The word “brogue” is taken from the Irish (bróg) or Scottish (bròg) word for a shoe – indeed, we often use the word to denote a Scottish or Irish accent. Originally, “broguing” developed in Scotland and was a very simple way of extending the life of the crude, untanned shoe worn by poor agricultural workers. Punching holes allowed water from the peat bogs that got into the shoe to get out again – thus extending the life of the shoe before it rots. As a result, when brogues became the more conventional sturdy, decorated shoes like the Loake Chester that we see here, they were viewed as most definitely for the outdoors and huntin’-shootin’-fishin’! They were not welcome in the house.
Prince of Wales (later, albeit briefly) King Edward VIII loved his brogues and, as the David Beckham of his day, made them acceptable and then fashionable. As a result, variants developed. A “full brogue” like the Chester replaces the flat-ended toe cap with extended, decorated and flamboyant wingtips that extend about halfway back on the shoe. The full brogue is also decorated with punching (broguing) on all parts except possibly the vamp. A more subtle form was developed, know as the “half-brogue” or “semi-brogue” – like the Loake Strand on the right. In the half-brogue, the punching is more restrained and the toecap, if present, is a conventional one. Both full and half brogues can manifest themselves as Oxfords or Derbys.
There are also more exotic versions. Returning to its roots, the Ghillie brogue has developed to complement the kilt. It’s normally a pretty standard full brogue except for the lacing, which is open, like that on a dancing shoe – there’s one on the left … the eyelets are exaggerated, with a “flap” each and no tongue, so that the wearer’s sock underneath shows. The laces are very long, with a tassle on the end and are criss-crossed up the leg to make a fancy pattern … very showy, especially for the allegedly-dour men of Scotlandshire It’s very fine with a kilt, but not sensible with anything else.