Japanese Boro. Photo by Cynthia Shaver. Author’s collection.

What is the difference in value between the two Japanese cotton sashiko fireman gloves pictured above? The term sashiko (from ‘sasu’ to pierce) refers to the stitching of one more layers of cloth with a simple running stitch. The gloves with the white stenciled brick pattern were made with the use of a sashiko sewing machine. Professional sashiko stitchers appeared in late 1880’s specifically to make clothing for the Edo (Tokyo today) firemen. There were 48 fire stations, all with protective sashiko stitched hoods, pants, coats and gloves. There were regulations as to design and use of logo identifying particular station. Other localities adopted similar fire fighting gear, but there was no regulation as to design. As a result there are many interpretations of the Edo standard. The woodblock print artists, popular in the city of Edo in the late 1800’s, portrayed firemen as heroes, in full gear, with gloves specifically like the brick double glove. Edo was built on an open plain and was certainly prone to fire. This illustration in art has a ‘published’ effect on value, authenticates a value.

The all indigo gloves are of typical three finger firemen style, making a grip on the fireman tool, a ‘tobi’, a long pole with hook , easier. The hand stitching, or sashiko, is apparent in the different tension of the threads. The use of different dyed cloth for the fingers accentuates the ‘home made’ quality of this pair. Gloves similar to these have no published value. When searching for comparables, ‘Japanese firemen gloves’ might bring this pattern image due to shape and function.

Condition is always a characteristic of value. Both pairs of gloves date from the late 1800’s and the pair with the reserved brick pattern is in better condition. The solid indigo gloves show wear, and the tips of the fingers are beginning to fray with holes appearing.

As a personal property appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers, I must discuss ranking and research methodology. The brick pattern gloves are in better condition than most gloves. Condition is often the most important part of the value and sashiko gloves like this were ready-made, this pair lacking the addition of a station logo. The plain gloves, identifiable as hand stitched, are ‘charming’, an endowed characteristic of value. I would place both gloves in top ten percent of all sashiko firemen gloves offered in the market place.

My research included specific website (retail) japanese textile businesses, such as Ichiroiya.com, and GalleryTsumugi.com as well as the general Japanese antique markets like Shibuiantiques.com or srithreads.com. Personally, I have seen over 100 examples in the four decades of my involvement in Japanese textiles.

Comparables were found with values from low hundreds to just over one thousand dollars. There were not many available in today’s market. The world is experiencing a pandemic that is effecting the delivery of goods around the world. The post offices are experiencing delays and this effects the market. Buying something from japan with uncertain delivery is a hinderance to business today. There is a certain known quantity about buying and shipping within the United States.

Taking into account the various value characteristics discussed, the brick pattern sashiko gloves were valued around $800, the plain indigo gloves at $500. For me personally, I enjoy the ‘charming’ pair.