The Brogue Shoe: A Storied History Rooted in Functionality

Brogues from Enzo Bonafé in col. 8 Horween shell cordovan.

The brogue shoe, a classic staple in the world of men's footwear, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Over time, it has evolved from a functional necessity to a symbol of refinement and sophistication. In this article, we delve into the rich history of the brogue shoe, exploring its origins, development, and cultural significance.

Origins of the Brogue Shoe

The term "brogue" originates from the Gaelic word "bróg," which means shoe. The brogue shoe traces its roots back to the early 16th century in Scotland and Ireland, where it was initially designed as a functional outdoor shoe for farmers and workers in the region's rugged and wet terrain.

The original brogue shoes were made from untanned hide, with the defining feature being a series of perforations, or "broguing," on the upper part of the shoe. These perforations were not merely decorative but served a practical purpose, allowing water to drain out of the shoes when the wearer crossed the marshy land. The shoes also featured a sturdy construction, with a stiffened heel counter for support and a low, wide heel to provide stability on uneven ground.

The Evolution of Brogue Shoes

As trade and commerce expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries, brogue shoes found their way to England, where they became increasingly popular among the gentry. During this period, the brogue shoe began to evolve from a functional work shoe to a more refined and fashionable footwear option. The rough, untanned hide of the original brogue shoes was replaced with high-quality leather, and the perforations became more intricate and decorative.

By the late 19th century, the brogue shoe had become a staple in men's fashion, particularly among the upper classes. The shoes were often paired with formal attire, such as suits and tailcoats, and were considered a symbol of status and refinement.

In the early 20th century, the brogue shoe underwent further transformation, as shoemakers experimented with different styles and materials. The full brogue, or "wingtip," emerged during this time, featuring an extended toecap with wing-like extensions along the sides of the shoe. The semi-brogue, or "half brogue," was also developed, featuring a straight-edged toecap and less extensive perforations.

The Cultural Significance of Brogue Shoes

The brogue shoe has become synonymous with the "gentleman" image, largely due to its association with British and Irish aristocracy. Over the years, it has been embraced by various subcultures and style icons, who have adopted and adapted the shoe to suit their unique tastes.

In the 1960s, brogues gained popularity among the mod subculture, known for their sharp, tailored clothing and attention to detail. The shoes were often worn with slim-cut suits and narrow ties, creating a sleek and sophisticated look. Later, in the 1980s, brogues experienced a resurgence among the punk and goth subcultures, often paired with ripped jeans, leather jackets, and an overall edgier aesthetic.

Today, brogue shoes continue to be a versatile and enduring footwear choice for men. From boardrooms to casual outings, the brogue shoe has proven its ability to adapt to various settings and occasions, while maintaining its unmistakable elegance and charm.


The brogue shoe, with its intricate detailing and storied past, is a testament to the power of design, craftsmanship, and cultural influence. From its practical beginnings in the marshlands of Scotland and Ireland, to its current status as a symbol of sophistication and style, the brogue shoe has captured the imaginations of generations of footwear enthusiasts. Its adaptability and timeless appeal have cemented its place in the pantheon of classic men's fashion.

In recent years, the brogue shoe has also made its way into women's fashion, with designers creating a range of brogue-inspired styles that offer a modern and feminine twist on the classic design. This has allowed the brogue to maintain its relevance and reach a broader audience.

Furthermore, contemporary shoemakers have continued to push the boundaries of brogue design, experimenting with innovative materials, bold colors, and unique patterns. This has resulted in an array of brogue styles that cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences. At Skoaktiebolaget we feel that the classic interpretations are what captures the attention of our clients most due to our reputation of catering to an audience appreciative of classic menswear. 

Despite its many transformations, the essence of the brogue shoe remains rooted in its history and traditional craftsmanship. Today's brogue shoes are still characterized by their signature perforations and classic silhouette, serving as a reminder of the shoe's humble beginnings and its journey through the annals of fashion.

In conclusion, the brogue shoe is a prime example of how functionality and style can merge to create a truly iconic piece of footwear. Its rich history and enduring popularity are a testament to the skill and creativity of the craftsmen who first envisioned the brogue, as well as to the generations of wearers who have embraced and adapted the shoe to suit their own unique styles. As we look to the future, it is clear that the brogue shoe will continue to evolve and inspire, leaving an indelible mark on the world of fashion.