So, it’s August bank holiday weekend, and while many of you may have been partying at Carnival (NOT my idea of fun), I’ve been doing what I do every year: hanging out with mods at the Isle of Wight scooter rally. They’ve been coming here in their thousands for as long as I can remember (apparently since 1980, though mods have visited the Island since the Sixties) and I’ve always loved the incredible authentic fashion that they bring with them, as well as that distinctive smell of two-stroke, of course! Plus I’m a bit of a closet mod myself, so any excuse to bring out the Fred Perrys is good as far as I’m concerned.
I do love pointy flats anyway, but I think they look particularly great with a little Sixties-style dress and bare legs (I’m not authentic enough to go in for white tights). I managed to wear four pairs this weekend! Great for dancing in too.
Other than spending a lot of time dancing to northern soul and ska (the Isle of Wight has an amazing local band called Ska’d for Life; my feet still ache from last night!), there’s a practicality involved with this scene. Sadly I wasn’t actually riding a scooter – though Mr Brogue and I spied a Lambretta and side-car that we’ve rather fallen for – but if you are, you’ll need something more sturdy than a slip-on shoe. Lace-up boots are always popular options; I spied many pairs of classic desert boots and Dr Martens.
Brogues were also everywhere, and a savvy local shop called Mia was doing a roaring trade in bargain £25 patent ones. In fact, we spotted them on a very cool young girl and when she told us where she’d bought them, my friend Michelle rushed across the road and bought a pair for herself!
The Isle of Wight scooter rally really is a flat shoe lover’s dream event! I’ll be back again next year for sure, hopefully being driven around in a Lambretta side-car!
Last week I found an old CD in my car. It turned out to be a 10 year-old recording by a little known band called Trago. They sounded a bit like a less polished version of Franz Ferdinand; like ‘posh punk’ if that were an actual genre. The bass player in Trago was me.
I played in a couple of bands before I started working in fashion (the tomboy thing extends beyond shoes!) and I LOVED it. I found myself reaching for my Fender this week, feeling a pang of nostalgia for the good old days when my nails were short and the skin on my fingers was always tough from constant playing. And it got me thinking: if Trago or Red 10 (my other band, a more ‘urban folk’ vibe) were still rocking The Water Rats or The Bull & Gate, what flat shoes would I be wearing now? The answer: probably the same shoes I always wore. There’s a reason why musicians keep coming back to the same styles like Dr Martens and Converse; they’re practical as well as good-looking. Here are the key shoes that guitar lovers like me come back to time after time.
I’m more into the brogue finish than a classic cherry red these days, but my interest in bovver boots and in bass guitars both came in 1994 when I fell madly in love with Blur (though of course Damon and Co borrowed this look from suedeheads). These Dr Martens Harris Tweed boots look great with my white Fender Precision (yeah, I’d totally match my shoes to my guitars, obvs!).
These Grenson Emma boots are SO cool, and are crying out for a coordinating guitar strap! I team my boots with turned up Levis and a buttoned up Fred Perry as I never tire of the mod aesthetic.
Inspiration: The Sex Pistols
Brothel creepers, with their roots in the Teddy Boy culture of the late 1950s, will always be associated with music. These shoes, with their chunky crepe rubber sole, were resurrected by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren in the 1970s, and have been popular with musicians as diverse as The Sex Pistols, Bananarama and Rihanna.
These George Cox creepers would get a lot more wear if I was still gigging. When I wear these, I worry that I look like I’m pretending to be in a band; they seem too cool for everyday life. But pop them in the same outfit as a Fender Musicmaster and suddenly it all makes sense! For something a little more classic, how about these gorgeous black ones by Robert Clergerie? I like wearing mine with skinny leather trousers and a blazer.
Rock chick ankle boots
Inspiration: Susanna Hoffs, The Bangles
Most of the styles in this post are unisex, but being a girl in a band means you can show up the boys’ footwear from time to time (I was the only girl in both of my bands). My actual ‘gig boots’ back in the day were a pair of black leather boots from Office. Because if you’re ever in doubt about what to wear on stage, black leather always looks good! I love the way Susanna Hoffs has styled her black boots here; she always struck a great balance between sexy and cool. Cut-out designs and lots of buckles are always good for injecting a rock chick feel to an outfit, and are also really current.
Inspiration: Kurt Cobain and most people who have ever picked up a guitar
In case you thought I was making all this up, here is a very grainy picture of me playing at the Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel, circa 2003. There are no pictures of my feet but I remember what I was wearing: classic cream Converse All Stars. I mean, what else would you pair with an original 1970’s Action Man T-shirt?! Converse must be up there with Dr Martens as the most popular band shoes ever, with everyone from Kurt Cobain to Paul McCartney having worn them.
Of course, there’s no need to actually play in a band to wear any of these shoes! But music is always a great place to look for fashion inspiration, especially for enduring styles that will be eternally cool.
It’s been a two outfit day in Paris today. This morning was so warm and sunny, it was the perfect opportunity to wear my NW3 by Hobbs checked suit to Chanel. I’ve never worn the jacket and trousers together, but I think I got away with it without looking too much like a Bay City Rollers fan! I wore it with my trusty Ludwig Reiter boots, a Raoul belt and Coach bag.
Then I changed for Hermes this evening (how posh!) into my Belle by Sigerson Morrison leopard print pumps, with Zara trousers and Fred Perry Breton top. One day left!
So you think Fred Perry shoes are all about sneakers? Think again. On a recent trip to its Seven Dials store (which is awesome, by the way; a converted pub with excellent tiles and very well dressed shop assistants) I discovered that it’s really upped its game as far as shoe design is concerned. Sadly, some of my favourite styles only start at a size 6, but as many of you won’t have silly tiny size 4 feet like me, I thought you’d probably like to hear about them.
This first pair is a collaboration with Drake’s of London as part of the Laurel Wreath Collection. When I stumbled across them a few weeks ago on the website I was gutted that they were in the men’s section. “Men aren’t that flamboyant” I thought, “men wouldn’t be brave enough to wear those. What a waste!” but I showed them to Mr Brogue and was pleased to learn that he loved them too. Sometimes it’s good to be proved wrong! Besides, they start at size 6, so will fit most women anyway.
Next up, these fabulous creepers, a Laurel Wreath Collection collaboration with George Cox, and they go as small as a size 3.5. I’ve resisted the creeper trend for years now (I know; why?!) but I’ve finally given in to the temptation. I love the pointy toe and golden colour. They look great with skinny leather trousers and a long-line cardigan.
Fred Perry also has a brilliant selection of Chelsea-style boots, again in women’s sizes. These pull-ons are lovely and lightweight, so have the comfort of a sneaker and the style of a leather shoe combined. The brogues come in tan or brown, or if you prefer something more akin to a safari boot, there’s navy or claret suede versions too.
Read my guest Christmas edit on the Fred Perry blog here.