Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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« Brogues, Pt 2 | Main | Ring Ins-and-Outs »
Monday
Sep252017

Brogues, Pt 1

Brogues with Bows

I have loved brogues for a long time. I don’t know from whence this love affair sprang, but it has mostly to do with the punctured leather they are made from: decoration that belies practicality.

While the word ‘brogue’ derives from the Norse brök (leg covering), the shoe itself has its origins in seventeenth century Scotland and Ireland. They were designed for walking the peat bogs of those countries, the tiny holes perforating the leather allowing water to drain out.

A guide to brogued shoes (illustrations from Toni Rossi)They started out as very rudimentary shoes made from raw hides with the hair inwards, to leather tanned with oak-bark. By the eighteenth century they had evolved into a heavier shoe with hobnailed soles, and in the following century the shoe gained a second layer which was pinked to allow water to drain out, with an inner layer that was not, preserving water resistance.

Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, popularises brogues by wearing them as golfing shoes (image via Pinterest)In the twentieth century, it was Edward, Prince of Wales, who took these traditional shoes out of the countryside and into the city, playing golf in them in the 1930s and thereby making them exceedingly fashionable. Women’s versions soon followed with the addition of a heel. Half-brogues, hybrids of Oxford and brogue, were next, with heels rising higher and higher in the first decade of the twenty-first century, making the most practical walking shoe less so. But they sure look good!

When I purchased this pair of dark taupe brogues by label Urge online from a sale website, I was quite surprised when they arrived sans shoelaces. I decided that I wanted nothing so prosaic as that. I had seen brogues tied with satin ribbons before, and liked the look – there is something storybookish about them. Immediately I seized a ribbon out of my sewing box to test out the look.

The tiny eyelets were a hindrance, but I dealt with that by wrapping the ends of the ribbon with sticky-tape and thread it through. I liked it (though not so much the mauve colour, which inadvertently matched my carpet)!

It is almost impossible to purchase non-polyester ribbon in this paltry town (unless presumably one is a denizen of the fashion industry and has secret sources) so I went shopping on Etsy. A natural fibre would be more flexible and fall more prettily. I found a peach rayon ribbon and waited impatiently for it to arrive. Once more I went through the tedious process of threading the eyelets, but I was very pleased with the result.

After all that effort, I must confess that the shoes themselves were not the most comfortable, being a little narrow in the toe. But wear made them give a little and they became more comfortable for commuting to work in, which is what I bought them for. Unfortunately, these fashionable brogues did not possess hobnailed soles, and after a winter or two of hard wear, I ruthlessly (but sadly) put them in the bin where their holey-ness belonged.

Unfortunately, these fashionable brogues did not possess hobnailed soles …

I’ve since owned other brogues, and this past winter have been often wearing a pair of dark tan vintage 70s oxfords, with a two-inch stacked heel, that I found in an op shop for around $12. They were in pristine condition and had even been resoled by a previous owner. I have already roughed them up a little on toes and heels, but that’s what shoes are for – and then it will be on to the next pair!

Photos: July 2012
References: Shoes, by Caroline Cox, New Burlington Books, 2012; Shoes, by Linda O’Keefe, Workman Publishing NY, 1996

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