What have brogues the shoes to do with brogue – meaning a regional accent?
Well the precise origin of the word has been lost, but it’s thought that it may come from old Irish.
A Bróg was a workmanlike shoe – and an Irish brogue refers to the accent of the people who wore the shoe.
This being the case, we thought we’d take a wander around Britain to discover more of our regional brogues – accents we wear on our feet.
The Irish and Scots Highlanders were a hardy breed, eaking out a meagre living in the waterlogged peat landscape of their respective stomping grounds.
Waterproofing was primitive and so these hardy Celts responded in logical fashion to the challenges of their terrain and weather.
Why fight the inevitable leaks? Better surely to punch your shoes full of holes to let the water out and aid drying. That’s why brogues have holes.
Heading over to the mill towns of Northern England, and until the 1920s, the wearing of clogs was widespread among the working classes. Tough, hardwearing and cheap, they afforded proper protection to the wearer’s feet particularly in wet weather.
So good were Northern clogs that the Dutch imported them, finding them better than their own version – how’s that for ‘Northern Sole’.
The clogs were also used as a means of settling disputes. Known as ‘purring’ – two men would strip naked but for their clogs, hop into a large open ended barrel and kick each other in the shins until one gave in.
Developed during the Victorian era – Chelsea boots are reputed to have been worn by the dowager Queen herself. They were originally known as jodhpur boots or sometimes paddock boots – and their main use was as footwear for horsemen and women.
The connection with Chelsea is tenuous to say the least. When the boots were reintroduced in the 1960s they were given the name Chelsea – but they could equally have been Kensington or Peckham – OK maybe not Peckham.
The Oxford shoe is the business footwear of choice for millions of white collar workers the world over. They usually have a plain toe cap edged with parallel rows stitching, but they can be brogued too. The shoe’s original form was as side lacing half boots worn by Oxford university students.
Known as Oxonians, they were an early 19th century student rebellion against high knee boots and gradually came to resemble the shoe we so love today. In Scotland and Ireland, these shoes are sometimes known as Balmorals after the Royal castle.
A Derby shoe differs from an Oxford in that the laces are open. To tell the difference, take the laces out of a shoe and try running your finger down the tongue. If your pinkie is prevented from exiting onto the top of the shoe because the sides are stitched together at the bottom – thats an Oxford.
If you can run your digit right between the laces – it’s a Derby. Derbys were originally boots worn chiefly for hunting on horseback. They’re also known as Bluchers after a Prussian General and are more of a casual shoe than an Oxford.