The Brogue shoe is one of the most detailed types of footwear. With their unique perforations, they add a touch of personality that is sure to elevate your outfit. With their versatility when it comes to dressing for a casual event or formal function, the right pair of brogues can easily become a mainstay in your closet. However you choose to style them, brogues are without a doubt one of the most versatile and worthwhile types of footwear to invest in.
Brogues are characterised by the perforations dotted across the surface of the shoe. It is a style of men’s dress shoe that can elevate a casual look or add some excitement to standard formal dressing.
While the classic brogue shoe originated as a brown leather shoe design, modern brogue shoes have retained the timeless design in a variety of different colours and materials.
Brogues are typically remembered as shoes favoured by those in the Irish and Scottish countryside during the 16th century. The countrymen initially came up with the brogue’s characteristic perforations with a purpose, to allow water to drain through the footwear walking through the wet moors in Ireland and Scotland. This piece of history culminated in the famous line “Oxfords, not Brogues”, delivered by Colin Firth’s character in Kingsmen: The Secret Service (2014).
By the 20th century, brogues were adopted by the rich as a shoe of leisure. In time, the brogue’s perforations gradually lost their initial function and became almost exclusively a decorative feature.
The full brogue or wingtips is the most iconic of all the brogue designs. The full brogue design includes a pointed-toe cap with wing-like extensions along both sides of the shoe. The wing-like extensions closely resemble a W or M shape.
The half-brogue (or semi-brogue) is more formal than the full brogue, as it does not contain the distinctive wing-like extensions. Instead, the half-brogue contains patterned detailing along the toe cap edges and in the centre of the cap. Specifically, the perforations in the centre of the toe cap are known as a ‘medallion’.
The quarter brogues are the brogue shoe most suitable for business and formal occasions. This popular part of workwear typically includes a straight-toe cap with decorative detailing along the cap’s edge. However, unlike the half-brogue, the quarter brogue does not contain the medallion design in the centre of the cap.
The spectator brogues remain synonymous with the 1930s and 1940s. It is characterised by its wingtip design and two-tone colouring: dark-coloured lacing, heels, and toes partnered with a contrasting lighter colour for the rest of the shoe.
The spectator shoe got its name from the frequent use of two-tone shoes by spectators at outdoor sporting events (Eg. cricket).
The longwing brogue is a specific type of brogue shoe where the perforations are dotted along the full length of the shoe. The patterned detailing typically wraps across both sides of the shoe before meeting at the heel.
Dressing up Brogues
Due to the countryside heritage of brogue shoes, they are considered too casual and inappropriate for the most formal of dress codes like black and white tie events.
Besides these codes, brogues present a great shoewear option for other dressy occasions (semi-formal, business, and smart-casual events). Here, the shoe type, colour and design are key.
The most formal rendition of brogue shoes will be half- or quarter-brogueblack oxfords. This should come as no surprise for most of us as oxfords are widely regarded as the premier choice for formal shoewear. Similarly, black is also considered the representative colour for formal dress. As for the brogue design, shoes lose a sense of formality when they are filled with brogue detailing. This makes the simpler designs of the half- and quarter-brogues preferable for formal wear to create a sleeker and smarter look. Together, they create a fun yet sophisticated look perfect for formal occasions.
Still, there are many other shoe types and colours when it comes to brogue shoes. From derbies to loafers and burgundy to brown, brogue shoes come in many variations. As long as you stick with single-toned leather brogues (and not informal leathers like suede) for business events, there is a myriad of brogue shoes that can be worn as part of formal wear.
A simple way to determine brogue shoes are styled properly is to keep contrast in mind. For example, brown brogues make better companions to lighter suits. Otherwise, stick to a Navy suit, which make a good match to most brogues (especially black or brown ones).
Smart Casual Brogue Styling
Compared to formal wear, smart casual styling allows for more freedom of expression in terms of colour and design.
Still, it is best to avoid garish-coloured brogues. Rather, it is best to stick to classic colours such as brown and black or try darker shades like navy blue and forest green. As long as you match the shades where possible, there should be minimal risk in trying out new colours.
As for design, spectator shoes are a good option to add a bit of personality to the outfit. The eye-catching two-tone design of spectator shoes is too bold for formal business settings, but they hold a certain flair that will definitely elevate casual dressing.
Make an impression by pairing spectator two-tone brogues with shirts and pants of matching tones for a bold look. Alternatively, go for a more casual outfit by opting for brown wingtips with a pair of classic chinos (in any shade) and a polo t-shirt.
Of the different brogue shoe designs, the wingtip or full brogue is definitely the most casual option. A wingtip brogue will be able to dress up casual clothing (Eg. denim jeans) and provides a classier alternative to wearing sneakers all the time.
Casual styling gives you the flexibility to experiment with styling less conventional materials and shoe types. For instance, suede brogues present a new method of dressing down with greater comfort. As for shoe types, a pair of brogue boots will be sure to add a rugged nature to your outfit and help you weather any terrain out there.
Brogue Shoes at a Glance
With a style as diverse and loud as the brogue shoe, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the technicalities of where and when they are deemed appropriate (or not). In many cases, people end up sticking with a specific design and colour that is safe for most occasions. Remember that trying different styles is the best way to make sure you get your styling right!
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