History of Brogues

City Information Centre

   Whereas the bowler hat has mostly disappeared from the City, brogues seem to be here to stay. They have become the smart shoe with edge, the formal city footwear with personality. But what exactly is a “brogue“? cobb.London describe one of their pairs “a formal decorative shoe with a perforated finish to the toe and leather uppers. The traditional black brogue with its intricate detail delivers an established aristocratic look”. However, the name does not refer to a single type of shoe, the important feature is the holes. Interestingly, just like the Bowler hat, the brogues have evolved over time from more humble beginnings. The name originates from the Gallic word, ‘bróg’ which simply means shoe. The style was originally popular with 19th century farmers in Scotland and Ireland. They were made with untanned hides and designed for utility, with the perforated holes at the front to perform the task of draining bog water away from farmers’ feet as they worked the land and walked over boggy, wet terrain. By the early 20th century, brogues had become a practical outdoor walking shoe. Edward VIII (1894 – 1972), then Prince of Wales, made brogues fashionable when photos showed him playing golf in them.  Men’s leather brogues quickly became a must-have shoe for both men and women and are now recognised as an essential part of that period’s style. The 1920s were all about jazz music which helped to break down cultural barriers and to define the modern age. The rise of the brogue continued and they were spotted on celebrity feet from Fred Astaire to Rudolf Valentino. The two-tone brogue was the only shoe to be seen in. Even Elvis himself was sporting a black and white pair in the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ video in 1957! A pair of his iconic blue suede shoes – which were also brogues – fetched an enormous £48,000 when sold at auction in 2013. In the modern world of fashion, many men quite rightly have a pair in their wardrobe. They go with everything, from full suits to jeans.  

A pair of lace up brogues with a white body and red tip and heels of the shoe.
Men's circa 1930 oxford full brogue spectator shoes © Wikipedia Creative Commons

Cobb.London: 5 Things You Never Knew About the Brogue Shoe

London Brogues: The History of Men's Brogues