What are Brogan Shoes?
Brogan shoes are a type of ankle-high boot that was made popular during the 1700s and 1800s. They are especially known for being worn by the working class, and are generally characterized as being heavy, sturdy, and durable. Being a type of an oxford shoe, they are made of leather and have enclosed lacing. The term "brogan" is thought to be derived from the word bróg, which means "shoe" in Gaelic.
The basic brogan shoe is usually very plain in design. Often, they are made of leather or other flexible material. They have a heavy and durable heel that is intended to last through the wear and tear of long wear. Brogan shoes have lacing up the front, like an oxford shoe, that keep them secured to the wearer's feet.
Soldiers began wearing brogan shoes during the American Revolution in the late 1700s. They were originally worn by members of the British Army. By the time the American Civil War was taking place, most soldiers were known to wear brogan shoes as a part of their standard uniforms.
More often than not, these shoes would be a neutral shape and able to be worn on either the left or right foot. This would allow for the person wearing them to even out the wear and tear of daily use, increasing the lifespan of the shoe. A popular style of the brogan shoe was the Model 1859 Jefferson. It had a squared-off toe, as well as a standard four eyelets for the leather laces to pass through.
Along with being popular among foot soldiers, their sturdy build made brogan shoes an obvious choice for those in the working class who needed a durable ankle boot to get them through their day. The heavy soles on the shoes were ideal for long hours in the factories, especially during the peak of the Industrial Revolution. They were seen as a working person's shoe, so the term "brogan" as well as the brogan shoe took a lowly connotation.
In recent times, the term brogan shoe generally means any sturdy work shoe. Many higher-end fashion designers have incorporated versions of the brogan shoe into their collections. Stylish brogues made of various leathers, such as alligator or ostrich, have been seen on the runway of many high-fashion collections even though their use and design is far from the original brogan shoe.
Brogan shoes were the type of hard-wearing shoes supplied by slave owners to their slaves on the plantation. There tended to be little variation between the male and female versions and, at least on the larger plantations, were made in house. That is to say, the materials came from livestock slaughtered on the plantation, the hide of which was tanned in the plantation tanning house, and then shoes were then made by one or more slaves to whom the task was assigned on a regular periodic basis.
The shoes were handed out to the slaves together with clothing (also homemade from cotton or wool produced and spun on the plantation) once or twice a year, usually at the start of the spring or autumn.
Carla Thomas insults Otis Redding in Lowell Fulsom's and Jimmy McCracklin's "Tramp" by saying, "You wear overalls and brogan shoes."
I don't think you can go wrong with a nice leather, brogan shoe. The original design was usually a lace up type of boot, but there are many styles today that are slip on.
I don't mind spending more money on shoes that are made of real leather. I know that I will be able to wear them for a long time.
While specific styles of shoes go in and out of style, I have always known a good leather shoe to be in style and a good investment.
I do find it quite interesting that both of these shoes could be worn on either feet. Years ago many people only had one or two pairs of shoes, and I could see how this would help them last longer.
While brogan shoes were originally worn by the working class, you can easily find many stylish and sophisticated styles of this shoe today.
I have seen everything from a dress shoe to a casual shoe being described as a brogan shoe. I think many people associate it with a high quality shoe that will hold up well.
If you are on your feet a lot during the day, you want a shoe that is comfortable yet looks nice at the same time. My son works in retail, and he will wear brogan shoes that serve both of these purposes.
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