THE FBI GLOVES
RHANDERS has always been known for warm, helping hands. It’s a deeply integrated part of our 200-year history and DNA to glove the hands that help and protect our communities.
While we have gloved the Royal Guard and the police for centuries, it was a surprisingly complicated and extraordinary task the glove-makers were met with in 1981. Here the Special Forces contacted RHANDERS to design and craft a special pair of gloves, which they could use for ‘fast roping’, a new rappelling technique from the helicopter. The Special Forces already used RHANDERS gloves during the winter, so they were familiar with the quality, functions and strength of the leather, but they needed new functions for this particular fast roping practice.
FAST ROPING RAPPELLING TECHNIQUE
Fast roping involves a 5cm thick plaited and slightly elastic rope, which hangs from the helicopter to the ground. The soldier would jump to the ground, only just gracing the rope, before making a quick loop of the rope - to stop just before hitting the ground. As one can imagine, this friction creates immense heat in the soldier’s hand. Even though the leather could hold, the threads could not, so it was clear that an entirely new glove design was needed for the fast roping technique.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SPECIAL FORCES GLOVES
The glove-makers and seamstresses at the glove atelier worked at using different seam types, moving seams, inserting re-enforcement piping - and finally found that using a special kind of thread, called Kevlar, which is heat resistant and ultra-strong, with an inside prix-seam was the optimal solution.
The leather should also be ultra-strong, but could not be thick and hard, as the soldier had to be able to handle his machinery as soon as he hit the ground. Hence, the strength of the leather should not come from thickness, but from structure, and it had to be very thin as if it was a second skin. It turned out that Ethiopian lamb leather with a thickness of 0.8-1,0mm was ideal. It was tanned in England at the renowned Pittard tannery or locally in Randers at our own tannery at the time.
The leather was flame-retardant, but still, the heat was intense in the palm of the hand, so to solve this, a layer of flame-retardant textile was stitched on the inside of the glove. Also, the cuff of the gloves was specially woven with flame-retardant wool. Naturally, it could not be any synthetic material, which would melt even in low heat temperatures.
Finally, after a year of design, development and tests in action, the gloves were approved for use. The Special Forces Gloves have now been used for 42 years and have only gone through slight modifications over the years based on the research of worn-out gloves.
GLOVING THE FBI AND MI5
The American FBI and the English MI5 wanted the danish designed and crafted gloves. In fact, this happened in 1989, when the Danish Special Forces were in America to train with the FBI SWAT team and saw the gloves in action. They were so impressed with the functionalities that they also placed orders for the special gloves from Randers.
Similarly, the English MI5 also purchased the gloves after having seen them in action. Even the Spanish army has been in contact to buy the Danish-designed and crafted gloves – but they ended up copying them in a cheap version. A trial was never pursued though.
A FINAL FUN FACT
When the FBI did not pay their bill, RHANDERS had to go through the English MI5 to get their help pushing through for the payment. But only after a full year the poor bookkeeper in Randers finally succeeded in getting the invoice paid in full from America...
FBI EVERYDAY VERSION