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What Are Brogues?

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  • Originally Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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Brogues are leather shoes that feature low heels and decorative perforations on their upper pieces. They are commonly used as dress shoes for men, but there also are versions for women. Several styles of shoe might be referred to as brogues, including the type of shoes historically known by this name and special dancing shoes known as ghillie brogues or ghillies. In some countries, such as the United States, these shoes are sometimes called wingtips.

The Origins of Brogues

This type of shoe originated in Scotland and Ireland. The word "brogue" comes from the Gaelic word for "shoe," illustrating how ubiquitous these shoes were in Scottish and Irish culture. Over time, this heavy work shoe came to be associated specifically with the lower classes. The shoes also lent their name to a slang term for the Scottish and Irish accent, again showing how closely these shoes were linked with the culture of these regions.

The Reason for Perforated Leather

The original brogues were purely functional shoes, made from heavy, untanned leather that was perforated so that the shoes could drain easily. Easy drainage was crucial, because many Irish people and Scots spent a lot of time outdoors, slogging through wet fields, damp bogs or other wet environments. Without drainage, shoes would fill with water, becoming heavy and unpleasant to wear. These traditional brogues eventually evolved into more formal shoes that retained the perforations, or broguing, along with the low heel.

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Modern Versions

Although the modern brogue is related to the traditional version, this type of shoe is no longer meant to be worn while traversing the countryside. Although the leather tends to be heavier than that of other dress shoes, modern brogues typically are made from tanned leather, and they are meant to look stylish. The perforations on these shoes are often designed in a distinct pattern known as a wingtip, in a reference to the W-shape on the toe of the shoe.

Ghillie Brogues

Dress brogues are designed with a tongue under their laces. By contrast, ghillies have no tongue, harking to the days when the tongue of a shoe would have trapped water inside. The lacing on gillies also runs along the leg, securing the shoe firmly to the foot of the wearer. Ghillie brogues are worn with formal Scottish dress or for traditional Scottish dancing. They also have a low heel, and shoes specifically for dancing sometimes have a soft sole to allow the dancer greater flexibility and traction.

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Discuss this Article

Speechie
Post 11

@amysamp - I am not a particularly a fan of this type of shoe, because they are a bit too plain and a bit too functional looking for me, but they do look like my feet would be fan of them.

I am not sure about a particular designer now, but in the eighties a famous Italian shoe designer named Salvatore Ferragamo embraced them and made some brogues. Another fun-fact, when he founded his company they made hand-made shoes!

amysamp
Post 10

I know fashion designers usually like to take classic pieces such as what it sounds like a brogue is, in that it has been around for a while and evolved from a functional shoe to a stylish shoe.

Is there or was there a designer that has particularly taken on brogue shoes and made them a statement for their label?

StarJo
Post 9

When my grandmother was about to get remarried, she needed some comfortable shoes to wear with her white dress. She was too old and arthritic to stand in heels for the ceremony and reception, so she found a pair of white brogues to wear.

The lady at the wedding dress shop actually recommended them. She said plenty of older customers buy them for their comfort and decorative look.

The perforations did go very well with the lace in her gown. She wore them with light pantyhose, because I told her that socks showing under her wedding dress were a big no-no.

lighth0se33
Post 8

My brogues are boots with a stack heel. They are two shades of brown and very cute. I wear them with brown leggings or skinny jeans.

The darker shade is made of suede, and the lighter of leather. The perforations are in the strip of leather surrounding the laces and crossing over the width of the shoe. A strip of light perforated leather also goes up the back of the shoe. The rest of the boot is suede.

The only downer is that I can’t wear them when it’s raining. Raindrops do a number on leather and suede, so I have to watch the forecast before planning my wardrobe for the next few days.

OeKc05
Post 7

My neighbor is Scottish, and he has a pair of ghillies that he wears with a kilt when he plays the bagpipe for various ceremonies. The shoes are quite different from any I have ever seen.

They are black with the wingtip design and perforations, but that is where their similarity to modern brogues ends. Since they have no tongue, you can see his socks through the leather straps that house the laces. It almost looks like something is missing.

The laces are very long and have to be wrapped around his calves. This is the only way to keep them from falling off your feet.

kylee07drg
Post 6

@whiteplane - That’s funny. My dad does the same thing! I never understood why, but he had an inherent need to dress professionally all the time.

He even wore brogues to his brother’s house for the family volleyball game. After playing in them for awhile, he decided that maybe sneakers would be a better idea next time. He had to go shopping, because he did not even own any!

He has an old pair of brogues that have scratches and obvious signs of wear. He uses these while working in the garden or walking around the yard. He only wears those sneakers while playing volleyball.

backdraft
Post 5

It can be really hard to find a nice pair of men's brogues. Most stores sell some type of brogue shoes, but a lot of these are made of low quality leather and are poorly stitched together.

I should know. I bought dress shoes for years at a discount shoe store by my house. I would them watch in frustration as they would fall apart in a matter of months. I would always go and buy another pair thinking I was saving money in the long run because they were so cheap but it just wasn't worth it.

I finally broke down and bought a nice pair of brogues. They were expensive, but 4 years in and they still look and feel great. I was a sucker to buy all those cheap shoes for so long.

whiteplane
Post 4

My grandfather wore brogues, all day, everyday, for his entire life. It was almost like a family joke because he would wear them in situations where it was completely inappropriate. He would wear them to the pool, on road trips and even to go hiking. It was a pretty goofy idea of his but I guess that's just what he liked wearing. People get set in their ways and they are hard to change.

Sara007
Post 3

@manykitties2 - It is always interesting to see how some shoe styles, like broques, are adapted as both shoes for men and women. My husband has a few pairs of men's brogues and they are great for both business and casual wear.

My husband has black brogues and brown brogues in his collection (thanks to me), and I make sure he is always looking sharp and coordinated.

For myself though, I never found brogues to be all that comfortable. They always seem to come in such a narrow shoe, and with my wider feet they are just too uncomfortable to consider wearing for any length of time, so I just don't bother.

manykitties2
Post 2

I absolutely love brogues shoes. Women's brogues can really be sexy, and have always reminded me a bit of the naughty librarian look when paired with stylish business wear. The one pair of brogues I have feature a pretty substantial heel, so I only bring them out on special occasions.

Ladies brogues also come in lower heels, and I make use of those for my casual business wear. Sometimes I have to be on my feet a bit but still want a bit of a heel, so I make sure my brogues are handy. The ones I love the most are suede brogues because the material really adds to giving them a quality look and feel.

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