Why brogues have holes and other footwear facts

mens leather brogue shoes

Ghillie brogues were given holes for drainage
Source: Serge Cornu

Brogues, cowboy boots and even the humble welly, are often seen in showbiz magazines, wrapping the feet of fashionistas.

But these shoes are born from hardworking, practical and sometimes noble ancestry.

To find out why brogues have holes and other fascinating footwear facts, read on:

Ghillie brogues

A ghillie is a highland gentleman’s right hand man. In a modern context, highland estates employ ghillies to work as guides, for paying guests. They’ll help you to find the fish, or reload your gun while you wait for the next flight of grouse.

A ghillie can also refer to a gamekeeper. In times past, if you were a ‘ghillie-weetfit’, it was your job to carry the master over streams and bogs. Hence the need for footwear with holes through which the water could drain the ghillie – brogue.

Cowboy boots

The slow slouch of a stetson wearing, gun toting cowboy wouldn’t be the same without his boots. But the cowboy boot was designed for practicality – not just looks. A decent pair of boots could save your life.

The pointed toe and smooth sole, made for easy insertion into the stirrups and the high sides could protect your lower legs from those pesky rattlesnakes. But the real lifesaver was the loose fit and that long, cutaway heel.

Even the best cowpokes come a cropper every now and again. That long heel stops your foot getting caught in the stirrup. The fit meant that even if it did – the boot would fall off rather than trap you. Preventing the cowboy’s worst nightmare – being dragged behind a bolting steed.

Wellington boots

Today’s rubber wellies are a far cry from the original Wellington boot. The Duke of Wellington invented two versions of his namesake. The first was a cut down version of the Hessian boot – of German origin and the standard footwear of cavalry officers. For himself he asked his cobbler to make a calf length model – hard wearing for use in the field – comfortable enough to wear in the evening.

For his mounted troops, Wellington’s innovation was of greater consequence. He noticed that many of his cavalrymen were getting shot in the knee. He realised boots cut much higher could act as a guard, protecting the wearer’s vulnerable knees from bullets.

Feet and hands?

Most of us know what size shoe we take – but do you know how it’s calculated? Our feet are measured in hands – and barleycorns – typically archaic British measurements. A child’s size zero equates to one hand – or four inches. Thereafter, each increment is equal to a third of an inch – a measurement known as a ‘barley corn’.

Over the channel – the French revolution led to the decimalisation of everything including, for a time, the number of days in a week. But it didn’t work for feet. A full centimetre increment is too large, a half centimetre too small. The French went for a two thirds of a centimetre gap between shoe sizes – known as a Paris point.

Last but not least

Ever wondered why a shoe maker calls the mould he uses to make shoes a ‘last’? Far from being a load of cobblers, the word is derived from the Old English ‘laeste,’ which means track, footprint or trace.

Mad mens suits in movies

Every good movie has its hero, but it’s really the colourfully crazy characters, which we never forget.

And when they’re insanely unhinged or crazy in the coconut, there’s nothing quite like a mad man’s suit to show off their derangement.

Here’s some of the maddest mens suits from the movies.

Mad Hatter

The Alice in Wonderland story has lasted the test of time and one of the stars of the surreal tale is the Mad Hatter. Throughout time, the character’s suits have been recreated over and over again, but the fantastically funky suit worn by Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s latest offering is certifiably MAD!

The Mask

Bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss is transformed into a manic super-hero when he wears a mysterious mask. That’s a manic super-hero who wears a ridiculously yellow suit. Making him look like a cross between a pimp and a clown, which is a weird mix if you think about it. The suit is actually quite cool though.

Willy Wonka

Somebody who lives in a large chocolate factory surrounded by strange orange-faced dwarves is going to be a little eccentric or just completely bonkers. And a bonkers man needs a bonkers suit so Willy Wonka gets given a huge dose of velvet.

Saturday Night Fever

Responsible for raving mad dance moves in discos around the world, John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever knows how to get down and boogie. And if you’re the king of the disco floor, then only a superfly white suit with crazy flares and collars will do.

The Joker

Many would award the late and great Heath Ledger’s character in The Dark Night with the accolade of the insanest villain in movie history. Such an accolade is going to require one hell of a wardrobe and he doesn’t disappoint with a collection of vintage suits throughout the movie. Think ringmaster meets professor meets psycho clown.

Nutty Professor

Professor Klump’s attire isn’t that nutty really, but the fat suit worn by Eddie Murphy is pretty loco and transforms him into a fatty, fruitcake professor who is quite literally larger than life. For all the doubters, a fat suit worn by a man is technically a man’s suit.

Black shoes are essential for…

Black leather Prestige Oxford shoe from Samuel Windsor

The ultimate black shoe
Image source: Oxford shoes from Samuel Windsor

Black shoes have become uniform for most men. To wear brown is still, even in this day an age, seen as less smart, a sign that the wearer doesn’t mean business.

Let’s take a look at some of the situations where mens black shoes are essential. Don’t get left behind by donning brown and not black.


Business suits and shoes with snazzy socks

Snazzy socks are optional
Image source: Lighthouse stock

If you want to do business, you won’t aid your chances of success by wearing a pair of tan shoes with your suit. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s cool, stylish or avant garde; it’s not.

The people who wear brown on business are making a faux pas – stick with black – or suffer the consequences.

Job interviews

man in chair in suit

First impressions count in a job interview.
Image source: Shutterstock

Don’t be late, don’t underdress, don’t slouch in the chair, and don’t give a handshake like a limp biscuit. The first few seconds of an encounter with another human being are among the most important.

Under our sharp suits, we’re still cavemen and during those vital first moments of a job interview, your prospective employer is sizing you up. Inevitably, they’ll give your footwear the once over – wear black shoes because initial impressions count.


Planning ahead protects your family from additional stress after your funeral

Not a time for colourful shoes
Image source: Tuomas Kallio

Along with bright garish ties, brown shoes at a funeral are an absolute no no. In recent years there has been a move towards wearing jaunty colours to celebrate the life of the deceased. This is not a trend with which to associate yourself.

Marking the death of a friend, relative or associate is about showing respect. A funeral is not a moment for levity; you’re in mourning – wear black shoes.


The military mirror-shine is legendary

The military mirror-shine is important
Image source: domhnall dods

Can you imagine members of our armed forces being permitted to wear brown shoes or boots whilst on duty? For desert warfare, obviously, we make an exception.

In general, the only option for servicemen and women is black shoes or boots, polished to resemble mirrors. Turn up to the parade ground in brown boots and be prepared to be given your marching orders.


in law court

Show you’re serious with black shoes
Image source: MR.Yanukit

If you’ve been a naughty boy, the last thing you’ll want to do is antagonise those sitting in judgement of you. Brown shoes show that you’re not taking the charges seriously.

So if you’re determined to sport brown brogues, you’d best get your affairs in order; you’re going down son. Also, consider the consequences of entering one of Her Majesty’s prisons looking less than sharp – don’t show weakness – wear black.


Simply put: live by the gun, die by the gun – but wear brown shoes and you’ll be the first to lose… your life.