Vegan Athlete: Baseball Gloves by Carpenter Trade

Baseball season is approaching fast, and there is no better time than now for vegan athletes to gear up for the coming season. Don’t want to stick your hand in a leather glove? Don’t worry, Vegan kicks has an option for you: Carpenter Trade, makers of the one and only 100% vegan baseball glove on the market.Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 11.34.22 AM

Each Carpenter Trade glove is custom-made to fit the specifications of the wearer and the measurements of his (or her) hand. They are lighter and stronger than traditional leather gloves, offering numerous performance advantages to those seeking an edge over the competition. Carpenter Trade gloves are now worn by many minor league players and can be seen in the Baseball Hall of Fame, after becoming the first synthetic glove used in a Major League game.

Scott Carpenter, the man behind the magical microfiber, was kind enough to take time to answer a few of our questions.


VK: Do you make all of the gloves yourself, or do you have any help?

SC: Right now I have one part-time worker who helps with the workload, but I’m doing about 90 to 100% of the work on each glove. I also have one investor that helped with some startup capital.

Scott Carpenter in his workshop.

VK: About how long, start to finish, does it take to make each glove? How many would you say you make in a given year?

SC: We cut out all parts of our custom gloves by hand which is labor intensive. This gives us more ability to customize each glove and there are performance advantages as well with this kind of hand crafted process. We put about 19 hours of labor into each glove. Last year we made about 60 gloves.

The materials have been cut for what will become the back of the glove.

VK: What led to the realization that synthetic gloves would perform better than leather?

SC: Before I made gloves I was making shoes. The shoe industry has a lot more money for research and development than the baseball glove industry. Because of this the shoe industry leads the way in performance and sets new industry standards which after some time finds its way into baseball gloves. However, baseball has a stubborn tendency to cling to its traditions. Many people romanticize the smell, feel and tradition of breaking in a leather baseball glove. We often have to push back against these perceptions and traditions. Performance advantages will inevitably win over converts. In the same way that leather is being replaced by synthetics in athletic performance shoes and other sports equipment, it will also be replaced in baseball gloves as well. Since synthetics are always advancing its technology and performance characteristics and leather is not, it is inevitable that synthetic will become the material of choice for baseball gloves.

The glove is now taking shape after the different cuts have been sewn together.

VK: How long did it take to find the perfect materials to make your gloves?

SC: It took many years before I had a breakthrough towards better materials, but I will continually be attempting to source out the elusive “perfect” materials. My breakthrough came after years of experimenting with existing synthetic materials that I could purchase on the retail market. As a small manufacturer I couldn’t afford to have ideal materials custom made to the very unique specifications that I needed. As the quality of my gloves improved enough that some minor league players started using them in games, I was then able to convince one of the leading manufacturers of microfiber that I could open up a whole new market for them. They agreed to set aside their usual minimum purchase requirements to help me advance. We worked together on proprietary materials made to the unique specifications that I needed and which led to significantly better performing gloves.

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Now resembling a glove, padding is inserted.

VK: It seems that your decision to use synthetic materials was performance based, not to make a vegan glove, yet you do offer special padding for those who want their glove to be 100% vegan. Was a vegan-friendly glove always part of the plan, or did you realize there was demand for it after you had been making and selling gloves for a while?

SC: I knew beforehand that there would be demand from vegans wanting a quality glove. At that time in the early 2000s there were only cheap vinyl youth gloves available to vegans and those were often made with wool padding and leather laces. My gloves in those early years weren’t as high quality as what I have come to produce today, so I wasn’t able to compete well in performance areas versus leather gloves then. However, my gloves were certainly better than the cheap vinyl youth gloves and I had an immediate positive response from the vegan community. That support really helped to keep me in business and allowed me to keep developing. Now I’ve improved the performance of the glove to a level where they give a player an advantage over leather gloves. The majority of sales now are athletes looking for a competitive edge regardless of what materials are used. Vegan customers make up less than 10% of our sales today but I will always be happy to cater to them because they enabled the business to get to this point.

Nearing completion, the glove is laced and the web is attached.

VK: I’m sure you are contacted frequently before customers purchase their gloves due to the custom nature of your product, what have your experiences been like with your vegan customers?

SC: I have found that vegans are not only compassionate and thoughtful in their choice in food but in their consumption of all products. This makes them great customers. They often share their appreciation and enthusiasm for us providing them with a quality alternative that they can wear with pride. They are usually clear about their intention to get a vegan glove which is good for us to know because I can explain the option of using synthetic padding instead of wool, and because knowing the volume of vegan customers lets me know how important they are to my business.

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A look at the inside of the glove, which is custom made to fit the measurements of the wearer’s hand.

VK: I read that there was a time that you did not sell your gloves, only offered them to those looking to trade something of value in return. What were some of the coolest and most interesting things that were offered to you in exchange for a glove?

SC: My favorite trade came from an artist that made a claymation video of me making gloves! You can find a short clip of it on our Instagram account @carpentertrade. Most of the trades were for more practical needs: materials, legal services, and even dental veneers for my wife!

A finished glove, complete with yellow web stitching and embroidery.

VK: You reached the ultimate achievement for a man of your craft when your glove was first used in a Major League game, and shortly after when one was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. What do you think the future holds for Carpenter Trade?

SC: We are looking for ways to increase our production without sacrificing our quality. This will allow for lower prices that can be afforded by a larger number of people. We have been talking with investors as well as larger brands to find the right fit for our objectives.


 

There you have it! Thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out Carpenter Trade if you’re in the market for a vegan glove, you will be amazed with the high level of customer service and quality of the product.

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