Saturday, 23 October 2010

Shoe Tribute

I’ll freely admit it: I am addicted to brogues. I know they’ve been kicking around for a good few years now, but this is one trend that has longevity. I, for one, will be wearing mine for years to come, until the soles give up and let in more water than a sponge and I can feel all the detritus of the street on my toes. Why? Because they’re flattering, quirky, and as quintessentially British as bowler hats and Cheddar cheese.

I get the feeling that I’m not alone in my appreciation of brogues, either – in a recent episode of Gok’s Fashion Fix, the irrepressible Brix Smith-Start was seen practically salivating over the complex procedures involved in making a brogue at the well-established firm Lodger. I shared her enthusiasm as the soft, creamy suede was formed into a shoe and punched, then laced, and finally ready to wear. This was a real labour of love, not some fleeting fixation, and that’s how I feel about the brogue in fashion. You can wear this shoe for a job interview or just popping to the shops, with the same style suiting anyone from twenty-something to sixty-something. It can be a nod to the androgynous trend, worn with men’s slacks, or to balance out a floral dress. If you’re not much of a traditionalist then look no further than some of the brighter coloured options available at the moment – from floral print to turquoise to purple, the brogue is the ultimate chameleon of footwear, adopting various guises but always remaining functional.

I own several pairs myself and I’m constantly looking to amass more; the current collection is comprised of basics in white, pewter, tan and soft grey, so that they can be easily incorporated with my clothing. The first ones I ever owned were more of a semi-brogue; I bought some white plimsolls from an Army Surplus Store in Cornwall and meticulously applied the detailing of men’s black and white wingtips, using fabric paint. The eventual effect was something akin to Art Attack, though I loved them nevertheless because they were the closest I could get to the real thing. However, the fashion market has since changed, with brogues now available to suit every budget and transcend gender rules. If money was no object then I’d grab some berry-coloured brogues, designed by Stuart Weitzman for Mulberry, in an instant. Mulberry’s foray into footwear was heralded by the arrival of these beauties, and what a way to expand a company! Statement shoes are the way forward and the brogue is in keeping with the strong heritage of the Mulberry brand, whilst the shade adds a modern twist.

So what would be my ultimate brogue-centric outfit? As the old-fashioned side of the brogue is one of its strongest draws for me, I would add plenty of lace, either in a fingerless glove, a high-waisted skirt or tights. To dress it down I’d add a baggy vest in a deep khaki or burgundy, then pile on rings and necklaces haphazardly. Yes, the ensemble might make you think I’d had a fight in a flea market, but I don’t think vintage fashions should always be presented as immaculately as they originally were. I like to combine older styles with newer ones, such as harem pants, and see where that leads me.

But why should you choose brogues for a night out? They are perhaps not the obvious choice, but they are attractive in a subtle way – Victoria Beckham once described her failsafe sexy look as a white shirt and jeans, and brogues are similarly cool without trying too hard. They can include delicate additions, like the ribbon laces of an H by Hudson pair, giving you the edge over more conservative dressers. Another great design aspect is their resilience against the perils of being trodden on whilst clubbing, or the hours of dancing that may be ahead. Can you say the same for flimsy ballet pumps and platform shoes? I certainly can’t. My footwear should still be going long after I’ve called it a night. And, on an irritatingly practical note, leather brogues are wipe-clean, so you can spill as many drinks on them as you like but they’ll still look good the morning after, often in contrast to your own appearance. With everyone tightening their (waist-cinching) belts at the moment, financially speaking, it does become increasingly important to have more versatile clothing and accessories, fun as it is to buy the odd frivolous item. We need our footwear to be multi-purpose and to withstand our daily lives.

With all this in mind, I can safely say that brogues are essentially the glue holding my wardrobe together and adding a touch of vintage glamour to everything else.

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