When you hear the word brogue, you may think of a regional accent, particularly an Irish accent. Though there is an Irish link with the brogues we are discussing in this article, the only accents we are talking about are detailed accents on leather! We are talking about brogue shoes. What makes a brogue a brogue?
A (Brief) History of Brogue
A brogue shoe gets its name from the Gaelic bróg in Irish or bròg in Scottish. They were originally a rudimentary shoe made from untanned leather and originated from Ireland and Scotland. They were associated traditionally with country or outdoor footwear, with the perforations in the shoe supposedly stemming from the need to drain water from crossing wetter terrain such as bogs. This is now thought to be untrue as the earliest mentions of brogues mention no such holes. This rural history meant that in the early twentieth century the brogue was seen as a country shoe and therefore unsuitable as a shoe for the office or a more formal setting.
The brogue as we know it today is any low heeled shoe or boot which features decorative perforations or ‘broguing’. They will often also have serrations along any visible edges of the multiple pieces of material (most often sturdy leather) from which they are constructed.
Brogues therefore can vary hugely, as it is the decoration which makes a brogue not the style of toe-cap or closure style. This is why it doesn’t matter if you prefer our comfy but colourful Tommy Derby shoe to our vintage-inspired Shelby Oxford shoe or if you have an extravagant wingtip or smart toe-cap, where there is brogueing, you have a brogue. Brogues can even be found in different materials such as canvas.
Styles of Broguing and Styles of Shoe
Brogues today are most often described by the amount of broguing on them, the style of toe-cap or their closure style. Some common descriptions you will come across in our collections are:
This is where the pointed toe-cap extends down the sides of each shoe, like wings. From above this makes the toe-cap appear as a W shape. A wingtip shoe with a full brogue will have decorative perforations in the centre of the toe, as well as decoration and serration along the edges of the toe-cap and ‘wings’. As exemplified in our Gatsby Brogue. Wingtips will often use contrasting colours to make a statement, this is why whatever closure we use we favour a wingtip for its flair and character.
An Oxford shoe is characterised by how the shoelace eyelet tabs or ‘facings’ are attached under the vamp (the front part of the shoe which starts just behind the toe and reaches up to the tongue, eyelet tabs and around the sides of the shoe) with the eyelets underneath. This creates the ‘closed lacing’ which makes Oxford shoes appear crisp and smart, though often narrower in shape. We explored this more in our blog post ‘What’s the difference between an Oxford and a Brogue’ An Oxford will often have more modest semi-broguing or half broguing on a smaller toe-cap rather than wingtips, as seen on our refined Arthur Oxford shoe. The semi-brogue was created to dress up the oxford without becoming as extroverted as the full brogue.
Like the Oxford the Derby relates to the way in which the shoelace eyelets or facings attach to vamp. In the case of the Derby shoe however the shoe is constructed with quarters (large pieces which wrap round the sides of the shoe and over the vamp) and the eyelets are sewn on top of the vamp creating ‘open lacing’. This can be seen in our Tommy Derby Shoe. This style of lacing allows for greater comfort for men who have a high arch.
As well as these more common types of shoe which make up our collection of brogues, there are many more possibilities across a spectrum of complexity of pattern and design. No longer just a shoe for the country brogues have made their way into every mans wardrobe as a shoe for work and for special occasions. With a wide array of styles, patterns and materials available, the right level of broguing to fit your taste and occasion can always be found.