Fingerless gloves. Those distinctive mitt-warmers were once the height of rugby haute couture. Then they inexplicably vanished without a trace. Can Aaron Smith work his magic, and bring them back?
The biggest story out of Super Rugby over the last couple of weeks wasn’t the Highlanders’ timely return to form, with wins over the Chiefs and Crusaders. Rather, it was Aaron Smith’s retro fashion sense, and its implications for the future of the league.
Are the fingerless gloves that swept the rugby world in the early 2000’s ready for a comeback? Smith certainly thinks so, seemingly having dug through his older brother or even dad’s old gear to find a pair.
Wearing mittens gained traction in rugby’s most fashion-forward circles around 15 years ago, justified by the tenuous pretense that they helped players grip the ball. Even the very staid All Black environment permitted their use, but it was when the 2003 English team got their gloved hands on the Rugby World Cup that they reached the height of their popularity. The team even went so far as to have their flag on the gloves themselves.
For around three years they could be found on the hands of everyone from the burliest prop to the most nimble fullback, in every nation and across all grades.
However, around 2004 they all-but vanished, perhaps as a result of players figuring out that they didn’t really help that much, or simply because they’d found a new fashion to indulge in like growing rat’s tails or dreadlocks.
For more than a decade fingerless gloves wandered in obscurity, an almost-forgotten relic of a distant era. Two weeks ago, that all changed, when Smith wandered onto the field wearing a pair of his finest finger-free fashion accessories.
Perhaps other players could follow Smith’s lead and bring back some other rugby fads of the past, like props cutting off one sleeve of their jerseys, taping up their eyebrows or donning Madison headgear.
Smith himself has been tight-lipped on the issue, limiting his Twitter time to pictures of his dinner, retweeting articles about himself and overusing exclamation marks. It’s debatable whether the gloves helped his game or not. He’s played extremely well in his gloved-up games, but that was expected given his status as the world’s best in his position. One thing’s for sure though: he’s never looked better.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.