I’m familiar with the concept of a cartoon hand in animation being drawn with four fingers only (image simplification, cartoon proportions, etc), but I’ve never really pondered as to why so many of the classic cartoon characters (like say Mickey Mouse and Goofy from the Disney stable for example) wore white gloves.
Luckily for us then, the Vox team went in and took a closer look at the possible reasons as to why:
In summary (just in case you can’t view the video, you know, thanks to work restrictions or something like that):
1) Image simplification to save time and thus money. (Less details, curves instead of angles, etc.)
2) To contrast black hands against a black body in the age of early black and white animation.
3) Humanizing an anthropomorphic creature by giving them more human-like hands.
4) Vaudeville and blackface minstrels style that was originally associated with the art of early animation performances.
So a good number of plausible, possible and quite interesting reasons then!