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Gauntlet gloves: used by knights in the Middle Ages, today they are fashion accessories and protection for metalworkers and astronauts

Marija Georgievska

The gauntlets were a style of glove worn by soldiers and knights during combat.

They protected the hands, forearms, and wrists because these parts were extremely vulnerable when it came to hand to hand combat. There are many forms of gauntlets made from leather and flexible fabric to resemble plate armor. The one that the knights wore were called war gloves, and they are also known as iron or defensive gloves.

Medieval Gauntlet. Photo Credit

Medieval Gauntlet. Photo Credit

 

Almain rivet gauntlets of Emperor Maximilian I. Photo Credit

Almain rivet gauntlets of Emperor Maximilian I. Photo Credit

Throughout the centuries, this style of glove evolved into new and better forms. The type of gauntlet that protected the wrist and the back of the hand is called a Demi-gauntlet; they were worn with gloves which were made from padded leather or mail and were lighter than a full gauntlet, although the fingers were not well protected. It is believed that the Asian people inspired the gauntlet style. In the 16th century, they became an important fashionable accessory in Europe. The word Gauntlet means little glove in French, and in German, it comes from to wrap or to wind.

Armor Gauntlet of George Clifford (1558–1605), Third Earl of Cumberland. Photo Credit

Armor Gauntlet of George Clifford (1558–1605), Third Earl of Cumberland. Photo Credit

 

Japanese Samurai gauntlets from the Edo Period. Photo Credit

Japanese Samurai gauntlets from the Edo Period. Photo Credit

 

Antique Japanese gauntlets known as Kote. Photo Credit

Antique Japanese gauntlets known as Kote. Photo Credit

According to Medieval Archives, the toughest types of gauntlets during this period were the Gothic Gauntlets, the Forbidden or Locking Gauntlets, Blade Seizing Gauntlets, the Manifer Gauntlets, the Scale Gauntlets, the Palm Gauntlets, and Falconers Gauntlets. The gloves that are traditionally worn by the pope in the Roman Catholic Church are also known as gauntlets or Episcopal gloves, and their use is still permitted.

They were first used in France and are considered to be symbols of purity. Today, these types of gloves are mostly used in contact sports as well as among metalworkers and astronauts. They are also worn by butchers, automotive technicians, and marching bands and drum corps. In the clothing industries, gauntlets became fashion accessories mostly worn by rock stars, and especially popular with fans of Heavy Metal music.

Episcopal gauntlets.

Episcopal gauntlets.

 

Gauntlets in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Photo Credit

Gauntlets in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Photo Credit

The expression “throw down the gauntlet” means to issue a challenge. If a knight who is wearing gauntlets wants to challenge someone to a duel, he will throw one of his gloves to the ground.

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If the opponent picks it up, that means that he has accepted the challenge. Another familiar expression is “Running the gauntlet” which was a military punishment in which a soldier had to pass between rows of soldiers armed with cudgels.