Originating from the farmlands of Ireland and Scotland, brogues are taken from the Gaelic word ‘Brog’ meaning shoe.
Heeled leather farmers shoes were perforated to let any water that may get inside flow out, making them ideal for the wet conditions on the bogs and marshlands that they farmed.
From humble beginnings, the brogue’s potential was soon recognised, as it was used by Irish dancers, who loved the clean distinctive sound its heel made against the ground.
However, despite this more delicate use, the brogue was still put to use in the great outdoors in the form of walking boots- in fact, at this point in time, if you had asked for a pair of brogues, you would have been given a pair of shoes made solely for rambling.
Like many things in fashion, styles develop and alter, and eventually will differentiate into a different use. It wasn’t long until the brogue fell under this rule, after the perforations and serrated edges became more and more intricate; brogues soon became a mark of style and distinction for men.
The likes of Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra bought brogues into popular culture, moving them into the modern age where they became increasingly widespread, and were eventually accepted anywhere as everyday footwear.
Brogues are now available in a huge array of styles. Full, half and quarter are terms frequently used to describe the style of men’s brogue-these refer to the amount of space the stitches and perforations cover.
Half and quarter brogues are now considered to be more formal styles, suitable for evening and black tie events, however, full brogues; often referred to as Oxford’s or wingtips (due to the ‘W’ shape the perforations make on the toe), are to be worn more casually.
Brogues were traditionally designed purely for men, but in more recent years have been adapted into women’s styles. One of these key adaptations was the removal of the heel- it is now very common to find a flat woman’s brogue, finished in a variety of pop colours.
In terms of men’s brogues, there have been a lot of advancements and alterations to the traditional grade style.
Like women’s brogues, men’s brogues are now also available without a heel, or with a wedge heel. This takes the casual aspect of the style to a whole new level, especially when you consider that brogues are frequently finished in suede instead of leather. A lot of brands will use a more modern, durable material when designing a wedge soled brogue, instead of the traditional leather sole you’d expect from a heeled style.
Along with this come the variations in colour. Originally a style intended for black or brown leather, brogues can now be found in pop colours, as well as two toned styles.
Brogue boots have also been introduced. These allow for a different profile when being worn, as well as a giving you a whole new host of options when deciding what to wear with them.
With recent shifts in fashion (men’s in particularly), the brogue shoe has become more and more provident on the high streets. As everyday style becomes increasingly centred around tailoring and sartorial elegance, brogues have become the footwear of choice to sit with blazers, shirts, ties and chinos for the everyday man.
However, with this in mind, you should never be afraid to mix a style up and try brogues with looks that you might not expect them to work in.
Try teaming a tan or brown pair of Oxford brogues with a pair of dark indigo skinny jeans and a shirt. Roll the jeans past your ankle to fashion up the look even more.
With the same shoe, you achieve a classic preppy look with tapered chinos, a crisp shirt and club tie.
On warmer days, try a brightly coloured suede wedge heels with plain chino shorts and a polo shirt. The colour and texture of the style will stand out beautifully.
Keep quarter and half brogues for more formal affairs- their subtle attention to detail won’t stand out as much as an Oxford and are the perfect understated classic shoe to link with a well cut suit.