Brogue as a footwear term is dervied from the Gaelic word for shoe. Brogue as a shoe term was used to describe footwear worn by Irish field workers and Scottish Highlanders who allegedly compensated for the wet climates and boggy soil by punching holes in their shoes to facilitate drainage and drying. This functional practice spread through the United Kingdom, eventually it was adopted by English shoe and bootmakers, however instead of serving as a ventilation system the small symmetrically placed holes were used to enhance the appearance of a particular shoe or boot.

Today broguing refers to certain holes or perforations seen on the outside of a shoe. Brogue as a term has nothing to do with the closure used to fasten a shoe and can also be seen on shoes and boots without closure systems. A wingtip shoe may sport broguing just as a Balmoral may have been brogued. Oxford as a generic shoe term is both useful and useless since the umbrella term may be used to refer to: wingtips (both brogued or plain), Balmorals, (likewise), and other boots and shoes with various closures: laces, ties, buckles and straps.

Many sites (and people) refer to the wingtipped shoe as a brogue and vice versa, however these are separate distinctions. To qualify as a wingtip and a brogue the shoe must bear the wing design and have the perforations marking it as a brogue. While it is true that most wingtips are brogued to some degree they do not have to be so please be careful to classify your footwear properly. A brogue must have broguing on it somewhere except in one special case, which will be covered later. Where the broguing is located and how far along a shoe they travel determines brogue classification.

Quarter brogue: this shoe usually has a decorative toe cap, broguing appears as a line of demarcation that separates the toe cap from the vamp of a shoe. This is the least brogued and most formal of the brogued shoes.

Semi-brogue (half brogue): semi-brogues wear their broguing mainly on the toe or toe cap. The shoe may include broguing on the toe cap seam. Wingtips are usually, but not always, semi-brogues.

Full brogue: The most casual of the brogued shoes broguing is more extensive on these shoes than the quarter and semi-brogue. This shoe may also be a wingtip but does not have to be. 

Longwing: This shoe is a winged shoe however its maker has chosen to extend the wings so they run the full length of the shoe and meet at the rear closure seam. A popular shoe in the 1970s the Longwing is cut on narrower lines than most fuller fitting brogues. Included here as it is typically a brogued shoe, usually a full brogue.

Blind brogue: The blind brogue is a wing tipped shoe without a separate wingtip overlay. Instead the wings are formed by the broguing. The reverse of this, the wing overlay minus any broguing is known as an austerity brogue. The austerity brogue is the only shoe without broguing that is still referred to as a brogue.

Medallion is another term that deserve mention in a brogue discussion. Suppose a shoe that lacks a toe cap has a central brogued design. That would properly be called a medallion. Used by artisans to add distinction and decoration to a shoe the medallion is limited only by imagination. A sampling of medallions to watch for include: the ram's head, fleur de lis, circular designs, and a geometric argyle.

The degree of broguing and the type of material used to create a shoe defines how dressy or casual a particular brogue will be. The more broguing the shoe has the less formal the shoe is just as lighter colors are more casual than darker ones. Several sites state that strictly speaking a brogue should not be paired with a suit and more appropriately complements: pinstriped or tweed trousers, chinos, or dark straight legged jeans. Black is an acceptable color for office wear or more formal occasions while brown and other color variants may be worn for casual outings.

Hopefully this guide has helped clarify certain shoe specific terms however please remember that what a shoe looks like is relatively unimportant. Exquisite footwear is useless and potentially harmful if it does not fit your foot. As you approach higher end items snobbery has a tendency to invade the expert and vanquish the unarmed. Ignorance is an opportunity for education, treating it as such will garner you business your less savvy competitors have lost.

Good footwear balances the wearer. It helps maintain proper spinal alignment and it can prevent injury to the foot as well as joints that stack above the ankles. Whether you care about minor shoe embellishments that most people fail to notice please buy the best fitting footwear you can afford. Small problems have a way of turning into larger ones, ignoring your foot health may come with a price tag that far exceeds the most expensive shoes out there so do your body a favor; pay attention to both of your lowest extremities so you never lose the ability to move each of your well shod feet forward.


  1. Samples of various brogues.
  2. Medallion broguing
  3. Wikipedia. Provides a good image of a brogued Ghillie tie.
  4. Example of a blind brogue.