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How to Wear Brogues: A Gentleman’s Guide

Brogues have existed for over 100 years. Yet, pairing them with other outfits remains a challenge to many. Learn how to wear brogues in this extensive gentleman’s guide.

Since brogues shifted from a working shoe to a fashion shoe in the early 20th Century, understanding how to wear this smart style of footwear isn’t always easy.

The good news is that Percy Stride has you covered. In this essential guide, we explore the rich history of brogues and answer all your burning questions, including:

  • How to wear brogues?

  • When to wear brogues?

  • What is the difference between Oxfords and brogues?

Brogues – A brief history

The brogue was initially a working-class man’s shoe first created for Scottish and Irish farmers at the turn of the 19th Century.

Designed as a hard-wearing shoe for outdoor work on farms and bogs, the brogue was first made of black leather with holes at the front for draining any water that seeped through during the working day.

Brogues were traditionally intended for outdoor or country use. They were not appropriate for casual or business wear. However, things started to change when the world entered the jazz era.

The fun and vibrant jazz era of the 1920s and 1930s really nailed down the two-tone brogue, with cinema stars such as Fred Astaire rocking the brogues in their dance routines.

Next, it was the turn of the 1950s to adopt the brogue, with a certain Elvis Presley shaking his hips rooted in brogues – most notably in Jailhouse Rock.

Since then, the brogue has gone from strength to strength and became a truly versatile staple of the men’s wardrobe.

Today we see hipsters, indie folk, and even businessmen sporting all manner of brogues daily – often as a fashion statement, but sometimes to compliment a well-tailored suit.

What is the difference between oxfords and brogues?

To understand the difference between these two icons of British footwear, we must first look at what defines each shoe.

A brogue is characterised by holes that mark the outer leather of the shoes, with the decorative holes first seen on Scottish and Irish boots used for farm work or country walks. Whereas the holes were initially intended to drain water, today, they are solely decorative.

In contrast, an Oxford is defined by the shoelace eyelets placed under the shoe’s upper part – also known as closed lacing. Looking for more information on Oxford shoes? Check out this blog on the subject.

There are several different types of brogues, which we look at below.

Full Brogues

Men's Brown Brogue Shoes

Also known as wingtips, full brogues are the more traditional style of brogue. Defined by a pointed cap with extensions running along the sides of the toe, the toe cap looks similar to a set of extended wings when viewed from the top.

For the full brogue effect, the toe is decoratively perforated in the centre of the toe cap. Looking for a full brogue? That’s handy because we’ve got some in our shop!

Ghillie Brogues

Ghillie Brogues

The Ghillie Brogue is traditionally seen at Scottish social functions and is characterised by having no tongue. The lack of tongue is to facilitate quick drying, which makes sense given the Scottish weather.

Despite having no tongue, there are laces that wrap around the leg above the ankle to stay clear of mud. A very functional shoe, but not often seen unless it's a formal occasion.


Semi Brogue

Semi-brogues are very similar to the full brogue, just without the perforations along the side of the shoe. The idea behind the shoe was to offer something more stylish than an Oxford, but not as bold as a full brogue.

What to wear with Brogue shoes?

The beauty of the modern brogue is its versatility. You can easily pair it with relaxed fit jeans or a sharp double-breasted suit. Let’s take a look a closer look at what to wear with brogue shoes.

Back in the day, brogues would be worn with suit trousers. Today, they can be worn with just about anything.

Try wearing them to work with your favourite suit. Black brogues go best with a black suit and brown with a navy suit. To make a statement, why not try some Oxblood coloured brogues with a blue suit – or go the whole hog and plump on two-tone.

Brogues with beige chinos is also a good shout, bridging the gap between business and casual. Pair with a quilted wax jacket, and you’ll look like the bee's knees at any country club.

If it’s a night on the town or a coffee with friends, brown brogues pair nicely with both black and blue jeans. Try a one inch turn up on the jeans for the added detail. After all, fashion is all about the minute details.

When to wear brogues

Deciding when to wear brogues might have been a conundrum back in the day, given their lack of versatility in the 19th Century. But today, you can wear your brogues pretty much whenever you like.

For example, they’re perfect at weddings, whether you’re the groom, usher, or drunken guest.

They’re also ideal for business, oozing class and showing your peers that you know how to pick a fine pair of shoes and pull them off.

Brogues even work when you’re just out and about doing things. For instance, if you’re just nipping into town for a coffee or the local corner shop, wearing brogues will showcase your commitment to fashion.

The truth is, you’ll be able to pull off a decent pair of brogues, whatever the weather and whatever the setting. Gone are the days when brogues were reserved for Fred Astaire or Elvis Presley. Instead, they’re a versatile staple of any man’s shoe shelf, and you’d be wise to invest.

Percy Stride Brogues

Now you know how to wear brogues, it’s time to invest in the right pair. With men’s brogues remaining a cornerstone of formal and casual wear, Percy Stride is the go-to option for iconic footwear.

How to wear brogues

Brogues don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. So, if we’ve piqued your interest with this guide, take a look at what we’ve got to offer.

The Watson Brogue features classic brogueing detail with natural welt trim. The best bits of fashion are the details, and the Watson has one final feature to wow. Check out the debossed red sole stamp in the waist of all leather soles.

Alternatively, if you fancy reading some more valuable style insights and shoe guides, check out some of our other blogs.

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