In areas of China where coal is used for heating, cooking, and in industry, it is common to see people wearing an additional sleeve from their wrists to their elbows. The reason for this is to keep their clothes clean. There is a very fine black dust that gets on everything when coal is used in these various ways, so people want to protect their clothes. When I was teaching at a university in China, the students would wear these sleeves over the sleeve of their coats. Since they would spend so much time with their forearms on their desks, their sleeves would constantly get the coal dust on them if they didn’t do something to avoid the dust. Nobody wanted to wash their coat every day, so the external sleeves are a great option.
As you can see in the picture above, taxi drivers use the sleeves during the summer. Actually, many people use the sleeves in the summer, because they don’t want to sun to darken the color of their skin. It is also common to see people walking around in the summer with an umbrella, even when it isn’t raining. Again, this is to protect their skin from the sun’s rays. Many people in China believe that lighter colored skin is preferable, which is ironic because there is no telling how much money and time is spent by Americans trying to get a better tan. You can also see how this driver is wearing a glove on his left hand to protect it from the sun.