Gloves and Germs

"A lady never takes off her gloves to shake hands, no matter where or when."- Emily Post

I have a box full of vintage gloves in my closet. Some I inherited from my grandmother, some I purchased on my own. I really like them, though I must admit I am never sure I am wearing them properly. There are so many rules regarding glove length relative to sleeve length, fabric, and while I know the Memorial Day-Labor Day rule regarding white, I am never quite sure if that rule applies to gloves as well as shoes. So, like most people, I only wear the gloves when I dress up.

There was a time when it was considered abnormal for one to touch another person's bare hand. Now, it would be considered strange and abnormal if one were to wear gloves when greeting another person.

Why did the wearing of gloves fall out of favor, fashion wise? It would be easy to suggest that the wearing of all accessories (and the suggestion of respectability that such accessories conveyed) became anachronistic in the last half of the twentieth century. Accessories such as gloves and hats became utilitarian, necessary to protect oneself from the cold, and completely lost their social significance. I have no explanation for why this happened to hats (except, perhaps, to suggest that the idea of covering one's head as a sign of respect ceased to have meaning in an increasingly secular society.)

However, I do wonder if the discovery of penicillin and the development of antibiotics were, in part, responsible for the decline of the glove. Think about it, for the first time in history, many of the germs which humans pass to one another could be defeated with something other than one's own immune system. This ability to kill bacteria meant we no longer had to remain vigilant and proactive, we didn't have to worry about getting sick and we could risk touching another person's bare hand with our own, many diseases which could be spread by casual contact could at last be overcome.

Or so we thought.

We now live in an age where many bacterial diseases are antibiotic resistant and the biggest public health threats (AIDS, Influeza) are spread by viruses.

So, it may be time for societal norms to shift once more and we should all dust off our copies of Emily Post. Perhaps I will finally figure out how best to wear the opera length kid leather gloves.


Anonymous said…
ew, gloves made out of kids? alison, you should be ashamed.
Anonymous said…
Ewww: you got memes on my brain.

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