Leather Legacy

An Everlasting Love Affair with Racing Gloves


Peter Pickering

3/25/20245 min read

Ah, the sweet exuberance of youth! At the tender age of 17, nestled in the heart of England, I was bathed in the invincible light of adolescence. Motorbikes, those roaring steeds of freedom, had been my initial rite of passage, my so-called 'gateway drug' to the thrilling world of speed and adventure. However, the winds of change were blowing, heralding my transition to the grander stage—the world of automobiles. The time had come to part ways with my cherished Triumph 650cc T6, a beast of a bike that had been my loyal companion on countless escapades. It was a bittersweet farewell, as I prepared to ascend from the realm of two wheels to the prestigious domain of four.

And oh, what a transition it was! My vehicle of choice was not just any mundane car, but a veritable jewel of British automotive design—an Austin Mini. But let me clarify; this was no ordinary Austin Mini. It was an extraordinary specimen, cloaked in a dazzling coat of metallic Lincoln Green, crowned with a striking Truck Yellow roof, a bold statement on the roads. Parading through Stratford-on-Avon in my vibrant chariot, I felt an unparalleled sense of pride and arrival. I was, in every sense of the phrase, the bee's knees—adored by onlookers and envied by peers, well, that’s what I naively thought. In that gleaming Austin Mini, I was not just traversing roads; I was navigating the thrilling journey of youth, riding the wave of invincibility that we so fervently cling to in our formative years.

The gloves, in their various forms, have always been more than mere accessories; they were an extension of my identity. In my youthful days astride my motorbike, black leather gauntlets were my constant companions, offering both warmth against the biting cold and a shield against the harshness of gravel roads in the unfortunate event of a tumble. However, while essential for the bike, these gauntlets would have appeared utterly out of place within the refined interior of a car. It was this transition from two wheels to four that necessitated a change in gear. Yet, the ingrained habit of donning gloves, a practice interwoven with the ritual of riding, seamlessly migrated from motorcycle to automobile.

The move to driving, especially in those revered marques, wasn't just about maintaining a tradition; it was about evolving it. The gloves adapted from protective armour to symbols of sophistication. Yet, even as they shifted in style and purpose, they retained their core benefits—improved grip for control, an added layer of warmth against the damp chill of English winters, and, importantly, a continuation of a long-standing ritual. This practice of wearing gloves, deeply rooted in my days of riding, became as natural in driving as it had been on the bike.

In my quest for the perfect driving gloves, I aspired to embody the spirit of the racetrack, to capture the essence that legends like Jackie Stewart represented. It led me to the treasure trove of the Littlewoods catalogue, a beacon for shoppers in the late '60s, akin to today’s eBay. Here, I discovered the black kidskin gloves, their surface marked by the distinctive 'ring style'—a blend of elegance and edginess with practical undertones of ventilation. These were not just gloves; they were a bridge between my past and present, between the raw thrill of speed and the cultivated appreciation of a fine automobile.

Enhanced with space-age Velcro fastenings, they symbolised a blend of tradition and innovation, a fitting complement to my evolved automotive journey. The ritual of slipping them on before each drive, much like the routine of combing my hair or wearing cologne, was not just about physical preparation; it was a mental transition into the realm of the drive, echoing the familiar, comforting refrain: “Okay, now we’re ready to drive.” This practice wasn’t just about readiness; it was about setting the stage, much like a maestro before a concert or a captain before setting sail, affirming a state of complete engagement and anticipation for the journey ahead.

The moment those gloves enveloped my hands, a transformation ensued. I was no longer merely a boy in a car; I became a conduit of potential, the master of my journey. The Austin Mini beneath me responded in kind; it seemed to adopt a new persona, accelerating with increased vigour, its agility heightened. As we embraced each curve and corner with unprecedented precision, it was as if we were bound by an unseen force, a train flawlessly adhering to its tracks, mastering the dance of momentum and speed. Those gloves and I shared an odyssey that spanned over five decades and countless cars.

Throughout the years, those gloves had been my constant companions across a cavalcade of motoring excellence: from the stately elegance of Rolls Royces, the sleek allure of Jaguars, the robust grandeur of Range Rovers, to the sophisticated lines of BMWs, the timeless luxury of Mercedes, and beyond. They were an extension of me, a touchstone to countless memories on the road. But then, in the unforeseen twist of 2023, the inconceivable occurred.

As I slipped them on, they split dramatically down the centre. It was a moment that seized my heart with a pang of loss. No artisan, no matter how skilled, could restore them to their former glory. In that instant, an epoch seemed to conclude. Those gloves, seemingly irreplaceable, had served me for a remarkable 55 years. Yet, while it felt like an irrevocable closure, this chapter in my life highlighted the profound journey I'd travelled with them. 

With the original Littlewoods a relic of the past, my quest shifted to the vast expanse of eBay, in search of a successor worthy of the legacy. The weeks stretched interminably, each day a test of patience, until at last, three weeks to the day, a package from England arrived at my doorstep. With a mix of anticipation and reverence, I tore into the parcel, revealing my new companions: a pair of pristine racing gloves. Crafted from the finest black kid leather, they boasted a striking contrast with their vivid red tops. These gloves, while mirroring the spirit of their predecessors, introduced a twist, with more classical press stud fastenings instead of Velcro – but I can live with that.

Despite the maturation of my tastes and the evolution of my driving style towards a more leisurely, contemplative approach, the allure of racing gloves remains unwavering. Certainly, it might have seemed more fitting, more in line with this newfound serenity, to opt for traditional driving gloves, those unadorned symbols of utility and restraint. I could have bought such gloves, their understated elegance whispering of a different kind of journey, one of quiet sophistication rather than exhilarating speed. Yet, nostalgia washed over me like a tide reclaiming the shore, pulling me back to the vibrant memories encapsulated in the racing gloves.

It was this profound sense of nostalgia, this vivid palette of youth and passion, that held me captive. The racing gloves are not merely items of apparel but vessels of time, carrying the essence of my earlier, more reckless years into the present day. They are a bridge to a past where every drive was an adventure, where every turn of the wheel was a heartbeat. In donning them, I am not merely preparing for a journey; I am reconnecting with a version of myself that, despite the years, remains an integral piece of my identity. This ritual, then, is more than habit—it is homage, a tribute to the enduring spirit of youth that, despite all outward changes, continues to pulse within me.

Will these new gloves endure the test of time, another 55 years? That remains a mystery, one I'm unlikely to unravel. But of this, I am certain: each moment they accompany me will be cherished, a continuation of the legacy set by their noble predecessors. For in the journey of life, it's the memories we create and hold dear that truly last forever.