For such a relatively major piece of football equipment, the history of goalkeeper gloves is a rather contentious one. There is no recognised timeline or record of evolution with regards to their development, unlike say the England football strip or the modest football boot. This haphazard state of affairs has led to several keepers being proclaimed as the pioneer of goalkeeper gloves, despite evidence to the contrary. That's not to say that such claims are incorrect or even lies, more to do with the essence of what makes a pair of mittens "goalkeeper gloves" in the first place.
A case in point is Argentina's Amadeo Raul Carrizo, who is often reputed to have been the first goalie to wear gloves. His Wikipedia page categorically states this as fact and in 2010 the Daily Telegraph informed its readers that Carrizo was indeed the first to don a pair during his time with River Plate in the 1940s. This would have probably come as quite a surprise to Scotland goalkeeper Archie Pinnell, who was pictured sitting against his goalpost at Dole Lane, home of Lancashire League side Chorley, in the mid-1890s wearing a pair of rudimentary goalkeeper gloves (not to mention a pair of shin pads and a fashionable flat cap).
Another misnomer is the belief that the wearing of gloves is relatively recent phenomenon, one shared by the New York Times in 2014. Yet back in 1885 a British football manufacturer by the name of William Sykes was granted a patent for a pair of "leather gloves or gauntlets used in football playing." Sykes' design incorporated a layer of India rubber to help protect and cushion the keeper's hands but for reasons lost in time, he decided not follow through on his original idea and shelved his design rather than go into mass production. This didn't stop keepers from experimenting with other forms of gloves, however.
Forty years before Carrizo's emergence in South America, Wales international Leigh Richmond Roose, who was arguably more of a pioneer than his Argentine counterpart, often took to the field in a pair of white gloves whenever the weather was bad. A keen student of the game, Roose recognised the benefits of wearing gloves in poor conditions but was not afraid of abandoning them if the weather improved and confessed to preferring to play in bare hands. A number of photos of the keeper looking resplendent in a pair during his time at Stoke City survive to this day but such was Roose's association with gloves that a cigarette card from 1909 depicts the goalkeeper during his time at Sunderland Football Club complete with woollen mitts.
Between the wars, the experiments continued, with some wrapping the palms of their hands with bandages, keeping the fingers free, as demonstrated by Huddersfield Town's Bill Mercer back in 1925. Liverpool's Elisha Scott preferred to wear a pair made of thick wool and gloves made an appearance in both the 1922 and 1924 FA Cup Final worn by Preston North End's James Mitchell and Aston Villa's Tommy Jackson respectively (both keepers ended up on the losing side, incidentally). On the continent, Italy's Carlo Ceresoli began wearing them for both club and country, pulling on a pair to face England in 1934, as did Giampiero Combi, who seemingly opted for a pair of leather gloves, while Anders Rydberg chose something similar when Sweden played Argentina at the 1934 World Cup.
Following the end of the Second World War, knitted woollens were still the preferred choice for many goalies in the United Kingdom, whatever the weather. Arsenal's George Swindin, for example, opted to wear a pair in both the 1950 and 1952 Cup finals, the Gunners beating Liverpool then losing to Newcastle United respectively, despite the clement weather, making a mockery of the oft-prescribed view that goalkeepers of a certain era - i.e. before the 1970s - only wore gloves when it was "cold or wet". However, cotton gloves more regularly seen in gardens around the country began to appear at many a ground as keepers continued to look for alternatives to the leather and woollen varieties. Some preferred to dispense with gloves altogether, preferring other methods of protection, with another Arsenal goalkeeper, Wales international Jack Kelsey going so far as to rub bits of chewing gum into the palms of his hand before a game to improve his catching. Yet even these new varieties still suffered the same problems in bad weather, particularly in wet or snowy conditions. Both woollen and cotton mitts soaked up water, leading to numbness in the fingers, as anyone who has ever worn gloves in a snowball fight will testify while leather gloves lost a certain degree of flexibility, making it harder to catch a ball.
However, despite these limitations, keepers such as Gordon Banks believed gloves were an essential part of any goalkeeper's kit bag, especially if the ball was slippery. Speaking to Charlie Buchan's Soccer Gift Book in 1967, Banks advised young readers to always carry a pair; "The slight slippery feeling you get is far outweighed by the advantages on a wet day," advised England's World Cup winning stopper. "I aim to do more punching on a wet day and without gloves this is dangerous."
Banks famously wore gloves when England beat West Germany at Wembley in 1966 to claim the Jules Rimet trophy and would go on to wear one of the first pairs made specifically for keepers in the 1970 tournament in Brazil, where he made his famous save to keep out Pele's header. Although still made from cotton, these new gloves featured pimpled-rubber patches more commonly associated with table tennis bats sown on to the fingers, knuckles and in some cases the palms. Designed to help a goalkeeper grip and punch the ball better, they quickly found their way into sports shops in the early 1970s and into the small ads section of the likes of Shoot! as youngsters looked to emulate their hero over the local park.
Before the decade was out, Sondico had started making in-roads and the first personalised pair appeared on the market when Bank's understudy Peter Bonetti put his name to similar pair of green and yellow gloves with a big "B" on the back of each. Gloves also began to appear in a variety of materials as manufacturers sought to accommodate for all weathers and conditions, including sponge, towelling, pimpled rubber, plain rubber and grooved rubber.
On the continent, sports manufacturers had begun to develop a more bespoke glove for goalkeepers in the mid-1960s, basing their efforts on their alpine skiing range of products, with Uhlsport leading the way, mass producing a line of specialised gloves for both professionals and amateurs. In 1973 Gebhard Reusch worked alongside West Germany and Bayern Munich's Sepp Maier to develop what their website claims to be the first goalkeeper glove in history. Nearly 100 years after Archie Pinnell was photographed!
Admittedly Reusch's gloves were a tad more advanced, utilising latex foam for the first time. They were an instant success with their reputation enhanced when Maier went on to win the World Cup the following year wearing a pair. Unsurprisingly, Reusch soon faced competition from the likes of Uhlsport and Adidas, who also began to produce bespoke goalie gloves as their popularity spread. It wasn't long before keepers in England and Scotland began wearing them yet their arrival was a slightly contentious one, with two goalies taking the credit for their introduction in the mid-Seventies; Aston Villa's John Burridge and Queens Park Rangers' Phil Parkes.
According to theglovebag.com, Burridge picked up a pair of Adidas Curkovic during an overseas tournament in Spain from a German keeper playing in the same competition. Burridge was so impressed that he went out and bought a job lot, brought them back to Villa Park and began selling them to other goalkeepers, including Pat Jennings and Peter Shilton. Spookily, Parkes acquired his first pair in a similar fashion to Burridge, from a Germany keeper during a pre-season friendly.
Parkes was offered a pair of latex-palmed gloves to try out in the second half of a game between QPR and Borussia Mönchengladbach in July, 1975 by Wolfang Kleff, who was keeping goal for the opposition. Like Burridge, the Rangers shot-stopper took to them immediately and also so the business potential in supplying them to his peers. However, unlike Burridge, Parkes thought a bit bigger and went into business with Dave Holmes in 1979 to supply gloves to keeper of every level, forming a company called Sukan Sports. Sukan Sports becoming the official distributer of Uhlsport gloves in the UK, signing up a number of big names to act as brand ambassadors, including Joe Corrigan and Jimmy Rimmer, and selling their range via mail order, advertising in the likes of Shoot! and Match Weekly.
Yet despite the advancements in technology, Rimmer highlighted the short-comings of the new gloves in an interview with The Sun's 1981 soccer annual. A change in the weather could prove costly and he former Arsenal and Aston Villa keeper confessed to conceding a sloppy goal because the ball slipped through his fingers in icy conditions. Rimmer took to the pitch for the rest of his career with eight different pairs tucked away in his glove back to avoid repeating his mistake.
By the end of the 1980s it was rare to see a goalkeeper take to the field without a pair of gloves. The last keeper to take his place between the sticks without gloves - in English football at least - is reputed to have been Bolton Wanderers' Simon Farnworth, who lined up against Bristol City in the final of the Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley in 1986 in bare hands. It may just be coincidence, but his side lost 3-0 that day.
Developments continued apace in the Nineties, with the major advancement arguably being the Fingersave glove that was introduced by Adidas. Fitted with reinforced plastic, they proved popular among many Premiership goalkeepers of the day, including Shay Given. But not everyone liked them. While most agreed they helped when it came to tipping shots around the post, not to mention preventing finger breaks, some keepers struggled with the early versions when it came to catching the ball, complaining about a lack of flexibility.
Gloves have become more durable thanks to latex foam treatments, not to mention stickier palms for "added hold"! New cuts and moulds have provided even more choice, far greater than keepers of the 1970s could even have imagined. Flat-palmed gloves, heavy padded finger roll gloves, snug-fitting negative cut gloves not to mention different colours and styles are available online and in sport stores everywhere. Yet despite the advancements in finger protection, materials and designs, the same is true today as it was when William Sykes patented his first prototype. It doesn't matter how good the glove is, they won't help you keep the ball out of the net if you can't dive for toffee...
Germany's Jens Lehmann was once told he would be dropped from the national side if he continued to wear Nike goalkeeper gloves instead of the pair supplied by Adidas! The warning came in 2004 ater the keeper had just kept a clean-sheet against Iran.
Scotland's Alan Rough was the only goalkeeper not to wear gloves during the 1978 World Cup finals.
Everton and Wales goalkeeper Neville Southall admitted to experimenting with gardening gloves and washing-up gloves during his career and was a critic of modern goalkeeper gloves.