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The gloves are on: how handwear became more than just an accessory

If clothes maketh the man, then gloves maketh the statement. This appears to be 2015’s most pernicious fashion message, judging by the number of gloves that have been popping up at sundry red carpets, awards and protests this year.

Lady Gaga’s cleaning gloves.
Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Most recently, of course, it was Lady Gaga who – in typical Gaga-style – was reborn as a meme thanks to her 2015 Oscars’ red carpet outfit: a luscious Dior gown paired with thick, red latex cleaning gloves. The gown worked, the gloves didn’t, and by first light the internet was overrun with pictures of Gaga holding bottles of Ariel. On one hand, a red carpet event isn’t a red carpet event unless it produces a meme – just ask Kim Kardashian about her Riccardo Tisci Met ball dress (actually, don’t, because she’ll probably cry). But maybe that was Gaga’s point – to draw attention.

Amal Clooney and ‘those’ gloves.
Photograph: Startraks Photo/Rex

Take Amal Clooney, who arguably kicked off this trend at the Golden Globes when she accessorised her one-shoulder Dior dress with a pair of white, elbow-length gloves. The look polarised the critics – what was she thinking, we all metaphorically hashtagged, she normally gets it so right. Then we zoomed in to see the clutch they were holding, and a badge reading “Je suis Charlie”, in support of the French peace rallies, suggesting the whole thing was strategic.

A laid-off finance ministry cleaning staff member outside the supreme court in Athens.
Photograph: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

A few days later, gloves appeared again, this time in Athens as a symbol of austerity cuts, with 600 women protesting in washing-up gloves outside Athens’ supreme court. The women, all cleaners of government offices, had been laid off in public-sector cuts in 2013. The gloves became a symbol of heroic protest, later appearing on posters all over the city.

US president Barack Obama hugs supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

Finally to the State of the Union dinner in late January, an event that saw Michelle Obama’s Good Wife skirt suit trending. A few days later, a photograph of justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest working justice in the states, was spotted wearing a pair of crocheted gloves while hugging the president after his speech, a sartorial move that prompted Lena Dunham to comment “GLOVES” on Instagram. Again, this is pure speculation, but it’s arguable that the pro-democracy former litigator, who is fighting against retirement, was using her gloves to send home a message: Back off, I’m still here. Looks like the gloves are off.

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