The question, “Has Lacrosse Equipment Advanced?” seems to have an obvious “Yes” answer, but are gloves really that much better now than they were 20 years ago? Are you sure?
Yes, materials have supposedly improved (and costs have skyrocketed), customization is king and the number of manufacturers and lines is almost staggering, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about FUNCTION. Do the gloves actually work better?
There are a lot of different lacrosse gloves out there right now, so one would imagine that every player could single out their top choice of lax mitten. That being said, I’ve probably worn over 25 pairs of different gloves over the years, and I don’t think I’ve ever found my “perfect” pair. And I don’t know that I’m getting any closer.
These days, Nike, Reebok, STX, Brine, Warrior, Maverik, Harrow, Adidas, Shock Doctor, and Gait all make gloves. The levels of padding, pad placement, palm types, sizing and a number of other key factors all vary greatly company to company, line to line, and even year to to year. Some of the gloves would be well suited for gladiatorial battles while others are designed minimally, and at the end of the day, we have more choices now than we’ve ever had before.
I recently got a pair of Brine L-35s; never worn, vintage, still in the bag, from the Sports Outfit for $20. A purchase well worth it. And let me tell you why… these gloves are awesome! The palms are incredibly soft (eventually they’ll wear through but that will take a while) and you can throw with them on right out of the bag, the padding is thick and spongy, but doesn’t feel that bulky (it does look bulky though!) and is extremely light. The glove extends further up the forearm than I remember and I have to say, I like this. With these gloves, there is no gap for defenders to aim at between the arm pad and glove.
At the same time, I can loosen the strings keeping the wrist/forearm pad so that I can still get a full range of movement with my wrist. Why did the lacrosse manufacturers abandon this method en masse again? I still haven’t really seen the advantage of a wrist centric glove yet, and that’s the kind of glove everyone makes these days: tighter on the wrist with a small floating cuff hanging from the structured glove padding. Look at your gloves. I can almost guarantee that’s how they’re made. But why? It seems like we’re just giving up forearm protection. Weird. I’m sure someone can explain this to me though.
Anyway, my point is that these L-35s aren’t that far off from what lacrosse companies are turning out today. If you took the model of the L-35 and made a couple of material changes, these could still be the top gloves in college lacrosse today. No, I’m not kidding. If you played in these kind of gloves back in the day, you know how great they were to wear. They were comfortable, light and protective and you could use a pair for years if you took care of them. The good old days!
Of course, today there are certain companies that do certain things very well, like Reebok’s leather palms, but that usually means that the product will be ridiculously expensive. And the Reebok gloves are no exception. They’re expensive because of the high quality goatskin leather they use. Higher costs for the manufacturer equal higher costs for the consumers. It’s social science. And it’s the same reason the recent Warrior Team USA gloves each cost so much to make (around $250-300 per pair); the leather on the palms of the bad boys was really nice. Now if you put that leather on the L-35s? They’d last forever and still probably cost less than any other glove on the market.
Maverik also uses a leather palm on their Mayback glove and it isn’t nearly the same quality as the Reebok glove. It also isn’t all real leather. There’s a lot of synthetic in that palm and it’s a mix of different materials. And you can tell the difference. Yet their glove still costs about the same as a Reebok glove. Maybe you’re paying for the customization? Who knows? Honestly, I prefer the simple one piece leather design of the L-35 to an overly complicated palm set up anyway, but like I said, it all comes down to preference.
Nike’s new Vapor Elite glove palms are partially leather and partially mesh and they remind me of the old STX Catalyst palms a little bit. Now THOSE were great gloves! Over the summer, I love wearing gloves with mesh palms, even though I prefer leather palms the rest of the year. So once Summer rolls around, these Wesleyan Nikes will be my go to gloves. The one thing I don’t like about them, again, is the small floating cuff. I just wish Nike had taken one more part of the Catalyst glove and brought back the more substantial forearm cuff. Maybe next year?
I haven’t worn every glove on the market in a game so I can’t say for certain that the perfect glove isn’t out there. And I’m sure that our readers know exactly what their ideal hand protection unit is. But I must say, the old Brine L-35s just aren’t that far below the current crop of gloves, and that makes me thing we still have a long way to go.
I have an idea for a revolutionary glove that combines the best parts of the gloves from now, yesteryear and 2025… maybe I should apply for that job at Warrior.