I clearly should have done more research about the climate of Northern California before moving here nearly seven years ago. Like so many transplants that came before me, I thought “California” was synonymous with “warm and sunny year-round.” I envisioned myself in light layers in February, munching on the finest citrus fruit and the most decadent avocados all harvested from the fruit trees in the yard behind my adorable two bedroom bungalow. Wrong! I have no yard to speak of surrounding my 500 sq. foot one bedroom apartment and as my Gran used to say, “Lord; it’s colder than a witch’s tit!” The thing about the cold here is that it’s damp. It’s bone-chillingly damp. Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo might get some snow, but for the rest of us, it’s a steady stream of rain and fog and wind and 45 degree afternoons (which to all of you in the blizzard belt, might sound weak, but it gets to you and it’s difficult to dress for).
I have spent most of my Winters here trying to negotiate Winterwear that can withstand both the cold AND the rain, which is a shockingly daunting task when you don’t want to give in and get a Northface jacket like everyone else. Wool is wonderful for the cold, but you wind up smelling like a wet dog. Raincoats obviously work well for the rain, but they’re not warm. On and on and on.
I’ve solved most of the Winterwear problems with waxed cotton coats, treated leather boots and Wellington’s, and woolen fisherman’s socks, but I’m still struggling with my hands. I have awful circulation. In fact, as most of my closest friends can attest to, if you’re sitting next to me on the sofa it’s quite likely that you’ll end up with my feet snuggled under your bum. My hands and feet are frozen most of the time– I actually almost purchased these crazy heated socks, but I couldn’t figure out how they worked and so, after visions of electrocution and a humiliating obituary describing how I died at the hands of my own socks, decided against them. Anyway, back to my hands. I’ve come to the conclusion that leather is the only way to go. So here you go: gloves that hearken back to the days of driving gloves and fox hunts and that won’t leave you with icicles for fingers.
These gloves by Fratelli Orsini are made specifically for Winter driving. I’m not entirely sure what Winter driving entails in Italy, but I imagine it involves climbing into a convertible Alpha Romeo sport coupe and winding down the coast. One would need warm gloves indeed for such a lark. As such, the Fratelli gloves are lined with 100% Italian wool and made with Italian lambskin leather (sorry, vegetarians). The wool keeps your mitts toasty and the leather keeps them dry. Perfect.
If you have better circulation than I, then the wool lining might be too much for you. Fratelli also makes these open back gloves with a Bemberg lining, which is lighter and silkier. If you’re wearing these, someone might assume you have a vintage motorcycle with a sidecar.
If you’ve managed to check the prices for these gloves and are wondering how and why gloves could possibly set you back a Benjamin Franklin, it’s because each and every pair of Fratelli gloves is handmade “using the traditional tools and techniques that have existed in Italy for centuries.” It would be pretty amazing to order a pair of gloves that you know are hand-cut and hand-stitched just for your little digits.
If you’re really not fucking around about keeping your hands warm, then you should get mittens. If you want mittens that won’t make you look five years old, then you should check out Grandoe. They’ve been making leather gloves since the 1800’s. The EIGHTEEN HUNDREDS, people! They know gloves. The ones above are made of deerskin leather (sorry again, vegetarians) and are lined with microfleece.
Holy crap. Any mitten with “Himalayan” in the name is going to keep you warm and dry. I don’t need these here in Oakland, but someone, somewhere must need them and I fully support them in their purchase. The good people at Grandoe even anticipated the runny nose that accompanies truly cold weather, and so there is a “deerskin palm and nose wipe fortified by Gore-Tex.”
But we have veered from our original intent of finding warm gloves that hearken back to the days of fox hunts.
I purchased these gloves just the other day. While I would LOVE a pair of hand-stitched Fratelli gloves, the recent gift-buying frenzy of the Holiday season has left me without financial resources for such luxuries. These SSG gloves are 100% leather and are lined for added warmth. They’ll set you back $20, including shipping.
My usual approach to buying almost anything is to find the highest end of what I’m looking for, and then scour the internet– not for knock-offs per-se (knock-offs are usually poorly-made), but for products with the same “spirit.” I wanted leather gloves that looked like driving gloves or gloves I’ve seen in British movies about an aristocracy that goes fox hunting on the weekends. I started in Italy– a country renowned for its craftsmanship– to get the form of the glove I was looking for. Finally, I ended up looking through equestrian suppliers sites. Certain types of fashion draw from utilitarian roots, fiddling with the construction, materials, and personality of the pieces. Sometimes it works best and is easiest on your wallet to just go back to the roots. Those SSG gloves are made for serious equestrians, so they’ll be durable and warm, which is really what I want in a good cold-weather anything.
Fratelli, you will be mine one day.