This lecture explores the historical development of the glove compartments through the unwieldy trouser compartment.

Full Credits

Cameraman and Editor: Matt Taylor.

Stats & Data

June 16, 2010


Transcript: Definition: The glove compartment is a cupboard in your car - a specialised, mobile wardrobe to store clothes you wear on your hands. If something is lost and needs finding in your car, you can always sound to your passenger like you're on top of things by suggesting: 'have you tried looking in the glove compartment?' The glove compartment has evolved to give us an extra level of organisation in handling the rubbish we keep in our cars. The first level is the floor, reserved for a carpet of crisp packets and stuff in the first phase of being thrown away. The next phase is to actually throw it away - that is away from the interior of the car. So, the car floor is a kind of a holding area or pending tray for rubbish. The second level, the glove compartment, has the same function as the bottom drawer of a kitchen cabinet. The top drawer has all the necessary things, like forks, knives, spoons - things for getting food into our mouths. The second has something like napkins, or actually napkins - but the bottom drawer, like the glove compartment, contains stuff that won't allow you to throw it out. 'If I throw it out, I'll need it.' It's the act of throwing out that triggers the need. It's in the drawer - I don't need it. Thrown away - need it. It's a pen top or an unexplainable screw, or a solitary chopstick that has a hold over you. It's an inanimate object that has essentially psyched you out. Other uses were considered for the glove compartment. Here's an interesting conversation between Henry Ford, the inventor of the motor car and his chief designer: 'This bit is the engine, Mr Ford. Four horsepower.' 'I thought we weren't going to use horses?' 'I'll explain that again later. Here we've got the trouser compartment, where you can keep your trousers.' 'Shouldn't that be pants?' 'Ah, I'm afraid, sir, might be a problem selling 'pants compartment' to the Brits. They'd get a little confused and that could get a little messy.' The trouser compartment was, anyway, doomed. The capacity required for large items of clothing would have had the passenger going:(Struggling to fit legs) 'Can't get my legs. no I can't get comfortable. I can't do this.' Much more accommodating would be a micro-wardrobe space for a smaller item of clothing. And in this sense, we could equally have ended up with something like a 'lapel compartment'. Or a 'cravat compartment' - an accessory for people attending balls, but not masked balls, because that might encourage drivers to be pulled over for driving without due care and attention. What was finally proposed, would have made this a common domestic scene: 'Darling, have you seen my gauntlets?' 'Have you tried the sock drawer?' 'Yes. Not bloody there'. 'Have you tried looking in the car?' 'I looked in there.' 'Did you try looking in the glove compartment?' Perhaps the glove compartment idea should be revisited. There are other types of gloves on the market these days. So, for instance, we could design vehicles with 'mitten compartments'. And for the Eskimo motorist, the 'muff compartment', although care would need to be taken here that people didn't mistake it for a tampon repository.