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.
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.
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.