It’s time for new shoes. After a soon-to-be-finished commission for a leather satchel, I intend to dive into a brogue-making project in the style of 19th century Ireland. This basic design certainly dates back much further than this as shown by archaeological finds in bogs throughout Europe. Don’t confuse these brogues with the more modern usage such as:
This is a brogue in the Scottish/Northern English semi-formal fashion with decorative holes reminiscent of the drains left in old field shoes. Nor is this to confused with the type of shoe that some modern-primitives call “ghillie-brogues” or more properly, just “ghillie”:
These earned their proper name from Scottish Ghillies; a term used to denote game wardens, hunting and fishing guides, and sometimes, even poachers. A simple shoe style that probably goes back several millenia in Europe.
What I decided to shoot for was a shoe that is relatively simple to produce, is closed for winter use, and can be regularly worn in public without arousing too much comment.
Haarlem, Netherlands, ca. 1300-1350.
To me, something like the “bird shoe” above is very cool but not really acceptable in an unforgiving office environment. I would gladly hunt elk in these but for some reason, modern work culture has a fairly standardized and limited uniform. This style tends to be cut from a single piece and sewn around three-quarters of the sole. This one is punch decorated, probably to show off the stockings inside, a sign of wealth. This is a form of “turn-shoe” or soft-sole sewn inside-out then “turned”. A sturdy high top 12th century Dutch example with a center-seamed upper is seen below. In my opinion, these would make a fine winter shoe.
12th Century center seam shoe from the Netherlands.
I can’t help but see the similarity between these and North American center-seam moccasins.
The style above is a well-documented Irish “Type 1” dating anywhere from the 1st centuries A.D. through the Middle Ages. A little more complex in construction, especially to get a perfect fit, it has been argued that these may be the result of craft specialization in the early Christian period of Northern Europe. I plan to make a pair of these and contemplate them as a possible design for teaching simple shoemaking. There is some real sewing involved, but not enough to intimidate most beginners.
From: Lucas, A.T. (1956). Footwear in Ireland. The Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society 13(4).
For those who know American moccasin styles the pattern above seems very familiar as a one piece, side-seam shoe.
So, this brings us to the “Irish Brogue” or Type 5 shoe. These are known well up into the nineteenth century and I wouldn’t be surprised to find them in even more modern contexts, especially amongst the poorer populations. There are similar shoes depicted in Colonial America, probably made in the home for lack of money or access to a cordwainer.
Early American shoes from Newport, Rhode Island.
The above brogues appear to be a “built” shoe, having separate soles, multi-pieced upper, and a heel lift; the only difference between these and others from the period is the lack of ties or buckles. Although difficult to tell from the image, they are likely constructed similar to those below:
Lucas, A.T. (1956). Footwear in Ireland. The Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society 13(4).
Hopefully, updates will soon follow to track the creation of a new pair of shoes.