As with the Breton Jumper in the previous issue, this article aims to provide a paradigm for the gent looking to source a pair of brogues suited to his taste, budget, and traditionalist loyalty. Let us begin, as ever, with a look on the attributes of the shoe.
The brogue is a low-heeled boot or shoe, composed of a multiple-piece upper in sturdy leather with serrated edges and “broguing” perforations. There are five styles of standard brogues, based on the toe-cap styles which define such; these are full brogues, half-brogues, quarter-brogues, longwings, and the Ghillie brogue.
The full brogue (bottome left) is characterised by the perforated extensions from the toecap that run along the sides of the shoe and up the centre, resembling a letter “W”, or a bird with wings splayed, earning full brogues the moniker of “wing tips” to our American cousins.
The Co-respondent shoe (in the US Spectator, below) is a full brogue with contrasting panels. It is often wrongly assumed that the full brogue is the most formal version of the shoe, when quite the opposite is true. The same is evident in the Ghillie brogue, which features no tongue and has laces which tie up to the calf. Worn nowadays primarily at formal social occasions, the functional features belie the Ghillie brogue’s humble beginnings as the footwear of their namesake, the land managers of a Scottish estate.
Half-brogues (above), introduced by John Lobb in 1937, have the same broguing and perforations as the former, though with a straight toe cap, while quarter-brogues are the same but sans ‘medallion’ (the perforations on the toe cap). The Longwing brogue (below) has extensions that fully encompass the length of the shoe, meeting at the seam of the heel. These are known in the US as ‘English Brogues’ and vice versa. There is also a form of broguing that originated with Gieves and Hawkes of Savile Row, a random pattern of perforations different on each shoe, supposedly originally conceived by firing a shotgun at a pair of shoes, resulting in the Buck-shot brogue (below).
Other definitions of the brogue are the single brogue, which consists of a sole and an upper and the double brogue, which features a welt, an added strip of leather between the two. This is the only characteristic that defines whether a shoe is in fact a brogue. Be it an Oxford or Derby closure, Monk strap or even slip-on; if it has broguing, it is a brogue.
The brogue can be traced back to 18th Century Ireland, and the untanned hide shoes farmers would don to tend to the sodden fields. The shoes could be turned upside down to allow water out of the holes punctured throughout the top. The name derives from the Old Irish term bróg, which itself is derived from the Old Norse word brók, which translates as “leg covering”. Other names which have been used to describe the style include, but are doubtless not limited to: Brogan, Curan, Revilins, and, to the folk of the Aran Islands, Pampooties.
As time progressed, the working class shoe was picked up by the land owning squirearchy for stalking game and treading countryside bogs. It was this preference which determined the shoe’s more developed style regarding placement of the punctuation and the addition of a heel. The style continued to creep towards more formal wear, with the loss of the full perforation and the application of tallow wax for waterproofing. This “English Style” brogue went on to considerable success with the gentry, and was given a surefire boost towards popularity and away from rugged workwear in the 1930s, when it was favoured by none other than the Prince of Wales, in suede, paired with a grey lounge suit. The two-tone co-respondent model was favoured by Jazz purists throughout the 1940s and 50s, and the brogue was subsequently copied by the masses when favoured by screen stars such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
Where to Buy
As with many staples of footwear, it is hard to define the authentic originator of the style, no less to attribute any certain aspect of the design to one company. Luckily, however, the finest footwear in the world is made in Northampton, England, so go there and you cannot go wrong. This Bourton Derby Full Brogue from Trickers (right) is as good a place to start as any (£375). Other reputable Northampton brands are Church’s, Grenson, Barker, Cheaney and Crockett & Jones.
For the chap in pursuit of something offering a sideline gander at the classic brogue, yet retaining Northampton quality and Goodyear welts, look no further than Jeffery-West. This brand has taken brogues into the darkest corners of the earth and returned with blood in the holes. Their Dexter ‘Kill’ Punch Gibson Cardenal Antick (left) is a perfect example, retailing at £245.
Loake offers reasonably priced, classic country brogues, made in their factory in Northampton. Their Fearnley Brogue (right) retails at £160. Naturally one may visit the second hand market for shoes, but always ensure they are Goodyear-welted, for this is the gold standard in shoemaking and, what’s more, can be easily replaced and made like new again.
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