Readjusting to New England after four years in Florida hasn’t been easy for me. Even on the mild winter days we’ve had lately, my fingers become stiff and numb within a few minutes of stepping outside. The last time I lived in the Northeast, I didn’t have a smartphone, so bulky mittens were the obvious choice for maximum warmth. Now, as I check email, make calls, or look up directions while en route to classes or events downtown, I need a more flexible solution to protect my wimpy hands from the chill.

I first discovered glove/mitten combinations – the kind that are primarily gloves, with a mitten-like section that flips over for extra protection – when I was 12 or 13. These “glittens” seemed innovative to me at the time, but if I’d thought they were a new invention, I would have been wrong by several hundred years. Apparently, glove/mitten hybrids date back to the 15th century (or earlier). Flexible handwear has served various purposes for numerous types of users: women in past centuries who hoped to protect their skin from unfashionable tanning, hunters and military members throughout the ages seeking manual dexterity during long expeditions outdoors, and, inevitably, today’s phone-obsessed populace.


My gloves (pictured) borrow from the glove/mitten tradition and also give a nod to the 3-in-1 jacket: a down or fleece liner paired with a waterproof shell that may be worn together or individually. The inner gloves are soft but weather resistant, and they are supported by wooly hand warmers that slide over them and provide extra insulation. The hand warmers may also be worn alone in milder weather and/or for improved dexterity.

In recent years, touchscreen-friendly gloves have hit the market in response to demand from smartphone users. The Google Trends chart below, based on Google searches for the term “touchscreen gloves,” shows that demand hit its first peak in December 2009, following the midyear release of the iPhone 3G. The product’s seasonal nature makes it a logical fit for winter holiday gifting.


My new gloves – a gift from my mother this winter – are touchscreen-friendly, with special threads on the tips of the thumb and pointer finger. The gloves are a bit too long for me, so sometimes I struggle with the touchscreen functionality… but if I’m desperate to type out a long message, that’s where the hand warmers shine. And on the most wintry days, I put the gloves on, slip the hand warmers over them, bury my hands deep in my pockets, and ignore my phone – I don’t need the weather app to tell me I should be planning my next visit to Florida.

Touchscreen gloves: a seasonal, post-smartphone phenomenon