The History of Boxing Gloves

The History of Boxing Gloves

Ever wondered how boxing gloves came to be as we know it? Take this short read and find out!
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Nowadays, boxing is regarded as one of the most violent sports, regardless of the number of technical rules and implications that are put in place to ensure the safety of the fighters. Regulation gloves, specially wrapped hands, mouth guards and even sometimes head guards are just some of the regulations set to prevent permanent injuries to athletes. However, just a measly couple thousand years ago, boxing was so violent that it was expected for only one opponent to walk away, all because of the type of gloves worn. 

Boxing was first recognized in the olympics in 688 B.C. It was also around that time when we first saw any records of hand wraps or gloves in history. True to time’s nature, they were relatively simple, comprising of strips of leather cut to wrap one's hands. Although they were originally made for protection of the olympians, the leather would later be hardened, making them more akin to weapons that were used by gladiators. As the cherry on top, these leather strips would soon gain brass accessories to make them even more brutal. These wraps were named Cestus by the Romans, and often aimed to kill. 

Roman Cestus hand wraps

Fast forward a few centuries and boxing is now popular amongst the 1740’s London crowd. It was the standard to fight bare knuckled in public bouts. Jack Broughton, a household name in boxing during the time, decided to design a pair of gloves or “mufflers" as he called them, to allow fighters to practice without getting too injured. His mufflers were essentially a simple leather glove with horsehair stuffed inside to lessen the blow and provide protection. These were the first editions of the modern boxing gloves as we know today. 

"mufflers" the first edition of the modern boxing gloves

Although Broughton invented these mufflers and codified the first modern rules of boxing, they were not in the rule book. That is, until 1867 when John Graham Chambers, who was also a member of London's amateur athletics club, published the Marquis of Queensberry rules. The rules had only 8 lines with the last one stipulating that “the gloves to be fair-sized boxing gloves of the best quality, and new”. These rules were slowly accepted in amateur bouts, but professional fights continued to be fought bare knuckled. It wasn't until about the 1890’s that wearing boxing gloves in professional fights became popularized and widely accepted. 

From then on, gloves continue to evolve alongside the rules. Horse hair stuffing changed to foam padding to allow for equal distribution from a blow as horse hair would shift around, creating blank spots with no padding. Using foam as padding was also optimal as it's easier to measure out, which helps having a regulation glove for each weight class.  Another design choice that was influenced by the rules was making the thumb of the glove tacked down to the hand so that the fighter wouldn't accidentally poke the eye of the opponent.

And now, we've reached the present day! Although the rules of boxing have largely fluctuated since, the design of the gloves hasn’t really had any major differences to its structure. Hence, the birth of Ko Studio. Since a man designed the original gloves and women's boxing wasn't widely accepted until after 1904, a woman's hand size was rarely thought of when designing new gloves and evolving the product. When it was finally “acceptable” for women to box, women did what they do best and used what was available, mens gear, and showed up and out despite not having the equipment to support them properly. Now, we are finally in the era of boxing where women are starting to get the recognition they deserve and brands are starting to design gloves just for women! So when you buy your next pair of gloves, don't settle for men’s gear, buy a pair that's made for you! You deserve it ;)

diagram showing KoStudio's boxing gloves

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