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Leather Work Glove Selection

Quick Tips #386

Leather work gloves are capable of tolerating some of your most rigorous jobs. Leather helps protect workers’ hands from exposures to cold, heat, abrasion, sharp edges, cuts and punctures. It also offers a tolerance to extreme weather conditions. These characteristics make leather an ideal choice for work gloves. The wide variety of leather material and glove cuts has broadened the market for leather work gloves. This can make finding the best work glove difficult for the consumer. Recognizing the leather characteristics and glove features, such as cut pattern, thumb design and cuff style, can help narrow down the selection so you can easily identify the leather glove that will work the best for your application.

The leather that is used to manufacture gloves is usually cut from the belly and shoulder portion of an animal hide. Since leather is a natural product, it can vary in thickness, appearance, durability and color from hide to hide and animal to animal.

Cowhide is the most common leather found in work gloves. Cowhide leather is typically a thick hide that is divided into three layers prior to glove manufacturing. The smooth outer layer is referred to as the grain side of the hide and is called grain cowhide. Grain leather is the strongest and smoothest part of the cowhide. Grain cowhide, due to its availability, is often used for leather work gloves. The rough bottom layer, known as suede leather, is often used for leather palm style gloves.

Deerskin leather is naturally soft and supple and offers excellent dexterity. When exposed to water, deerskin dries softer than cowhide leather and will remain flexible after being wet and dried.

Goatskin leather offers the highest natural lanolin content, this makes these work gloves soft and pliable, yet very durable.

Pigskin leather is processed for toughness and pliability. Pigskin dries soft and stays flexible. Pigskin withstands moisture well and offers excellent abrasion resistance and durability.

Buffalo Skin is durable leather that is strong, yet soft and supple with a rubbery, waxy feel. Buffalo leather features thicker fibers which are more widely spaced and shows a pebbly appearance in texture.

Compare Leather Glove Performance
Source: Gempler’s

Not only are the characteristics of different leathers important, a glove that does not fit well or does not have the appropriate cuff style can compromise the safety of a worker on the job.

Cuff Style is important to consider when selecting a work glove, as the cuff style can offer protection and fit that may be necessary for certain applications. Look for these typical glove cuff styles when considering leather work gloves for your work needs:

Knit Wrist cuff - Offers comfort and a snug fit. This cuff style is generally sewn into the leather work glove and will offer protection from cold and give a good fit to an otherwise open cuff style work glove.

Knit Wrist Cuf

Safety cuff - Protects the wearer’s wrist and ensures quick removal should the glove become entangled with product or machinery.

Safety Cuff

Gauntlet cuff - This cuff style provides additional wrist and forearm protection for workers that may have to reach into areas that could catch, cut or snag the forearm or wrist.

Gauntlet Cuff

Leather gloves require pieces of leather material to be stitched or sewn together. The construction of the glove lends itself to glove fit, comfort and dexterity. This is called Glove Cut Pattern. The most common glove cuts patterns for leather and leather palm style gloves are known as Clute Cut, Gunn Cut, and Straight Thumb and Wing Thumb design. Thumb construction is closely tied into the glove cut pattern for work gloves.

Glove Cut Pattern Types

Glove Cut Pattern Types

The thumb construction of leather gloves vary on pattern of the glove cut when sewn together. A straight thumb is a continuous full leather thumb with a sewn seam around thumb.

Straight Thumb Construction

A wing thumb design has the thumb sewn out to the side of the glove. Welts are added to the seams for strength.

Wing Thumb Construction

A keystone thumb style has a set-in thumb that is sewn in as a separate piece and positioned to provide maximum comfort and reinforced extra stitching.

Keystone Thumb Construction

Leather grades

It is difficult for leather material to be consistent because it is a natural product. Gloves can vary in color, thickness and response to elements such as water, heat and cold. Grade A leather typically has very few surface flaws, is normally cut from the belly of the animal hide and is usually softer with little or no scar marks to the hide. As the grade continues downscale to B, C and D it is found to have more flaws or surface marks and can be a little tougher. Lower grade leather is usually cut from the shoulder of the animal hide which is tougher skin hide.

Choosing the right leather glove for the task is ultimately the best way to get the most out of the leather glove you choose. If the worker’s hand protection requires working with rough materials such as wood or metal, then choosing a thin-skinned leather glove may not be the best choice for protection from abrasion and cuts. If the task requires dexterity and tactility, then choosing a glove that is made from thick and bulky hide material may not allow a worker the sensitivity and flexibility he/she may need to perform his/her job.

Ultimately using a guide of material, cut, thumb and wrist style, along with desired features of a glove, will help you find a glove that will suit the needs of the work and the worker.


Well Lamont Industrial Gloves,

National Safety Inc.,


LCI Glove,

(Rev. 4/2014)


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Please Note:
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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