This article is from the Fencing FAQ, by Morgan Burke with numerous contributions by others.
Gloves should have leather or equivalent construction in the
fingers and palm, have a long cuff to cover the sleeve opening,
and have an opening for the bodywire. They should not fit too
snugly, or they will be more susceptable to tearing. Varying
degrees of padding are available in the back of the hand and
fingers, which can be useful for epee and sabre fencers.
Gloves can deteriorate rapidly under heavy use, often lasting a
single season or less. Some gloves are washable; saddle soap or
other leather treatment can extend the lives of other gloves
Economical alternatives to genuine fencing gloves include
precision welding gloves, motorcycle gloves, and even common
workman's gloves available at any hardware store, provided the
fingers and palm are unpadded and supple enough to maintain the
feel of the blade. It may be prudent to hand-stitch a longer
cuff onto the glove, if the normal one doesn't cover the
sleeve opening (the cuff should run halfway up the forearm).
In all these cases, a small wire opening may have to be cut into