The history of men's brogues

brogue loafer mens footwear mens shoe Oxford sandal

Shoes, boots, loafers (and even sandals  - check out our latest collection!) with broguing, whether for men, women, or even children, are eponymous with British style. It's hard to imagine this classic shoe not being a part of every stylish gentleman’s wardrobe. Particularly in the modern day where contemporary fashion regularly breaks the rules and lets the wearer be flexible and creative with their look. From the old-school Gatsby in traditional colour ways, like black and white, or tan/brown and white, to the modern Clive in this season's bold colours (think navy, bordo and brighter tans and blues), a brogue goes with pretty much any outfit. From a super smart work outfit, to an evening in the pub, or even when creating a groom outfit with personality, there is a style for every taste and occasion. 

But, have you ever wondered where the classic men's brogue came from? Surprisingly, its origins are rather less chic than its contemporary appearance may have you believe. 

The damp beginnings of the brogue

The name originates from the Gallic word, ‘brog’ as the style was originally popular with 19th century farmers in Scotland and Ireland. They were designed for utility, with the perforated holes at the front to perform the task of draining bog water away from farmers’ feet as they worked the land and walked over boggy, wet terrain.

Brogues were originally intended for boggy terrain

The Prince of Wales changes the fortune of the brogue

Brogues were still considered to be a practical, country shoe and nothing more, until as recently as the 1920s. It was the arrival of the jazz age, which was first felt in the United States following its birth in New Orleans and was then followed by a European movement that helped to transform the perception of brogues from the purely practical to the fashionable. This is particularly true of black and white two-tone brogues that are still today associated with the 1920s or 1930s; particularly thanks to cultural references such as Bugsy Malone.

The Gatsby brogue has a classic two-tone style

In the following decade, the popularity of brogues received another boost after being spotted on the royal feet of the Prince of Wales – celebrity endorsements and the power of social influencers were obviously just as effective then as now! Even Elvis himself was spotted sporting a pair in the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ video.


Elvis knew how to rock the brogue


From walking shoes to wedding shoes

In the modern world of fashion, most guys quite rightly have a pair of brogues in their wardrobe; after all, they are arguably the most versatile choice of footwear available. They go with everything – from full suits, even a wedding suit, to jeans. They are no longer confined to being just for the countryside or just for lovers of jazz or rock n roll.

Despite their long and esteemed history, there are still plenty of fashion and stylistic tweaks to make them modern. Take our Spring/Summer 2019 collection for instance; as well as more colours than ever before, we’ve embraced the trend of combining the casual with the traditional smart style. A trainer-like sole creates a look that’s ideal for when you’re out and about. Knitted detailing on the Healey makes it the most laid-back style to date due to its fabric upper and sporty sole.

It’s clear that brogues have come a long way!  Don’t forget, though, that they are just as suitable to wear when taking your dog on a muddy walk – we know that London Brogues team member Clive is a fan!

Clive the London Brogues Labrador

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