When cars were first built, they very often had steering wheels made of wood or sometimes uncovered metal. Cars had little insulation, and many of the first units employed neither heating nor cooling controls. Hands could get cold on long drives in the winter, or they could get sweaty in hot weather, making it more difficult to grip the steering wheel. Gloves at the time were already popularly worn for many things, warmth, fashion, et cetera. Driving gloves were a natural extension on the already many uses for gloves.
Others suggest that driving gloves could really refer to leather “riding” gloves. Holding the reins of a horse, or driving a coach meant many wore riding gloves. This protected the hands from calluses, and helped keep them warm on cold days. When humans switched from horse-powered vehicles to motorized ones, it simply made sense to keep the gloves on.
Today many driving gloves are still made of leather, and they’re not as necessary as in the past. They’re still worn with great regularity especially by professional racecar drivers, but some people consider them an affectation, or merely an accessory for cars that already have non-slip steering wheels. Many steering wheels today have grooves for the fingers to better help prevent slipping. A few older models have the very simple plastic wheel, which can be a little slippery. Classic car enthusiasts may very often wear driving gloves because they still prove necessary.
In keeping with modern times, driving gloves are now offered in a wide range of fabrics. Some also have heating elements for people who suffer from significant arthritis. This may make driving more comfortable for people whose hands are already achy, especially if a drive is going to be long. Of course, they can also just be a fashion statement, which seem to get special use by those who drive very fashionable or sporty cars. The range of choices suggest you can buy driving gloves that fit a specific need, or just because you want them.
Along with the earliest cars came the glove box or glove compartment. Now we may keep all kinds of things in the glove box, not just or perhaps not ever driving gloves. Yet the name remains because usage became so common, and also perhaps in homage to an era when such gloves made a great deal of practical sense.