From Mickey Mouse to Mario, many beloved cartoon characters' hands are often inexplicably covered by white gloves. The trend transcends style and time period, and the animation choice has largely gone unnoticed and undiscussed until now. Estelle Caswell of Vox got to the bottom of the weird gloves phenomenon, and the reason so many characters sport white gloves may be a bit more perverse than originally anticipated.
Vox spoke with animation historian John Canemaker about why so many iconic characters are outfitted with the gloves, and he offered a few possible explanations.
One theory is that white gloves stood out against the darker bodies of characters in the early black and white style. Another explanation says that the gloves help to articulate hand movement and make gestures seem more grand, which also helped characters like Mickey Mouse and Goofy appear more human than animal. Lastly and most disturbingly, Canemaker explains that because early animation was so connected to vaudeville performance and blackface minstrelsy, the gloves may have been indicative of the type of performances popular during the time.
The biggest mystery, perhaps, is how those white gloves never got dirty. Not that we think a cartoon about a mouse that wears pants and shoes should be hyper-realistic, but come on.