Why do cartoon characters wear white gloves?

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/02/02/why-do-cartoon-characters-wear.html


No - etiquette.

“A gentleman also needed to think about what to do if he was wearing dark gloves and the woman was wearing light or white gloves. In such cases gentlemen were advised to avoid touching a woman’s hand altogether, as “dark gloves … may soil her white ones.”


Also, it was a tradition with the blackface vaudeville performers, Like Al Jolson.
Who came out with his sound movies about the same time the very dark skinned Micky came out with his sound movies.


A friend of mine wrote a book about the influence of blackface on early cartoons: https://www.dukeupress.edu/birth-of-an-industry.


I think the gloves gave the animators a reason to make the hands rounded and pudgy so they stood out, if you see what I mean.

Also a possibility.


Track down this comic book if you want the REAL story on why cartoons have three fingers.


I thought the blackfaces’ white gloves were used to hide their (for convenience) un-blackened hands.


I am a cartoon character, and when I wear white gloves is to protect new henna designs on my hands.

They don’t need to be white, but cotton gloves typically are, and breathe nicely.


I had heard a good explanation years ago that I found very convincing. In the old Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons as well as the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons, the characters did not have gloves, so their black hands were indistinguishable from their bodies. This made it harder to clearly depict belly laughs or any number of other moves when their hands passed in front of their own bodies or others. Take a look at some old shorts and you’ll see what I mean.

Ok, the video says the same thing. Next time I’ll watch it first rather than just rely on the text description…


I havent seen the video but this was my hunch, mainly for contrast.


There is that too. And they also look dazzling under a spotlight. That’s why Eddie Cantor wore white framed glasses.


Cartoon characters also wore hats, pants, sometimes shoes, and sometimes jewelry. They also walked upright even though the majority were supposed to be animals.

Hey, they also spoke English! A lot of times with regional accents!

I don’t think the gloves are such an anomaly.

Just thinking about it; sometimes these characters were enormous assholes too.

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Contrast? (Except when the background is light)

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I watched this video earlier today, linked from another blog. I used to be a fan of early animation, had read and heard these kinds of discussions before, and I was interested to see what Boing Boing’s readers had to say about it.

Felix the cat was a HUGE early hit, he was Mickey Mouse before there was a Mickey. I think he also demonstrates how gloveless funny animal hands don’t read as well as gloved ones.


Here’s an example of the minstrel blackface theory in action:

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