Wednesday, November 18, 2020



As temperatures drop across the northern hemisphere, the humble winter mitten is finally getting its due. Who hasn't slid on a pair, wiggled their thumb into its designated spot, and set off in the knowledge that the loss of dexterity is more than worth the great warmth? Mittens are in fact warmer than gloves, because fingers produce and hold heat better when grouped together in a single space, and that's likely why they've been so well-loved in cold countries. And they're also better all round because they possess a spectacularly weird and unexpectedly feminist history, which involves Scandinavian teens, American entrepreneurs and aviatrixes. Fingerless gloves and "glittens" are clearly second-best.

Mittens have likely been around in cold weather cultures for thousands of years, made of furs, skins and whatever else was at hand. We know, for instance, that sailors, sleigh drivers and other outdoor workers have always been fond of them; mittens were called "haling hands" by American colonists in the 1800s because of their use when hauling materials outside in bitter American winters. But the oldest existing mittens come from Latvia — A Latvian mitten has been found that's more than 1000 years old — and it's that country that has one of the best traditions around mitten production and folklore.

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