Skip to content

Traditional Shoes: The perfect Brogue! Her Highland heart’s attire!

February 27, 2013

Brogues say everything about a person… a classicist… a modernist: both, all and more

Nick Garrett

Traditional Shoes: The perfect Brogue! Her Highland heart’s attire!

Brogue Trader

The traditional Brogue is a heavy Gaelic classical shoe (a lighter version was also know as the ‘Ghillie’ or Ghillie Brogue).

It is a crafted shoe that is made from strong, untanned leather with decorative punched holes, mostly worn in Scotland and Ireland though now a much prized, newly discovered fashion icon.

Chuck Berry Brogues

Chuck Berry waggin’ his brogues!

But it was in the seventies that the Skinheads adopted this traditional shoe along with the Loafer and Smooth as part of their take on fashion and ironic noble English dress.

The scoop is, the best priced English made Traditional Shoes in London can be found at:

‘Mens Traditional Shoes’ 171 Camberwell Rd, London SE5  +44 2077034179

“Ghillie” brogues were originally designed for, funnily enough, Ghillies & gamekeepers as footwear that would drain away water easily when tramping through bogs.
When and how they became dress items we do not know.


Brogue can also refer to Oxford shoes that have fringe or wing tips. The term Brogue is derived from the Gaelic word for shoe – bróg. Brogueing refers to a pattern of decorative punched holes along a shoe’s seams.

Photo: Brogues just have it!


Here are old photos showing Ghillie Brogues worn both with and without buckles by pipers:

HIGHLAND HERITAGE: Dance and marching

A 1950’s Anderson catalogue shows three styles of shoes worn with Evening Dress, Mary Janes, slip on loafers, and ghillies, all black, all with decorative buckles. Here are closeups of two of the three Evening styles. Ghillies are not shown or mentioned in connexion with Day Dress. This is the earliest catalogue I have that uses the word “ghillies”.

At some point, perhaps originally amongst pipers, ghillie brogues migrated out of the ballroom and back to Day Dress. The Army to this day wears ordinary brogues with kilt hose as seen in the photo above.


Despite being globally renowned as an English trend, brogues were originally made for Irish and Scottish farm workers.  They were made individually by cobblers, and featured perforated holes allowing water to drain away when the wearer crossed wet ground.

Dress brogues’ slight heel made a distinct sound when tapped, ideal for formal Gaelic dances.  These traditional shoes made their way into the fashion scene when the patterns made by the holes appeared on ladies’ shoes as decoration.

Marlene Dietrich’s signature style has become a timeless classic.  Both she and Katharine Hepburn were known for their daring masculine fashion choices, encompassing feminine glamour in a tailored way.

George Cleverly, famous for his footwear creations for men, made the first women’s brogues after being challenged by British model Twiggy to design her a pair of flats.

Used to being stunned by sumptuous heels at the Academy Awards, fashionistas and journalists alike were shocked by Ellen DeGeneres’s break from tradition when she wore brogues at the Oscars.

Brogues made a huge comeback in the 00s, when tailored styles hit the catwalk once more.  They are Alexa Chung’s shoe of choice.

Pixie Lott rocks the Brogue!

There’s a lot of debate about the perfect brogue..

A full-brogue has extensive brogueing on the toe, side and heel. A half-brogue is a shoe with a straight toe-cap and extensive brogueing. Half-brogues and full brogues almost always have a punched “medallion” decoration on the toe. Brogues have a front Oxford style or an open front Derby style. Derbys have eyelet tabs stitched on the top of the vamp.

These shoes have inspired a new generation of designers to think in the ornamentation that could only really originate in Scotland or Ireland/UK… let’s face it!

Originally made from an un-tanned leather, the shoes, often retain their original brown colour.  The design soon made its way into the world of fashion when the patterns began appearing as decoration on ladies shoes which were worn for formal dances. These patterns were then seen on men’s shoes and different forms developed into what we can find today.


The popularity of brogues isn’t restricted to just British either. The shoes were modified into the American full winged variety (See below), were highly favored in the United States in the early 1930’s and well into the post-war era. For the girls brogues made the ideal dancing shoe due to the introduction of the small and perfectly formed ‘kitten’ heel. They were endorsed by the likes of style icons such as American singer Pattie Smith, Katharine Hepburn and Twiggy, all known for their infamous 60’s ‘mod’ style.


Above Kitten heels. The height, shape & placement of the kitten heel tap style shoe.

Above:  The modern Ghillie Brogue looking the part


The three styles of Brogues are

A half-brogue is a shoe with a straight toe-cap



Oxford Brogue below


Are brogues addictive?  See this conversation on mum’s net… classic!!

Brogues- black patent or black leather?

(23 Posts)

mrsmoscow Fri 05-Oct-12 17:58:30

Am eyeing up some brogues in Clarks and not sure whether patent would be a bit OTT for my lifestyle! Taking kids to the park etc.

Any thoughts?

gindrinker Fri 05-Oct-12 18:06:46

Are they the hamble? I’ve ordered the tan ones.
I love tan leather, it goes with everything.
Patent makes things fun!

Itsgottabebags Fri 05-Oct-12 18:16:25

Leather. I got some black and white patent/or patent effect ones about six months ago and the toes looked horrible after one week with scratched/peeling.

They weren’t by Clarkes though

mrsmoscow Fri 05-Oct-12 18:34:55

They are hamble! Nice aren’t they!

Hmmm heart saying patent – head saying leather…..

gindrinker Fri 05-Oct-12 18:52:50

Right I’ve retrieved them from my neighbour.
They are lovely, good quality and will stop me wearing converse all the time.
I’m rocking them with skinnies rolled up to ankle grazer levels.
They’ll go with dresses too I think.
There’s a 20% off code knocking about.


One Comment leave one →
  1. April 11, 2013 1:34 am

    Reblogged this on ArtSite – Nick Garrett.

Like this post? What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: