Brogues are formal, semi-formal, and smart casual shoes which boast decorative perforations. Originally, the holes were designed to keep Scottish ghillies’ (gamekeepers) feet comfortable by allowing water to drain freely as they strode across the boggy highlands. During the 1930s, the then Prince of Wales – later Edward VIII – popularised the shoe by adopting it as part of his golfing wardrobe.
Now the shoes come in three main styles – quarter-brogues, semi-brogues and full brogues (also sometimes referred to as wingtips). Each sports a different pattern of broguing, and sometimes contrasting leathers and textiles too. As a rule of thumb, the fewer the holes, the more formal the shoe. Here we give you the low down on which brogue is which, and explain how to wear these classic shoes.
Oxfords or brogues?
If you’ve watched the spoof spy thriller ‘Kingsman’, no doubt you’ll remember Harry, the suave but deadly assassin advising his protege, Eggsy to go for “Oxfords not brogues”. But in fact, Oxfords can be brogues too. That’s because Oxfords are defined by construction technique, not by decorative features. Oxford shoes have a ‘closed lace’ pattern with the eyelet facings stitched under the vamp – and this style of shoe is often decorated with broguing.
What are quarter-brogues?
Quarter-brogues feature two single lines of decorative perforation – one over the toe cap and the other around the lacing section. This is the plainest brogue style and is a great way to lend your Oxfords a flamboyant edge without drawing too much attention to your feet.
You can wear this style with your suit, but if you choose to do so, it’s best to go for traditional colours like black, oxblood, or dark brown. You can also dress these shoes down by going for wool-rich trousers, a crisp shirt and cashmere sweater.
What are semi-brogues?
Semi-brogues feature perforations throughout the toe cap area, and around the edge of the facing, vamp and heel. These shoes are a very stylish half-way-house between the professional elegance of a plain Oxford, and the exuberance of spectator brogues seen adorning the feet of gentlemen in the roaring 1920s.
Dress up your semi-brogues by wearing them with your suit, or for smart casual use, pair them with chinos or moleskins. You can even wear semi-brogues with jeans – go for a suede pair, or if you prefer leather, choose lighter brown or tan to complement your indigo denim.
What are full brogues or wingtips?
Full brogues have all the same decoration as semi-brogues, but they also feature very striking toe caps which sweep back at the sides so that the front of the shoe forms an ornate “W” shape. Contrasting leather, suede or tweed facing creates a very stylish “Spectator” style brogue which creates a flamboyant look that’s perfect for race days, weddings, and nights out on the town.
‘Wingtips’ in plain black or brown are eminently suitable for smart casual occasions – dinners out, country sojourns, club lunches. Wear yours with a tweed jacket and flat cap to look like a true country gent. Or go for wingtip brogue boots – very versatile winter footwear that look great with jeans, moleskins or cords.
Stylish, comfortable and ideal in rural or urban settings, choose brogue boots with a chunky heel and sole.
For casual weekend wear, pair your brogue boots with soft cords, a tattersall shirt and thick rustic sweater. For a more sophisticated look that’s perfect for meals out at country pubs, switch the sweater for a tweed jacket and knitted tie.
Now you know all about brogues, you’re sure to find just the right pair for the right occasion. Let us know which style of brogues is your favourite by dropping us a line via our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.