Gauntlet (gloves)

Pair of gauntlets, Germany, end of the 16th century
Pair of gauntlets, Germany, end of the 16th century

Gauntlet is a name for several different styles of glove. In general, a gauntlet covers the wrist, the hand, fingers and forearms. Gauntlets exist in many forms ranging from flexible fabric and leather gloves, to chainmail and fully-articulated metal plates.

Types of gauntlet

Military

Historically, gauntlets were an important piece of armour, since the hands and arms were particularly vulnerable in hand-to-hand combat. With the rise of easily-reloadable firearms, hand-to-hand combat became less common and so gauntlets lost most of their strategic value.

Kurokote is a term for a Japanese gauntlet which is bound by iron plates.

Sport, industry and science

Today, gauntlets are mostly used in contact sports, such as fencing. Protective gauntlets are also sometimes worn when defusing a bomb and by butchers. Furthermore, they are an integral part of pressure suits and spacesuits, usually made of kevlar or other materials that combine toughness, environmental protection and flexibility.

Fashion

The word gauntlet is also used by some manufacturers in the clothing industry to describe a special type of fingerless glove with one large opening rather than individual openings for each finger.

Religious

In the Roman Catholic Church the gloves worn by the pope or other bishops are also known as gauntlets.

The papal gauntlets on the left side.
The papal gauntlets on the left side.

Run the gauntlet

The concept of "running the gauntlet" is often use as a metaphor for some sort of arduous trial hazing. Contrary to what some might expect, the phrase is not a reference to wearing a gauntlet; according to Brewer's Phrase and Fable, "gauntlet" in this sense is a:

"corruption of gantlope, the passage between two files of soldiers. (German, ganglaufen or gassenlaufen.) The reference is to a punishment common among sailors. If a companion had disgraced himself, the crew, provided with gauntlets or ropes' ends, were drawn up in two rows facing each other, and the delinquent had to run between them, while every man dealt him, in passing, as severe a chastisement as he could."

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