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The Evolution of Football Gloves

March 11, 2019 3 min read


There is no denying that football gloves are a given when it comes to a player's uniform nowadays. From running backs to wide receivers to defensive backs to linebackers, pretty much everyone on the gridiron can now be seen sporting spiffy gloves that help with grip and protection.

This was not always the case, however. The pioneer players of old did not have football gloves at their disposal and were therefore forced to make do with their bare skin, some tape and perhaps a little bit of a sticky, illegal substance known as Stickum. Nevertheless, football gloves gradually became introduced to the sport and are now a key aspect of many of today's most mesmerizing plays. Here's how the gloves we know today evolved into required gear.

Built for The Cold

Football gloves did not start to gain any traction in the market until well into football's history. Before the 1980s and ‘90s, football gloves were mostly a means to keep hands warm. Football is a game played in all types of weather, including below freezing temperatures. This can be a nightmare for a player's hands, as they will lose sensation in their fingers and palms, making it nearly impossible to effectively grip anything.

Because these gloves were designed for warmth, they were bulky and not very functional in terms of catching and carrying a football. For this reason, gloves were mostly seen on players who did not typically touch the ball, such as offensive and defensive linemen and some other defensive players. These players used oven mitt-like gloves to keep warm, but there was little other use for them. What's worse, they were so big and dense that players' hands would often perspire during a game, regardless of how cold it was. This is a terrible situation in freezing temperatures, for the sweat will quickly turn to ice. In the end, the first football gloves were but a distant ancestor to what we have at our disposal today.

The Gloves We Know and Love

From the ‘80s all the way to today, football gloves have continued to evolve both in style and substance. After Stickum was banned, players turned to gloves to regain that edge. This sentiment was not only shared by low- to mid-level guys who were looking to make a jump into the class of the elite. Even the great Jerry Rice began rocking some spiffy gloves. As the all-time leader in practically every receiving statistic, it would seem the change worked out well for him.

Since that time, not only has the performance of these gloves improved, but the style has a well. They originally had little to no flair, often featuring the team's color scheme and perhaps the player's numbers or initials. Now, football gloves might as well be art pieces. Custom football gloves are all the rage, allowing players to create the ideal glove for them. Football gloves, in general, have progressed by leaps and bounds, and there is no telling where they will go next.

All About the Grip

The grip remains the key ingredient to an effective football glove. Wide receivers today are making plays never seen before, and their new gloves are undoubtedly a big factor in their prowess. This piece of equipment emerged from humble beginnings, largely due to a regulation change. Nevertheless, football gloves are here for the long haul, as the players wearing them continue to command our attention on each and every play. You never know when you are going to witness the next show-stopping grab.


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