Originally hailing from the Scottish and Irish highlands, the humble brogue is named after the Gaelic word brog that describes the pushing of an awl through leather. The shoe was initially without a\ heel and made of perforated and slashed, thick un-tanned deer hide that let the water through as one waded in the wet bogs and marshes in search of prey. The finest variation of the brogue per se is the Florsheim Imperial Kenmoor ‘wing tip’, favoured by U.S. Ivy Leaguers, Presidents, Wall Street Bankers and British skinhead’s and suede heads, and named after the imitation perforations that stretch back towards the rear of the shoe and look like the spread of an eagle’s wings.
‘I found a pair for £180 in New York,” says Madness front man Suggs “They were first imported to the UK in 1964 by John Simon who had the shop Ivy Shop in Richmond and then Squire in Soho and were very popular with the original skinheads. I love them because they are a lot more chunky and heavy than the British brogue and were worn by the likes of the FBI, JFK and Sinatra.”
Wingtips became truly popular in the US after WW1 when soldiers, who preferred the easy-to-wear oxfords they had discovered in England to the high-laced, narrow footwear that had been the norm in the United States, brought them back from Europe where the “brogue” was an outdoor, country walking shoe traditionally worn by men. As is the norm companies such as Florsheim copied the item, adding their own little spin; a fat double leather sole, Goodyear Welt construction and either a heritage calfskin leather or pebble grain cashmere calf leather upper, creating a design classic that out does the original British conceit. Curiously, the Florsheim wing tip was then copied to the last detail by Northampton shoe makers Loake who to this day create a fine wingtip that any man might be proud to own.
“The thing about the wing tip is that they’re great for a big bloke as they never look silly,” adds Suggs. “They are the proper shoe for the proper man because we’ve got no time for this effete pointy or square toed slip on Velcro fastening nonsense or even those big designer orange fake brogues. We need proper footwear. Classics. I don’t want to look like a fashion victim. I need something I can wear with Levi’s 501’s, chinos or a nice suit. If I buy a pair of shoes I want them to last. Gimmicky shoes never last but these have been around for over 100 years so they must be doing something right.”
The brogue is an essential part of any man's wardrobe and a fitting tribute to what Leonardo Da Vinci described as,“ a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art”, otherwise known as the foot.
The Florsheim Imperial Kenmoor ‘wing tip’ is available at John Simons