Rightly called the shoe that bridges the gap between casual and formal footwear, the brogue is a classic that has held its place in men’s fashion for centuries.
Often confused with the Oxford shoe, the brogue is a completely different species. Technically, the Oxford shoe is characterized by its shoelace eyelets, which make its ‘closed lacing’ system. Oxford shoes may be available in the brogue style, but the two are distinctly different kinds of shoe.
Brogues get their name from the decorative perforations or ‘broguing’, a style that originated in Ireland. The first brogues were a very basic design, constructed from untanned leather pieces with perforated, serrated edges that give them a distinctive look. These perforations had a practical purpose, allowing water to drain when wearers crossed wet terrain like marshland.
The original Irish brogues were meant to be outdoor or countryside footwear, but gained popularity in English fashion in the late 16th century. They are now a staple in men’s fashionable footwear, offered by brands like Dune, Tommy Hilfiger and Ted Baker. They’re available in a broad spectrum of colours and full, wingtip, semi-quarter and wingtip designs.
The Oxford-brogue can be worn casually (sans socks for the preppy look), or for semi-formal and formal occasions. It’s popularity as a business dress-shoe has only grown through the years, giving it an edge over plain-faced rivals that have come and gone.
Traditionally worn by men, brogues have now crossed the gender-bar, and are available in many women’s styles as well.