The word brogue goes all the way back to the sixteenth century in the British Isles. It is actually a derivation of the Scotch/Irish Gaelic word brōg meaning shoe and brók from Old Norse meaning leg covering. The shoes are so closely linked with the cultures of the Scotch and the Irish that their name as been used as the slang term for the strong recognizable accent of the region. Modern brogues have their roots in pure function. Their early ancestor was a boot made from heavy, untanned leather that was perforated so that the shoes could drain easily like a sieve, and a thick sole for stomping around the country side.
Brooklyn Circus modern brogue boots via Selectism.com
Much of the highlands of Scotland and Ireland, the homeland of the brogue, are covered with sodden fields, bogs and marshes making it a very wet, not to mention uncomfortable place to trod unless you are properly prepared. Since shoes were anything but water tight before the goodyear welt was perfected in 1869 easy drainage was a crucial part of the design of shoes in the isles. Especially since many of the people who lived in Scotland and Ireland lived by hunting, shepharding, and farming, spending much of their slogging through the damp hills. Without drainage, shoes would fill with water, becoming heavy and unpleasant to wear. Over time, this rudimentary heavy work shoe came to be associated specifically with the working classes and country living because of its humble beginnings.
the birthplace of the country brogue. the Scottish highlands in fall
country brogues from one of the original English cobblers Grenson with a fat
As technologies improved the traditional rudimentary form of the brogue evolved into a more formal shoe while still retaining the perforations, or broguing, and the traditional low heel but, losing the function, making the perforations simply decorative. The actual term brogue wasn’t coined until the 20th century when the shoe had been refined to where gentlemen started to wear them during their country outings. Seeing how resilient this peasant footwear was and not wanting to ruin their finer foot wear while relaxing at their country estates the gentry adopted brogues as a sort of homage to the noble peasant. Though they did gain in popularity in the country no respectable person would be caught dead wearing them in the city or while conducting buisness.
modern brogues in the city
Today, brogues seem to be the shoe of the moment. To go along with everything working class being brought back and dressed up brogues are going with dry selvedge denim and breton stripe shirts in design firms all across the US. Whether or not peoples style choices are valid is not the point though, the renewed popularity of the brogue means that they are easily found at just about every price point and color. So, go out and find a pair that feels good and do be afraid to scuff them up and get a little muddy. After all that is what they are for.