Beautiful Brogues: A Complete Guide
You can’t go wrong with a good brogue. There’s a reason it should be a wardrobe staple: it’s equal parts chic, comfortable and versatile. Whether you’re off to a meeting, heading to a party, or going out for a relaxed Sunday lunch, it’s a winner – especially at this transitional time of year. So we traced over the footsteps of the shoe that never truly goes out of style:
The History of Brogues
Despite its slick, dapper, city style associations, the brogue had more humble beginnings: it was designed to be an outdoor shoe for farmers in Scotland and Ireland at the start of 19th Century (the word ‘brogue’ itself derives from the Gaelic and Scottish word Bróg). It was strictly a shoe of the working class; so much so that the perforated leather design was chosen so that water from boggy marshlands could pass out of the shoe (a feature that had been used as early as the late 16th Century).
The 1900s saw a new design with a dress heel added. The sound created by this led to them being used in Gaelic dances, so the perception of the brogue as a dress shoe developed. Soon, brogue perforations as decorations began to feature in female shoes marking their shift into becoming fashionable, and by the 1930s brogues were adorning some of the world’s most famous feet, including Katherine Hepburn’s.
The shoe’s popularity continued, but it was in 1972 that there was a real surge. London cobbler George Cleverly was tasked with designing a pair of flats for Twiggy, and he chose to feature brogue perforations on the final design, making them one of the most coveted styles around.
However, as is the fickle nature of trends, by the 1990s the shoe was thought of as uncool and old-fashioned. Fortunately, as is also the nature with trends, their continued sleek, sophisticated, androgynous aesthetic was realised again in the 00s, and their popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down – and quite rightly so!
What is a Brogue?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the terms ‘oxfords’ and ‘brogues’ are interchangeable. However, oxfords can be (but are not always) a type of brogue. In fact, brogues are simply shoes comprising of multi-piece sturdy leather uppers that feature heavy perforations/pinking detailing and serration along their visible edges.
The type of brogue is defined by its toe cap and closure styles.
There are 4 main toecap styles: wingtip (full), semi, quarter and longwing:
And 4 main closure styles: Derby, Oxford, Monk and Ghillie
The Derby: The most popular style in the US during the 1970s, they have open laces, giving them a more robust feel.
The Oxford: These have closed lacing. It is thought that this style derives its name from its popularity amongst Oxford University students that began around 1825. Still not seen as an appropriate choice of shoe amongst the older generation of the time, students preferred them for their comfort.
The Monk: Instead of laces, Monks have a buckle and strap.
The Ghillie: Most commonly worn for traditional, formal Scottish dress, these have long laces that wrap around the leg and have no tongue.
Styling and Variations
Whatever your choice of tip and closure, it is well worth investing in a pair of brogues. They go with almost everything - from sharp trouser suits, to bright, pretty dresses. Plus, if you wear them for a smart, professional occasion, they look the part whilst keeping your feet comfortable (so you don't have to keep changing in and out of heels!).
If the hard androgynous shoe style isn't you, try lacing a pair with ribbon for a more delicate touch, or choose a pair in a feminine shade such as pink or lilac. Or opt for a higher heel - shoes that combine the masculine perforated detailing of the brogue with the femininity of a sexy heel can make for an arresting, dynamic look.
Alternatively, if you're looking for something a bit different, try a pair that reference the broguing design but deviate from it in a new way.
Another variation of the brogue is the imitation brogue. This is a style that features the stitching and perforation detailing, but it's purely for decorative purposes; the shoe is only made from one piece of leather, rather than several stitched together. But don't be fooled - despite being an 'imitation' it's actually very hard to make. As there are no edges created by the individual pieces to follow, a perfect design can only be achieved through highly skilled and attentive craftsmanship.
So there you have it: a complete guide to brogues!