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Converse Chuck Taylor II: The New Shoe Tried And Tested

This week, Converse brought out the Chuck Taylor II, a new, revamped version of one of – if not, THE – world’s favourite trainers. But why mess with a classic, you might ask? I thought the same thing myself. So I got a pair on my feet so I could answer that very question.

What exactly is the difference between the Chuck Taylor II and your regular pair of Cons anyway? Well, the insole is different for starters; it has a Nike Lunarlon sock liner (and pretty comfy it feels, too. Bouncy, even). Nike bought Converse back in 2003, so they might as well make the most of its technology I suppose. Some of the trademarks have been tweaked – there’s no black line around the sole of the shoe, making them look modern and minimal, and the star badge on the ankle is now fully embroidered. Nice touch. Even the canvas is different, making them more durable and breathable. And the tongue is held in place with two pieces of elastic, meaning you won’t get that annoying thing where they slip over to one side. For the most part, though, this is a very sensitive update of a shoe that literally everybody loves. A bit like what all Star Wars fans are hoping JJ Abrams will do with The Force Awakens (geek alert!).

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Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II Ox, £55, schuh.co.uk (BUY ME HERE!)
Anyway, I’ve gone off topic. Let’s get back to those shoes. Available in high top or Ox (low), they just come in four colours at the moment – white, black, red and blue. This is another nice touch, as when Converse All Stars first launched they were only available in black or white. Sometimes too much choice can be a bad thing. As you can see, I went for the white high tops (I find them more comfortable than the low Ox versions) because I can’t get enough of white sneakers at the moment. They go with everything, and I think the white Chuck Taylor IIs look the most different from the original Converse out of all the colours.

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Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II Hi, £60, schuh.co.uk (BUY ME HERE!)

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Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II Ox, £55, schuh.co.uk (BUY ME HERE!)
They do come up a little smaller than regular Cons, so you might want to go up a size (I did, to allow for socks). I’d love to know what you think of the new design. Leave comments below!

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WIN a pair of tickets to the V&A Pleasure and Pain Exhibition with En Brogue

Exciting news! I have a pair of tickets to give away to the V&A’s brilliant exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, which is – you guessed it – all about shoes. Yay! As the name suggests, there are a lot of heels in amongst the exhibits, but any shoe connoisseur – flat lover or heel lover alike – will find it totally fascinating. I was lucky enough to go along to the press preview when it opened and I highly recommend it (although with the dress code that particular evening being to wear the most outrageous shoes you owned, and me rocking up in some bright Norman Walsh trainers, I did feel rather underdressed!). I took Mr Brogue with me too, and there was plenty to amuse him as well. This is a fashion exhibition that is definitely not just for girls.

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these could be yours!

From bright yellow Mary Quant boots from the Sixties to an entire private collection of adidas trainers – including my favourite ever trainers that I have never owned: the adidas Jeans – there’s something for everyone here. Keep your eyes peeled for the horrifyingly small shoes for Chinese women with bound feet (I never realised how tiny they really were) and Egyptian ‘bath clogs’, which look like they are on stilts. There are obviously shoes in this collection that go against everything I believe in, comfort-wise, but it just cements my opinion that no shoes are worth being in pain for! Interesting as their stories may be…

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adidas Jeans – cool as f***

As well as the tickets, you’ll receive a copy of the accompanying V&A book. To enter, simply tweet or Instagram an image of your favourite comfortable shoes that give you the most pleasure with the hashtag #EnBroguePleasureandPain before the end of July. I’ll announce the winner, who Mr Brogue will pick at random, on August 1st. Oh, and if you do win, be sure to spot my book – available to buy in the special shoe-paraphernalia shop before you go into the exhibition. Can you tell how excited I was to see it there myself? Good luck!

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me and my book: trying to play it cool…
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The UGG challenge

When UGG got in touch and challenged me to wear their shoes for a week, I jumped at the chance. I may not be a traditional UGG boot kind of girl, but I’ve been really interested in the  variety of styles that are on offer now. In fact, I’ve been meaning to try a pair for myself since I slipped on my niece’s sheepskin lined brogues at Christmas when she wasn’t looking. They were SO NICE.

OK, so you think sheepskin lined shoes are going to be really hot? Here’s the thing about wool; it’s a self-regulating fabric as far as your temperature is concerned, so as well as keeping your feet warm in the winter, it keeps them cool in the summer. True fact! Which makes these shoes good for all year round. It also means that you can get away with wearing no socks and the shoes are far less likely to rub. And nothing feels quite as dreamy as sheepskin against your bare feet…

The shoes UGG asked me to try were from their sneakers and summer boots collection: five days, five pairs of shoes. Here are the results.

Day 1 in ‘Jemma’ trainers

Gemma lifestyle

Day one was an office day, so I needed to look pretty smart. Tennis shoe-style trainers like these always look really good with tailoring, so I paired them with some smart, cropped cigarette trousers (always remember to show a flash of ankle as it’s more elegant) and my new favourite long trench that I like to call my ‘Inspector Gadget’ coat. The trainers finished off the look brilliantly, and their quilted design is bang on trend – quilting is BIG news for the autumn.

(Click here to buy)

Gemma full length

Day 2 in ‘Camellia’

Camellia lifestyle

I was out and about on appointments on day two, so I didn’t need to look as smart. Definitely a jeans day, and in my book, nothing looks better with blue denim than a bright pair of suede shoes. These boots are absolute perfection; they’re cut really low on the ankle which is REALLY flattering, they’re sheepskin lined (feels like wearing your slippers out!) and that colour! The colour is just devine. Oh, and to top it all off they have a crepe sole, and it doesn’t get more comfortable than a crepe sole.

(Click here to buy)

Camellia full length

Day 3 in ‘Tomi’

Tomi lifestyle

A plain black trainer is a really useful thing to have in your wardrobe if you need to look smart, as I did on day three, but your work dress code allows you to look a bit more edgy. As with the Jemma trainers, I’ve teamed these ones with a bit of tailoring but the dress is made of jersey, which carries through the sporty vibe. None of these trainers are fully sheepskin lined but they do have sheepskin across the inner heels, which prevents rubbing. Genius.

(Click here to buy)

Tomi full length

Day 4 in ‘Taya’

Taya lifestyle

I spend a lot of my time on the Isle of Wight where I grew up, and it’s practically the law to wear shorts there from about May 15th onwards. That’s where I was on day four. These canvas trainers look really cute with a pair of shorts while it’s still warm (much better than a high-top trainer which would cut off your legs a bit), and I think they felt rather at home on the beach. Did I mention that they are super-comfortable? No? Well, they were. And that slightly off-white colour is much less harsh against your legs than pure white if you didn’t manage to get a tan this year…plus they’ll look great with jeans when it starts to get chilly.

(Click here to buy)

Taya full length

Day 5 in ‘Clementine’

Clementine lifestyle

I was still on the Isle of Wight for day five, where there is pretty much always something going on well into the autumn. Countless festivals, rowing and sailing regattas, food fairs…so a good ‘festivals and similar occasions’ pair of boots is essential to my wardrobe. These boots are those boots! They’re like the red ‘Camellia’ boots but slightly higher cut and with a zip. They’re still pretty low on the ankle though, which is great for leg lengthening purposes. If a short girl like me can wear them with a skirt, anyone can. Just add a jaunty hat and you’re good to go.

(Available soon)

Clementine full length

Photographs  by Holly Jolliffe

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These designer shoes are all less than £70 in the sales! #bargain

There’s no better time of year to buy summer shoes than at the end of the summer. Because that’s when the sales are on! And that time is now. Often I would advise investing in some staple classics that you’ll DEFINITELY want to wear year on year, but there are such fun designs out there at the moment that I’m veering away from my own advice and have picked the brightest, most bonkers shoes available right now in the sale. Because these designer shoes are ALL less than £70, and that’s a pretty tempting price tag for a bit of good quality. Besides, who’s to say you won’t want to wear crazy shoes next summer anyway? Not me. So here are my top designer summer sales picks for under £70 (and some of them are even less than £30!).

Marc by Marc Jacobs pool slides

Catch them while you can! This label will be no more after AW15, so this is your last chance to get yourself a pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs summer shoes. I’m a big fan of rubber pool slides in general, and I reckon these will be an old favourite you’ll still be bringing out for holidays in years to come.

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Marc by Marc Jacobs slides, £34 reduced from £85, net-a-porter.com (BUY ME HERE!)

YMC plimsolls

I LOVE YMC shoes – they are incredibly comfortable and hard wearing. I also have a thing for trainers with a retro gum sole, so these are right up my street. Plus they come in a cute shade of powder pink, which feels perfect for this time of year.

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YMC plimsolls, £48 reduced from £80, shoescribe.com (BUY ME HERE!)

Hunter pool slides

I have these very sandals but in a different design and they are some of the most comfortable shoes that have ever graced my feet. Because they’re made of rubber they’re waterproof, but they don’t rub at all as some rubber shoes do. Plus they look really cool to boot.

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Hunter slides, £33 reduced from £55, hunterboots.com (BUY ME HERE!)

Paul Smith plimsolls

These cute-as-a-button plimsolls also come in a two-tone pink and orange, but I’m a sucker for anything yellow so this pair is my favourite. You get the best of both worlds with these shoes – a sure-fire hit classic as far as the plimsoll style is concerned but in a bright, bonkers colour. Win win.

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Paul Smith plimsolls, £68 reduced from £135, paulsmith.co.uk (BUY ME HERE!)

Penelope Chilvers espadrille sandals

Here’s a website well worth checking out during the sales; beautiful shoes at heavily discounted prices are pretty hard to resist. I had my eye on these at the beginning of the season and didn’t get them but now that they have been reduced I’m seriously tempted. Also available in cream.

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Penelope Chilvers sandals, £49 reduced from £169, penelopechilvers.com (BUY ME HERE!)

MSGM skate shoes

Oh my! These sneakers are delicious aren’t they? Even if it wasn’t summer, you’d feel like it was tropical weather wearing these shoes. They only have size 40s left but I thought it was worth including them because they make me so happy to look at! Oh, and because they have a whopping 75% off.

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MSGM skate shoes, £60 reduced from £250, harveynichols.com (BUY ME HERE!)

adidas by Stella McCartney slides

Saving the cheapest until last, these beauties are a mere £26. Bargain! You can’t argue with that…

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adidas by Stella McCartney slides, £26 reduced from £52, matchesfashion.com (BUY ME HERE!)
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Tried and tested: the sandals that are my best friends

Sandals can be like long lost friends when the weather actually warms up enough to wear them. They have all the qualities of a best mate; they’re reliable, they won’t hurt you and they still make you feel great, even after all these years. And you just can’t wait to hang out with them on holiday or in the beer garden of your local pub on a Sunday afternoon. So since this heatwave is set to continue, though you wouldn’t know it looking outside today, I thought I’d talk about some of my favourite sandals in my collection. These are the shoes I come back to year after year, that I look forward to unearthing from my sandals basket under the bed in the summer, from brands I completely trust for both comfort and quality.

Birkenstock

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Arizona in white, £54.95, birkenstock.co.uk (BUY ME HERE!)

Yeah, I know this is a bit obvious, but as someone who has literally been wearing Birkenstocks for decades, I had to include them. I know a lot of you have been wearing these with me since LONG before the fashion world decided they were cool – because there were definitely times when they were NOT cool, and those times will no doubt come round again, but that won’t stop me wearing them. Birks can take a while to wear in but I urge you not to give up (it may take you three or four wears before they don’t feel weird) because once they’ve moulded to fit your feet, you’ll never want to take them off. Honestly, they make it very difficult to wear anything else! My favourite style is the double strap Arizona because it stays nicely on your foot without too much flapping on the heel, but I’ve also dabbled with single straps and toe posts in the past.

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Arizona in black, £54.95, birkenstock.co.uk (BUY ME HERE!)

Birkenstocks are also really sturdy. You can wear them in the rain (they have a rubber sole) and they won’t fall apart. They last for years but when they finally do wear out, you know you can go back and get the same pair because a brand with this history (they’ve been making their cork-soled sandals since 1964) continues the same styles year after year. Oh, and if you take them on holiday and the weather doesn’t quite work out, you can wear them with socks. It’s an emergency measure, but one worth considering!

Classic Birkenstock Arizona Nubuck Soft Footbed Softy Orange 652891 - ORANGE_6084
Oh man, I need these! That colour! Arizona sandals, £89.95, birkenstock.co.uk (BUY ME HERE!)

Ancient Greek Sandals

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Phoebe in navy, 140€, ancient-greek-sandals.com (BUY ME HERE!)

I’ve been a fan of these simple leather sandals since they first launched a few years ago. I love that they’re so traditional looking (in fact, they’re made in Greece by a family business, so no wonder they look authentic) and when you first get a pair, you’ll notice the delicious smell of the leather. Like any leather shoes, they need a little wearing in but not much, and once that leather has softened a little they’re a dream on the feet.

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Thais in tan, 145€, ancient-greek-sandals.com (BUY ME HERE!)

I know these might be a little more expensive than you’d like to pay for a pair of sandals, but I can assure you it’s worth it. Oh, and Matches has some lovely ones in the sale now, so it’s a great time to invest. Sandals need to be really well constructed to last well – they’re just a few flimsy strips of leather after all – and AGS’s sandals are beautifully made. My oldest pair have survived much walking, many sandy beaches and even an unfortunate incident where they fell in a swimming pool. In fact, they look all the better for it.

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The sandals that survived a fall in the pool! Thalia, £63 reduced from £105, matchesfashion.com (BUY ME HERE!)

Salt-water sandals

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See – they’re totally waterproof! Original sandals in silver, from £55, salt-watersandals.com (BUY ME HERE!)

Everyone I know who has a pair of these got them because they NEEDED them. Sure, they liked the way they looked, but when they found out about all the extra benefits, they just HAD to get a pair. Particularly but not exclusively popular with mums, Salt-water sandals are leather but 100% waterproof, too. They’re coated with some special stuff that protects the leather and the buckles are rust-proof, so you can even stick them in the washing machine. Perfect for this country’s unpredictable weather but also great for sea swimming, beach walking and splashing about with a toddler (my friend Holly recently caused a stir when she wore hers in a paddling pool, with other mums rushing over to find out where she got these amazing waterproof leather sandals).

Saltwater Shark
Shark in navy, from £60, salt-watersandals.com (BUY ME HERE!)

Salt-water sandals are also ludicrously comfortable and practical. They have a rubber sole which gives a reassuring grip – none of those worries of slipping over in some lethal flat-soled leather sandals (I’ve come a cropper on stone steps a few times in this way!). Oh, and they look REALLY great too.

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Original tan sandals, from £55, salt-watersandals.com (BUY ME HERE!)

I’d love to know about your favourite ever sandals – leave a comment below to let me know about your best summer friends!

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Meet the sneakers that celebs are going hopping mad for

If you like trainers and you like rabbits, you’re going to love this blog post. Minna Parikka decided at the age of 15 that she wanted to design shoes, and her playfulness didn’t leave her when she realised the dream and moved to the UK aged 19 to study footwear design. She’s now based back in her native Helsinki where she produces these super-cute bunny inspired trainers.

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Bunny Sneaks, 245€, minnaparikka.com

Who’d have thought that trainers with bunny ears would look so NOT weird? Because the ears take the place of the shoe’s tongue though, it works really well. Some of the shoes also come with a fluffy rabbit’s tale (below), and lovely as they are, as a woman approaching the age of 40, I prefer the plainer high tops (above).

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Tail Sneaks, 260€, minnaparikka.com

Minna is a savvy entrepreneur, too. She’s managed to get a whole host of celebs pictured wearing her bunny sneakers and now they’re the hottest thing in footwear. Because in our world of Instagram, what could be better advertising than getting Cara Delevingne or Ella Eyre pictured out and about looking awesome in a pair of your trainers?

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The bunny sneaks as well as a whole host of delightful leather shoes are all available on Minna’s website – and don’t be put off by those Euros – she ships to the UK and the rest of Europe for free.

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Bunny Sneaks, 270€ reduced to 190€, minnaparikka.com
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The EnBroguelopedia: tennis shoes

It’s Wimbledon time! And as such, my mind is on classic white tennis shoes. I don’t mean the high tech trainers that Andy Murray and co will be wearing for the next fortnight, but the traditional plimsoll-styles more akin to our other great British tennis hero, Fred Perry. So to celebrate, I thought I’d give you a couple of extracts from my book – En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels – on the very subject.

adidas Stan Smith

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In 1972, an American tennis player called Stanley Roger Smith won Wimbledon wearing a pair of adidas ‘Robert Haillet’ tennis shoes. Their namesake was a French tennis player, but unfortunately for him, he never won a grand slam and Stan Smith was a much catchier name; a detail not lost on adidas, who renamed the shoe in Smith’s honour after his success at the south London tournament.

It’s no wonder that this humble white shoe is the best-selling tennis shoe of all time, with over 40 million pairs sold. Its simple design not only looks really smart on court – particularly when paired with Wimbledon whites – but it effortlessly makes the leap from sport to fashion and street style. I think its success lies in the minimalist design; the adidas 3-Stripes are just air holes in three neat lines, and there is usually only one accent colour (which, in my book, should always be classic green), making them easy to integrate into any type of wardrobe. Hip hop sportswear? Tick. Pinstripe trouser suit? Tick. Pencil skirt and cashmere sweater? Triple tick. No wonder they’re favourites of everyone from David Bowie to Pharrell Williams.

Head to the adidas website to get a pair for yourself.

Superga sneakers

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These tennis shoes have been around for over 100 years; they were first made in Italy by Walter Martiny in 1911. Although they have been a favourite with Italians all that time, it’s only in recent years that they’ve enjoyed mass popularity around the world. As well as collaborations with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s fashion line The Row, Brit designer Henry Holland and high fashion label Versace, it was a centennial UK campaign in 2011 with Alexa Chung that really brought these humble little sneakers into high fashion and the mainstream.

The most famous (and my favourite) style is the 2750 shoe, which was first produced in 1925, and hasn’t changed a jot since. It might have a less catchy name than its tennis shoe contemporary – the adidas Stan Smith – but I love its simplicity and that Italian chic really shines through. Although it looks great in bright colours and prints, you really can’t beat it in classic white, navy or red.

Head to the Superga website to get a pair for yourself.

You can buy my book at Waterstones, Amazon, Northern Cobbler, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and all good book stores, RRP £10.

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raffia Superga? Perfect for summer holidays

Firstly, my apologies for the lack of new posts. I’ve been busy writing my book for the past month but I’ve nearly finished! I’m so excited for you all to see it in October. Light at the end of the tunnel means I can start writing on here again, and as today sees the launch of an exciting collaboration, it seemed a good place to start.

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The pairing is between Italian tennis shoe specialist Superga and fashion blogger Gala Gonzalez, creator of AMLUL. Gonzalez is Spanish, and has gone back to her roots by using natural materials like raffia for her collection. The results are these lovely, rustic-looking trainers. I imagine you’re all already big fans of Superga – a brand you can trust for comfort and quality as its been making tennis shoes since way back in 1911.

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I’ll probably avoid the flatforms – lovely as they are, they’re a little too high for me – but the other styles are really cool. There’s something about raffia that’s particularly evocative of holidays, and I reckon these would make the perfect addition to your suitcase if you’re off to warmer climes in the next couple of months. You’ll need to take care of raffia though; try not to get caught out in the rain and, unlike with their canvas cousins, DEFINITELY don’t put these babies in the washing machine if they get a bit grubby.

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As you’d expect for a special collection, these are a little more pricey than your average pair of Superga (they range from £85 to £135), but you’re getting a real statement shoe for those extra pennies. Those muted shades will fit well into any wardrobe too. I’d wear with my khaki summer jumpsuit (it has short sleeves and legs) or how about with a pair of mustard culottes and a crisp white T-shirt? Ooo, that would be lovely! Now, where to get a pair of mustard culottes…

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You can shop the full Superga x Gala Gonzalez collection here.

Beach Athletics

WIN a pair of Beach Athletics flip flops!

Great news! Beach Athletics have donated a pair of flip flops for me to give away to one of you lovely lot. If you missed my last blog post, which was all about bathing shoes, Beach Athletics is a brand that does exactly what you would expect: it makes shoes for you to wear on the beach. In addition to the lovely sandals I featured last week, it has a brilliant range of flip flops too.

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As well as coming in LOADS of great colours (my personal favourites are the St Tropez in orange and the Corsica in blue and white) they all have a gel sole, making them more comfy that your average flip flop. They come in sizes 4-7 and you can see the full range here.

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Anyway, on to that competition. To be in with a chance of winning a pair simply tweet the following:

WIN @beachathletics flip flops with @enbrogue #EnBroguelovesBeachAthletics

You’ve got until midnight GMT on Sunday 14th June and you’ll need to have your prize delivered to the UK. I’ll announce the winner on Monday. Good luck!

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Bathing shoes: it’s about more than just jellies

So yesterday I wrote about jellies – which I love – but there are lots of other bathing shoes out there too. Some are made from the same rubber as jellies but are in new and exciting shapes; some are the traditional fisherman sandal style of an old school jelly, but not made from rubber. All are completely waterproof. And like jellies, all just as good to wear when you’re not bathing as when you are. But I took some to the beach anyway, seeing as I was near one, and tried them out for myself in the sea and on the sand.

Ancient Greek Sandals

Ancient Greek Sandals
Ikaria sandals, £70 by Ancient Greek Sandals at matchesfashion.com (BUY ME HERE!)

I’m a BIG fan of the traditional leather Ancient Greek Sandals – I have a couple of pairs in my wardrobe and they’ve done me proud for a good few summers now – but now the brand has launched its own version of the jelly shoe. I’m not going to lie, these look absolutely bonkers before you put them on, but once you’ve donned them and the wing hugs your ankle they look really, REALLY nice. Even my mum had to admit that they were incredibly flattering. They’re also really comfy and there’s no chance of them coming off in the sea because they’re attached with an ankle strap. These get a big thumbs up from me! Even though they are rather more pricey than the £14 jellies I featured on my last blog post…

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Ikaria sandals, £70 by Ancient Greek Sandals at matchesfashion.com (BUY ME HERE!)

Beach Athletics

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Plage sandals, £20, beachathletics.com (BUY ME HERE!)

This is a new brand for me and was a favourite with Mr Brogue and my auntie. They’re effectively a rubber pool slide with a sling back, and they come in some really great colour combinations. I wouldn’t advise wearing them in the sea as I think they would come off, but they’re brilliant to wear on the beach or by the pool. Oh, and the price tag is rather attractive, too: they’re just £20. So if you can’t decide what colour you want, you could justify getting two pairs…

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Plage sandals, £20, beachathletics.com (BUY ME HERE!)
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Plage sandals, £20, beachathletics.com (BUY ME HERE!)

Salt-Water

Salt-Water
Sharks sandals, from £60, salt-watersandals.com (BUY ME HERE!)

I know plenty of you love Salt-Water, but it’s finally warm enough for me to properly wear my new Sharks and I have to say, I’m smitten. These are the new offering from the brand (well, I say “new”, but they’re actually from the archives) and they are a fisherman-style – so they look a bit more like a traditional pair of jellies. Only these aren’t made of rubber: the great thing about Salt-Water is that they are made from a specially coated leather and have rust proof buckles, as well as a rubber sole that grips, so they are totally suitable to wear in the sea, on a boat, or anywhere wet you happen to be going. They are also running a competition to win a pair, just by nominating your favourite beach walk. You can find the details for that here. Oh, and if you’d rather a more traditional sandals that shows your toes, Salt-Water has plenty of those, too.

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Sharks sandals, from £60, salt-watersandals.com (BUY ME HERE!)