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One step ahead: A man’s guide to the perfect brogues

By Jake Daniels on 21st March 2016

Every man should own (at least) one pair of brogues. Fashion expert Jake Daniels offers some advice on choosing the right pair.

Like many things we find ourselves using in the 21st century, brogues were not designed for how they are used today. The leather shoes, with their many stylish perforations, were originally intended to be worn when navigating boggy lands — the holes that dotted the brogue were a great way to drain the shoe after it inevitably filled up with water.

While times may have changed, the brogue remains ever popular with men, but is now worn less in muddy fields and more so in formal environments. Of course, there are many different types of brogues, and you will need advice when choosing a pair to coordinate with a particular outfit. This guide to finding the perfect brogues will outline the style, colour, and brands available to you, and advise you on how you can use a particular style of brogue to complement your outfit.

brogues
Brogues are a formal shoe and can be worn in a workplace or business environment to great success

Brogue styles

By definition, a brogue shoe is only categorised as such due to the perforations that cover it – regardless of its style. This broguing will more than often be symmetrical, though a modern twist on the design is to use asymmetrical perforations on the shoe. The decorative broguing on the toe is known as ‘medallion’, and is only found on certain styles. Boxcar leather is the traditional material for formal shoes, though they could also be made using suede or scotch grain leather.

Full or wingtip brogues are named due to their ‘W’-shaped toe cap (giving the appearance of wings). They feature patterning along the sides and a medallion on the toe cap. A variation on this style is the longwing which features wings that extend all the way around the shoe, meeting at the back. Semi or half brogues have a toe cap but no extension or ‘wing’ beyond this, but can come with a medallion and broguing along the sides. Quarter brogues have neither wings nor a medallion, so are a fairly simple but smart-styled shoe. A visual exploration of brogue styles is featured as part of The Gentlemanual’s great men’s dress shoe guide.

Brogue colours

While the classic brogue colour is a dark brown or tan leather, black brogues are also relatively popular. Modern-styled brogues can come in a range of colours, however, there is no style more expressive than the spectator shoe, which features the classic design but is made using two separate materials with contrasting colours.

Brogue brands

Due to the popularity of the shoe, most major men’s brands offer their own style of brogues, so you don’t have to look very hard to find a pair of brogues that will suit you. Ted Baker is a brand that is renowned for its quirky designs and brave but well-calculated colour combinations – its range of brogues reflects this brand identity.

It isn’t always about buying the best-known brands, but with a brogue it is worth purchasing a shoe made from high-quality leather that is both durable and comfortable. Buying a low-quality brogue can be notoriously painful for your feet, so choose a brand that is renowned for its quality. An extensive range of brands is available at Northern Threads, so you have a great selection in terms of style and price range.

brogues
Due to the popularity of the shoe, most major men’s brands offer their own style of brogues

Wearing brogues

Brogues are a formal shoe and can be worn in a workplace or business environment to great success. However, they aren’t suitable for black tie or dinner events, and wearing them is viewed as a faux-pas on strictly formal occasions. The more perforations or broguing that a shoe has, the more casual it is considered.

As with any shoe, wearing a brown or tan shoe with black trousers is also considered a faux-pas, so be sure to wear only a black brogue with black dress trousers. Alternatively, all brogues are fine to wear with jeans or chinos, particularly suede brogues which are now considered very stylish. A very helpful guide to shoe/trouser combinations from Fashion Beans can be read here. Brogues work particularly well in smart-casual outfits making use of blazers or sports coats, they will also look great with a Harrington jacket.

Brogues are a great shoe due to their style, adaptability and comfort. They can be an everyday work shoe or reserved for special occasions, and look just as great with dress trousers as they do with a pair of jeans. Following these basic style rules will hold you in good stead to work brogues into almost any outfit — and look great doing so.