m Alan Partridge, Knowing Me, Knowing You’, etc)
The finest broadcaster to ever emerge from Norwich, Partridge was a fashion leader in whatever guise he chose to create for TV series during the 1990s and 2000s. Describing his discerning look as the classic English gentleman abroad (a la David Niven, Stuart Granger, Nigel Havers), Alan’s trusty driving gloves were always packed away with his formidable green blazered ‘Imperial leisure’ look
5. Mad Max – (in both dystopian formats and big screen outings)
How else would you take on the dregs of society hell bent on keeping what remains of the earth’s natural fuel reserves all for themselves, than by first putting your fingers through a pair of leather (and fingerless) driving gloves; complete with accessorised studs, chains and Sisters of Mercy style accoutrements
6. DCI Gene Hunt – (fictitious law enforcer, ‘Ashes to Ashes’)
A no-nonsense, old skool copper born to wear leather driving gloves in the name of upholding justice; whilst blatting around in an iconic Audi Quattro coupe and chancing his (leather-clad) arm with the stunning DI Alex Drake
7. Paul Newman – (Actor and all round purveyor of cool)
A long time before he sold his soul and agreed to have his face plastered all over sauce bottles, Newman was Cool Hand Luke in more ways than one. Two in fact. In 1969 flick, ‘Winning’ Newman sported leather driving gloves to play the role of aspiring Indianapolis 500 race driver, Frank Capua
8. Amber Heard (Top Gear’s ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’)
The American actress took to the famous Dunsfold circuit in a non-descript family car whilst wearing a deliciously black pair of leather driving gloves, customised with the addition of spikes. Not to be confused with the time Jonathan Ross chose to wear a less masculine pair of purple-coloured variants (sans spikes) on a previous episode
9. The Stig – (Top Gear’s resident gimp suit-clad lap-setter of legend)
No compendium of cool customers who sport driving gloves is ever concluded without mention of he who makes Kimi Raikkonen appear to have verbal diarrhea
10. The Transporter – (fictitious character from series of films, made famous by Jason Statham)
OK, let’s address the considerable elephant in the room here. The ‘Transporter’ is portrayed by Jason Statham. But we must remember that he’s playing a role here, and his character in the titular movies (1 – 3) is a pretty cool bastard. Who pilots a number of cool rides. And who opts to engage in ludicrous chase scenes whilst wearing leather driving gloves. The end