Life's many firsts are memorable and chock-full of feelings that make for a remarkable experience, especially those involving my passion for menswear. My first suit buying experience was so painfully hard and full of mistakes that I would rather relinquish its memory, albeit I learned so much from the ordeal. Not so much for my first pair of gloves, which I remember very fondly. Made of a rich black leather, supple and ever so soft to the touch with a warm wool lining, it was my first ever real sartorial buy. The occasion helped too, I was on vacation at a ski resort in Quebec and desperately needed them to avoid frostbite, impulse vacation shopping aside.
Many years later, I was walking the cobble-stone streets of Florence, mesmerized by the city's beauty and rich heritage. Not to mention, the throngs of menswear and shoe shops which can make a grown man feel like he's in a candy store. I was wearing my aged pair of black gloves, not classified as vintage just yet, but still performing admirably. As I walked just past the Ponte Vecchio, a small shop caught my eye, with its display of colorful gloves and big yellow sign. "Madova - Glove Factory", a name I came across in conversation before and highly recommended by a friend. Finding it entirely by chance was fate, and there was no way I would miss out on a chance to retire my old pair.
The smell of leather greeted my senses warmly as I stepped in and the wall-to-wall stacks of gloves had me feeling giddy inside. I composed myself and headed over to a lovely lady standing behind the counter for some help. She went over all the options in detail with me and asked what style I preferred, sporty or classic, followed by a selection of the material - peccary, suede, soft calf and mixes of leather and fabric. I finally picked a classic brown in a soft calf-leather, perfectly suited for my wardrobe. With sizing, she insisted the glove fit snug as there would be stretch over time, but only laterally. The length needs to be picked correctly the first time otherwise you'll end up with a glove falling short and allowing wind to swoop in to your sleeves. I'd recommend one with an elasticized opening and an extended length, so it tucks easily into your overcoat sleeve giving an airtight feel. Don't forget the lining, a nice cashmere will offer good insulation - which I opted for. A wool lining is also available as well as unlined, at slightly reduced rates making the cashmere all the more attractive.
Happy with my selection, I purchased the pair and then inquired about their factory - which happened to be a few steps away. She asked me to come back in the late afternoon for a tour and chat with the glove-maker, which I was grateful for. I met a wonderful gentleman at the factory and although conversation was a bit difficult (English wasn't his strong suit and neither Italian mine), he told me all about the glove-making process, the stitching, types of leather and where they are sourced - all shared over a cup of espresso. They have a combination hand/machine stitching on the gloves, with some completely stitched by hand. The leather is cut with a hand-operated press, a massive machine exerting high pressure on different dies - each representing the different sizes. A truly remarkable workshop employing old world manufacturing, cutting out each pair of gloves and passing through the hands of seasoned craftsmen as they are expertly made. Why buy from retailers when you have something of this caliber at your fingertips, directly from a maker - a more purist approach to buying which I will definitely be more cognizant of for all things sartorial.