Why Karl Lagerfeld always wore gloves

The designer's reason for his signature look ran deeper than fashion

FILE - In this Tuesday, March, 5, 2013 file photo, Karl Lagerfeld acknowledges applause at the end of his Fall/Winter 2013-2014 ready to wear collection for Chanel presented, in Paris. Chanel's iconic couturier, Karl Lagerfeld, whose accomplished designs as well as trademark white ponytail, high starched collars and dark enigmatic glasses dominated high fashion for the last 50 years, has died. He was around 85 years old. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
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Ever the designer, Karl Lagerfeld meticulously orchestrated his now immortalised image. His tailored, monochromatic uniform – the high collared shirt, black jacket, slim trousers, and patent boots – formed his unwavering base, to be topped off with whichever of his staple accessories took his fancy that day.

Between the rotation of glistening tie pins, silver chains and chunky, costume rings, there were always two consistencies – his opaque, thick-rimmed sunglasses, and his leather, usually-fingerless gloves.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 3, 2016 German fashion designer, artist, and photographer Karl Lagerfeld (C) attends his performance for Chanel at the Prado promenade in Havana with his godson Hudson Kroenig (R). German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has died at the age of 85, it was announced on February 19, 2019. / AFP / ADALBERTO ROQUE

But unlike other parts of his signature look, Lagerfeld’s constant covering of his hands ran deeper than fashion. Over the years, peppered between the lines of his many outlandish interviews, Chanel’s late creative director gave insight into the reasons behind the gloves.

“In the old protocol, it is impolite to say hello to somebody who is wearing gloves,” he said in one such interview. “And you know I cannot sketch if I have leather here [on my fingertips]. It also makes the arm longer. And you know what it means in French to have a long arm? It means you are influential.”

And while no doubt status played an element in the thinking behind the gloves, Lagerfeld acknowledged he had a dislike for his hands from a young age, stemming from the comments of his beloved mother Elisabeth, who is said to have drilled into him that his hands were ugly.

“When I was 14, I wanted to smoke because I wanted to look grown-up,” he once said. “But my mother said: 'You shouldn't smoke. Your hands are not that beautiful and that shows when you smoke.”

The German designer, who was creative director of Chanel, Fendi and his own eponymous brand, died on February 19 in Paris at the age of 85.

He had been ill for the past few weeks, and missed the final bow at both of Chanel’s Paris haute couture shows.

Lagerfeld’s contribution to the fashion industry over the past five decades is difficult to overstate. He was known to be exceedingly prolific, creating seasonal ready-to-wear, cruise and pre-fall collections for all three of the brands he was associated with, as well as two haute couture collections for Chanel each year.

His collaborators, friends and fans from around the world have been paying tribute to the designer, who has been deemed a "creative genius" who "changed the face of fashion".