For more than a century, soccer goalkeepers have been using their hands to catch, block and parry thunderously struck balls made of natural or synthetic leather. To the casual observer, wearing gloves would seem like the logical thing to do. Surprisingly, however, the wearing of goalkeeping gloves is a relatively recent phenomenon.
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First Known Patent
A British soccer ball manufacturer called William Sykes was granted a patent for a pair of leather goalkeeping gloves in 1885, according to the Deutsches Patent website. The glove design incorporated a layer of India rubber for the protection and cushioning of the wearer’s hands. Sykes was obviously a forward thinker, as it would still be more than half a century until goalkeepers started wearing gloves regularly.
Goalkeepers did not generally wear gloves in the early 1900s. There is no mention of gloves in the original 1863 Laws of the Game, so a goalkeeper would not have been breaking any rules if he wanted to keep his hands warm. However, while it is possible that some goalies wore woolen gloves or gardening gloves, there is no recorded evidence of them doing so. According to The Telegraph website, Argentina's Amadeo Carrizo was the first goalkeeper known to have worn gloves. Carrizo played for Argentine club side River Plate in the 1940s and 1950s.
The use of goalie gloves became more common in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but many goalkeepers still only wore them in wet conditions. Furthermore, the lack of specialized goalie glove manufacturers meant that some of the era’s best goalies were still playing in gardening gloves. Gordon Banks, the legendary English national team goalkeeper, only started using goalie gloves as an experiment in the 1970 Mexico World Cup, says the British Glove Association website.
The 1970s marked a turning point in goalie glove history. As gloves became more popular, the demand for specialized goalkeeping gloves increased. Manufacturers such as Stanno, Reusch, Uhlsport and Sondico suddenly found their gloves to be in demand, both from amateur and professional goalkeepers alike. The gloves were basic but offered greater protection and grip to the wearer, the two key principles of modern goalie glove design.
By the 1980s, goalie gloves had become a fundamental piece of soccer equipment. Manufacturers began to put more research into their designs, particularly in terms of grip. They experimented with terry cloth, the coating of table tennis paddles and latex foam. Latex foam goalie gloves soon became standard.
Goalie glove technology has advanced dramatically since the 1980s. Latex foam treatments have allowed for stickier and more durable gloves, while various moldings have added a completely new vocabulary to the industry. Goalkeepers can now choose between flat-palmed gloves, heavily padded roll finger gloves and snug-fitting negative cut gloves. As with soccer shoe design, innovations within the goalie glove manufacturing industry have resulted in a wide range of different models and styles. Choosing goalie gloves, therefore, has become a lot more complicated than buying a nice pair of gardening gloves.