Something’s happening on the high street at the moment: there’s a ballet pump revolution. Because all of a sudden, the hottest shoe in Topshop, ASOS and Office is the ghillie. But what even IS is a ghillie anyway?
Like ballet pumps, ghillies have their origins in dance. They’re traditionally used by Irish dancers, as well as Scottish country dancers and Highland dancers. Their distinguishing feature is the leather laces that criss-cross the foot and tie around the ankle, or sometimes all the way up the leg. Now that they’ve appeared on the high street, it turns out that they look brilliant with jeans and skirts as well as traditional country dance costumes. The fashion versions have an almond shaped toe, too, which is far more flattering than a round toe that you’d usually get on a ballet pump. Oh, and they’re not exactly expensive, either – some of them are less than thirty quid!
I don’t own a pair myself (yet!), but a couple of my friends have been wearing them and looking awesome over the past few weeks. Maxine, who writes for InStyle.co.uk (top) has posted a few pictures on Instagram of hers from Topshop (follow her on Instagram @maxfashwriter) and my pal Alex from The Frugality blog has been rocking her pair from Next, too (above: she’s on Instagram at @thefrugality). I think they’re really elegant, stylish and a great summer option for weddings, work and the pub. Oh, and dancing of course! Plus they look really expensive even though you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a really good pair. Here are the best ones available to buy right now.
There are many types of loafers out there, and spring seems a good time to start thinking about them. OK, so you’re not in a position to ditch your socks just yet, but there are daffodils and tulips in the shops which means that before you know it, it will be bare ankles weather again. And you can’t beat a nice pair of loafers when it’s bare ankles weather.
So what are loafers? Well, they’re simply masculine slip-on shoes, and can come with a tassel, or a fringe, or a metal bar, and even a slot to fit a penny in. Yes, really! Here are a couple of extracts from my book to explain further…
These handsome slippers are more dapper than their formal counterparts – penny loafers – and, with their dandy tassel on the toe, are for the more flamboyant loafer lovers amongst you.
Best worn like a stylish Italian man with turned-up chinos and bare ankles, or take inspiration from Alexa Chung and team with a preppy mini-kilt, buttoned-up blouse and satchel slung across one shoulder. Of course the joy of the loafer is the lack of laces, which makes them the perfect smart shoe alternative to Derbys or Oxfords if you’re feeling lazy.
pages 80 and 81, En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels.
In the 1930s, a company called G.H. Bass Shoe Company began to produce shoes called ‘Weejans’, inspired by the slip-on shoes worn by Norwegian farmers. The story goes that the idea for the detail on the strap on the Weejan loafer came from Mr Bass’s wife, who would give him a kiss on the cheek every day when he left for work (it’s meant to look like a perfect lipstick stain).
Coincidentally, this ‘slot’ in the leather was also the perfect size to fit a penny into, which people often did in 1930s America – one in each shoe. It was just enough money to make an emergency call in the newly introduced phone booths of the time, giving the Weejan its new (and far more sophisticated) name: the penny loafer.
pages 56 and 57, En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels.
I thought it was about time I put a few extracts from my book on the blog about some of the most important flat shoe styles you need in your wardrobe, and what better shoe to start with than the most incorrectly used in the fashion industry by brands and editors alike? Ever since masculine lace-up shoes became a wardrobe essential about five years ago, ‘brogues’ became shorthand as a way of describing them. Only, they’re not brogues unless they fill certain criteria (see below) and the misuse of the word really gets on my wick! So read and learn, people: what makes a brogue a brogue?
Many people have taken to referring to all flat lace-up shoes as brogues. In fact, the term ‘broguing’ refers to the holes punched in the leather from which the shoes are constructed. This means you can have slip-on or even heeled brogues – they don’t have to be flat lace-ups but they must have the holes.
Now that we’ve cleared up that technicality, what are the holes for? Brogues (derived from the Gaelic word bróg meaning ‘shoe’) were originally a country shoe worn by the Scottish and Irish when they needed to cross a bog. The holes allowed the water to drain out and the shoe to dry off once it was taken off. Clever, eh? They looked so nice, though, that they were later adopted on formal shoes and are most commonly found on Derby, Oxford and monk styles.
pages 8 and 9, En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels.
So the word brogue doesn’t really refer to the type shoe – that could be a Derby, Oxford, monk, Chelsea boot, loafer or even a trainer – it just refers to that lovely pattern of punched holes that the shoe is decorated with. Whether you’re just starting out in the world of stylish flat shoes (welcome!) or you’re a seasoned En Broguer, you really need a pair of brogued shoes in your repertoire. They’re a brilliant dress shoe for posh events, but look equally at home with turned up jeans. But whatever you do, make sure you don’t call a shoe with no holes a brogue! Here are my favourites to buy at the moment…
Following on from my recent observation of walking sandals on the SS15 catwalks (read about that here), I thought I should point out a related trend that’s a little more season appropriate: walking boots.
Now, I have genuinely been coveting Mr Brogue’s actual hiking boots for some years (we do a lot of walking on the Isle of Wight and he has a rather snazzy expensive pair) so was thrilled to spot these at Penelope Chilvers’ autumn preview back in the spring (although if I bought these beauties I wouldn’t be trekking through muddy fields in them!). I love the sturdy rubber sole, those contrast laces and the hooks in place of holes at the top. They’re called Atlas and you can buy them for £299 here.
Penelope must be as fond of walking as I am, as she’s also got the Rodriguez boot for this season (above), available in three different colours. I’d style them exactly like this with turned up jeans, but perhaps with the addition of a brightly colour sock. There are loads more hiking styles on the high street too…here are a few of my favourites.
If, like me, you’ve become somewhat addicted to brogues over the past few seasons, you might be glad to hear of a development in the flat shoe department. While I was away at fashion week back in February, I noticed a trend on the catwalk that I’m pleased to say has been picked up by the high street.
Fringed shoes appeared on models at Suno and (my favourite) Marni. The latter took the idea and ran with it, morphing the leather fringe into a solid flap with a metal trim. They make the perfect alternative to brogues (in fact, you can find brogued versions of them) as you can style them up in exactly the same way. They just have a slightly snazzier feel.
The fringe itself is called a kiltie if it’s actually a removable piece of leather, and I think these shoes look their best when it is (or at least, looks like it is). It also means you have the added bonus of wearing the shoes two different ways! They were originally used by golfers to protect their laces from the dewy grass (more on kilties soon). You might also hear fringed shoes referred to as ghillies. The Russell & Bromley pair above comes in five different colours but this shiny burgundy pair best mimics the catwalk versions, as do the green ones below from Clarks and the blue from Office.
I also like the fringe on a monk shoe – I’ve been wearing the pair below from Toast for the last few summers and I LOVE them. Topshop is currently doing a very similar design, which comes in tan and black patent as well as the white shown here.
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!
My love of masculine shoes with a feminine twist started when, aged 18 in 1995, I decided to make my first ever purchase via mail order. Pre-internet, this was a big deal, but living on the Isle of Wight didn’t leave me many options, what with the choice of Island shoe shops starting and ending with Barratts and no school trips to The Tate on the cards in the near future (my friend Jo and I once caused the whole school to miss the train home after a day trip to the art galleries. We were late coming back from High Street Ken, having not visited any art galleries. Naughty).
Anyway, the shoes in questions were these pink patent loafers from Office. I know, I know. Hideous. But I LOVED them. They were proper shoes that made a grown up sound on the pavement (I’d lived in trainers since roughly 1989) and generated conversation. They fitted in perfectly with my Acid Jazz aesthetic of the time, which consisted mainly of striped vintage tank tops and brown cords. In spite of their indisputable hideousness, I have kept them all these years, though I couldn’t locate them on a trip to the attic this morning (I DID find some black leather Nike Air Max though. Result!). I thought I’d shaken off this penchant for pink masculine footwear, but it turns out it’s still there, lurking at the back of my conscience. Because although I adore masculine styles like brogues, loafers and monk shoes, for me, they always have to have some kind of feminine or modern twist. Otherwise you just feel like you’re wearing school shoes.
This rather smashing pair are from a brand I discovered through Susie Lau of Style Bubble fame: Miista. It has a brilliant selection of Oxfords in unusual colours. As well as these in nude (the blue tongue is made from a slightly translucent rubber), there is a floral print pair (here), snazzy gold (here) and the lavender pair below. They’re really well made and lovely and light, and I love the white rubber sole.
Somewhere you might not usually turn to for shoes is John Lewis, but check out its new Made in England collection. It is a collaboration with Northampton-based shoe-makers NPS (Northampton is to shoe-making what Whitstable is to oysters) and has come up with these rather lovely monks in pink suede. It’s also worth having a look at the brogues in the collection (here).
A trend that I think is about to really take off is neon brogues. Grenson has some fabulous fluoro styles lined up for next season, but Robert Clergerie is already doing it. Head to Selfridges for these bright pink or two-tone options.
I’ve also found some dusky pink brogues at Anthropologie, and for those who can stretch to a larger budget, Fendi and Fratelli Rossetti have some gorgeous lace-ups available. And if pink isn’t your thing, just look for a feminine touch, like the broderie anglaise-style broguing on Hobbs’ NW3 Oxfords. But it’s worth bearing in mind that pink is only going to be more prevalent in the AW13 collections, so it’s worth investing in the colour now!
I have been dying to do this post ever since I ordered these shoes from YMC a few months ago, but I wanted to shoot them on my feet, so I’ve been waiting patiently. And they arrived yesterday! I’ve always wanted to do the geek shoe trend, but I’m still not convinced I’m cool enough to carry it off head-to-toe. What I’d really like to wear them with is a calf-length skirt, buttoned up blouse, ankle socks and heavy rimmed spectacles. Unfortunately, that is a look reserved for the tall and optically challenged, and I fall into neither category, so I’ve paired mine with my fall-back skinny MiH jeans and a Breton top (the Ray Ban glasses don’t have real lenses and Mr Brogue – who does wear thick rimmed specs – thinks I’d be a right fashion victim if I actually wore them!). My YMC shoes are yellow, but they are also available in navy (here) and white (here).
This trend has really taken off for summer, and I’m not surprised, for these are the perfect sandals for this year’s Endless Winter. The enclosed toe means that they look great with tights (mine will be thick, grey and ribbed), and will give a little extra warmth on sunny days that are still a bit chilly but warm enough for bare legs.
I’m christening the chunky white and brown leather versions – available at Topshop and H by Hudson – The Summer Brogue. Simply replace your regular brogues with a pair of these in the summer, and the cut out sections will allow your feet to breathe. Stylish and non-sweaty!
Super-feminine geeks might enjoy this pair from Office, with their patent pink finish. If they’re a bit girly for you though, you’ll be pleased to hear that they also come in black.
And if you really want to go all out, why not invest in one of Topshop’s ‘Geek’, ‘Nerd’ or ‘Dork’ motif T-shirts?! A step too far…?
If there’s one thing I didn’t expect to see a lot of in Paris, it’s sneakers, but they were there on my feet, on the feet of the FROW and on the catwalk too. It seems that luxe trainers have moved on from high tops and on to a style more commonly associated with skateboarders and tennis players.
These easy Jimmy Choo slip ons have a glitter finish so they look great either dressed down with jeans or dressed up with a leather mini skirt (as I wore them). They come in lots of different colours too, I’m rather fond of these white ones.
On the catwalk, it wasn’t a massive surprise to see trainers at Comme des Garcons, but I managed to get such a good shot of them (because I was late and nearly missed the show so was standing with the photographers!), that I thought I’d share them with you.
Of course, you don’t need to spend a fortune to recreate this look as a plain tennis shoe is pretty easy to find without breaking the bank. I love Superga sneakers for their comfort and simplicity, and Zara is also pulling its weight with these lovely black raffia lace-ups.
Then at Giambattista Valli, a quite unexpected loafer/skate shoe hybrid graced the catwalk. I loved the way they were styled with luxury skirts and evening dresses. This is my kind of occasion-wear!
The brand that a lot of these styles are paying homage to is skate shoe pioneer Vans, which hot label of the moment Kenzo has been collaborating with since last year. But for a cheaper alternative to the designer collection, just look at the Office website; it has over 100 different styles of Vans alone. This pair with its splatter print design are really cool.
And if you liked those, you’ll love this collaboration between YMC and Liberty. I’ve always meant to get myself a pair of the Liberty x Nike trainers but now I’ve seen these, I think they’re going top of the wish list! They’re not available online just yet, but will be soon.
It’s my last day in Paris! And I have to say I’m excited to get home and see Mr Brogue. I’m wearing my EnBrogue shoes from Office with a Paule Ka clutch and this fab oversized sweater I picked up from Zara on rue Saint Honore as I want to be comfortable on the Eurostar later. Just got back from Louis Vuitton, then Miu Miu, then home!