The brogue which was originally designed as a working shoe, has evolved over the years into a versatile style of footwear which can complement all manners of casual, business and even some formal attire. Let’s learn more about both men’s and women’s brogues and how to wear them.
The Right Amount of Broguing for the Occasion
A brogue refers to any shoe or boot with hole perforations on the leather uppers known as broguing. There are many types of brogue designs including wingtips, semi and quarter brogues which all feature different decorative perforations. The easiest rule of formal versus casual thumb when it comes to brogues is the amount of perforations present on the shoe; the more broguing it has, the less formal the shoe is considered.
Therefore a full brogue or a wingtip, while quite lovely, would be your least formal option as they are the most heavily decorated type. Wingtips look great with jeans or chinos, but avoid them if you’re wearing a suit. Similarly, semi or half-brogues also feature quite a bit of eye-catching perforations and that level of broguing also makes them a more casual choice.
Quarter brogues have the most subtle broguing, making them look less casual than semi and full brogues. No matter the style (Oxford, Derby or monk strap) quarter brogues will have a straight and horizontal toe cap with perforations lining the edge of it. Sometimes there’s also subtle broguing along the edges of the heel cap and upper, too. While the perforations are visible, they aren’t as obvious making them the best brogue to pair with formal wear.
Are Brogues Considered Formal?
Generally speaking no, brogues are not considered formal wear. Brogues and Derbies aren’t formal enough for evening wear or a black-tie event. Brogue shoes can be worn with formal suits as long as the shoes don’t look too casual. Quarter brogues are the most subtle type and usually the most appropriate, especially if you stick to black or brown brogue Oxfords or Derbys.
Semi-brogue shoes may be appropriate when wearing a suit if they’re dark leather and the suit is more casual. You’ll want to avoid full brogue shoes altogether. Pair black or tan brogues with a well-tailored suit for formal occasions or with a pair of trousers, shirt and blazer for a smart-casual vibe. A tan or light brown can make a refreshing change to a classic black brogue, but black is always guaranteed sleek styling.
Also be mindful of the type of leather brogues you’re considering. Suede shoes will always look more casual than shinier grains of leather like calfskin or cowhide due to the rugged and napped texture of suede. While suede shouldn’t usually be worn with a formal suit, it could potentially work with a more casual suit.