To me the ultimate do-anything shoe has to be the brogue: the shoe which has its roots in the footwear of Irish and Scottish agricultural labour- brogue or brog means shoe in Gaelic. The distinctive styling has both a utilitarian purpose the holes were originally punched through the upper to allow the shoes to dry out when wet or keep cool on a hot day; the decorative ‘gimping’ is a feature born of the flamboyant men’s dress sense of the Elizabethan era, which would explain the shoes ability to be both stylish and practical in equal measure. A shoe which began life on the feet of the farm labourer ended up being the footwear of choice for the Hollywood Jazz era and the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly- a shoe with class; a shoe with style; a shoe to fall in love with.
However, I’ve not always felt this way.
I hated my first pair of brogues. Purchased circa ‘75 from Clarks (a place which filled with me terror due to the Dick Tracey-esque foot measuring machine ‘just pop yer foot in their poppet’- which always seemed as it would crush my feet to pulp between its sliding metal sides). They were funereal black, sensible-heeled and, with a possible nod to a Britain gripped by the oil crisis, scuff proof. Like Tonka Toys for your feet nothing could destroy these pavement pounding pantechnicons. Except of course, a thoroughly pissed off seven-year old. I was determined to grind these chunky clunkers into submission. And so, after three months of constant scraping along the York stone flags on my slow morning walk to Southcoates Lane, infants school, the scuff-proofs proved to be anything but. The brogues were broken and the boy was free.
At least for a while: twenty-three years to be precise.
In the interim from Brogue hate to Brogue love my feet followed the familiar journey of my generation. DunlopGreenflash, Monkey Boot, Doctor Martens, Loafer, Key-hole straps, Addidas Samba; my pedestrian digits constantly seeking out the latest, the trendiest, the now. Though, I will hasten to add, that during my thankfully brief new-age dalliance during the early 90’s I never wore clogs. I think that’s worth repeating I NEVER WORE CLOGS. Good, I’m glad we understand each other. I also thought The Levellers were shit.
Back to the Brogue.