Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Casually Shod

(Allen Edmonds Cambridge. Solid. American. Wingtip.)

Yesterday we began discussing the smart casual look with the polo neck sweater. I alluded to my suede brogues which brought up another thought. What shoes are considered casual? And no, we won’t get into sneakers/trainers unless we are discussing exercise gear or boating.

The image above may seem out of place.

It may surprise some to learn that the full brogue, the “wingtip” was actually a casual shoe once upon a time. In fact, semi and full brogues are still not properly worn after six o’clock in the evening. Full brogues were invented by the Irish who punched holes in their leather shoes to let them dry quicker after being soaked in the bogs in which they worked. The style caught on with ghillies and gameskeepers for hunting purposes. Then the shoe was noticed by the aristocrats who hunted with them and …. the full-brogue was adopted and began to be refined for the more elegant man. It was the Prince of Wales, not surprisingly, who first wore the shoe onto the links, scandalising society (how his eyebrows would raise today!) He became very fond of wingtips/brogues and wore a sleeker version with lounge suits. Because he did it then, we do it today. But brogues started life as a hard working and sturdy shoe, then sports shoe. Casual. You can tell a full brogue by the wings that extend back from the toe cap. Semi-brogues (punched captoes) have a straight seam across the toe cap.

Peal & Co. Suedes
(Peal & Co ® by Brooks Brothers, suede captoe.)

Today, both styles are synonymous with business suits. Both are equally at home under jeans. Preferably worn highly polished to play against the rougher and matte texture of the denim or in brown suede to highlight their casual nature.

The split toe blucher or Norwegian is another shoe to consider. Also known as a variation on the Derby (with the open lacing system whereby the quarters can be adjusted by using the laces), the split toe is a very casual shoe and is often made in very casual leathers, Scotchgrain (a pebbled leather) for example. They are also characterised by a moccasin like seam on the front of the shoe and that distinctive seam that divides the toe at the front running to the sole. Even a heavier sole or a chunky tread like a Vibram works well with this model. I think the shoes work well under heavy corduroys.

(Berluti’s Physio)

Since we’ve introduced the Blucher/Derby, a plain front version is a favourite of mine. I won a wonderful cognac coloured Scotchgrain pair with a Vibram traction sole (old Ferragamos) and a pair of black, plain toe double soled Paul Smith’s (gift of a friend) which feel indestructible. I feel very comfortable wearing them with a pair of jeans, tweeds or cords. Trousers of heavy material suit the heavier look of the Derby.

That’s not to say that the plain toe Derby is strictly a roll-up-the-sleeves utilitarian shoe.

(Graziano & Girling’s Derwent model)

Slip on shoes are very stealth elegant. Very under the radar. Very unexpected. They are essentially a wingtip where the laces have been replaced with a side panel of elastic gore. Slip ons are great to fly with since they can be slipped into and out of and still have that business look to them. I’d try a full-brogue model. Great with suits or jeans.

(Graziano & Girling’s new Chester model.)

(Edward Green’s Bamford model.)

You already know all about loafers. There are penny loafers, Venetian loafers, driving Gomminos, Belgians, tassel, kiltie and bit. But I make no apologies for my unabashed love of the monk strap. Great with everything from a blazer and flannels to cords and a sweater or jeans and a flight jacket. I even wear them with suits, just for … er… kicks. R. Martegani does a fine version.

As does John Lobb, of course.


Who needs flip-flops outside of the pool? Casual elegance made easy. Try a pair of beautiful shoes.

16 thoughts on “Casually Shod

  1. Great post, love the detail. For “wingtip” loafers I heartily recommend vintage Florsheim. I bought mine in new condition on ebay and I love them with everything from jeans to tweed. I have a Nigerian friend who wears similar shoes with a tracksuit, but I can’t recommend it.

    Anyone know where Maxminimus has gone?

  2. I’m doing more flying now and have really found the slip on dress shoes to be the way to go. Plus, to my eye, they generally work a little better with casual clothes.

    And to echo Capt. Mike- Where is Maxminimus? I only recently discovered him and haven’t finished reading all his posts. Hope its only a minor technical difficulty…

  3. Since you bring the topic up, I’m interested in your take on casual weekend wear. Is it the same?

  4. Hello Doug, Generally yes. During the cold months I live in corduroy, flannel, tweed or moleskin trousers and cashmere sweaters. A Barbour microfibre quilted jacket is a go-to. If I ever get the convertible you’ll see me in a vintage G-2 flight jacket at the weekend. A couple of pairs of boots make it into the rotation (Duck shoes, chelsea, ankle boots) but I mostly stay in laceups for outside, Belgians in.

  5. EE:

    I am having a hard time reconciling the idea that denim can be accepted as a legitimate fabric for trousers, but that brogues would only be considered “casual” shoes… ‘Course, I say that as I am wearing dark jeans to the office this fine “English” day in Chicago (rainy and cold).

    Also, the idea of cap toes and brogues, with additional leather surrounding the foot at various spots… Was this done for protection of the foot or the shoe? Would the exterior leather be replaced when it became excessively worn? Curious….

  6. A fine list. One can never have enough brogues. Perhaps another list of formal shoes is in order? You may have done one, I’m not sure.

  7. Ex-Banker Jon, The additional leather came about when the shoe made its way out of the bogs. Those adopting it for everyday use liked the detail of the brogueing, but had no need for a drainage system that was the original intent of the punched holes. Shoes can be patched and I understand that particularly favourite pairs have been. Will at A Suitable Wardrobe posted a photo of HRH Prince Charles wearing a pair of patched oxfords.

  8. Excellent post. Elegant shoes. Very interesting about the purpose of the perforations in the leather. The glaze on the last pair is so beautiful. Quality shoes look so much better and add such distinction to the wearer and the outfit. Because these shoes and brands are so expensive, I would only feel right buying classics like this that will give years of service and improve with age. I love the look of wingtips with tweeds. They don’t need to look fuddy duddy if updated in interesting colours and modern proportions…a la Paul Smith or Hamish Bowles. That is style!
    Square with Flair

  9. I’m surprised by the absence of the penny loafer in the list. For me, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when you say “casual”. That said, living in polar fleece and Goretex land, I find Chelsea boots a good casual option. Bond did it.

  10. Don’t overlook the Rossi boot, which I pair equally well with twill, denim and even cords. Very rugged for those splashy days.

  11. Brian, I thought the penny a given so just a casual mention under the photo of the Bamford by Green.

    CallMeAl, I’m unfamiliar with the Rossim but knowing you as I do, they are sure to be an honest, hard-working and fine piece of kit.

  12. Dear Elegantologist,
    Mrs. Blandings linked her readers today to FETCH — so I did.
    One of the articles is about a mens’ wear designer, Mashburn, a great story. I see he’s wearing a monk strap shoe of his own design.
    Enjoy your blog daily.

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