Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why Are They Called Austerity Brogues?

In her comment to my post about the shoes I wore on Monday, Mamacita asks:
Have you said before why they are called austerity brogues?

Well, no, I don't think that I have. Here's what Nicholas Antongiavanni has to say about them in his book The Suit:

The "full brogue" has perforations along every seam, from toe to heel. The Americans call it a "wing tip" because the toe decoration, instead of being straight, comes to a point and is said to resemble the wing of a bird. During the Second World War, when tight restrictions were placed on leather usage, English shoemakers offered full brogues without broguing, called "austerity brogues." Their distinctively sleek lines ensured their survival beyond the war, and they remain popular with dandies as an alternative to the plain cap toe. (p. 94)

Mr. Antongiavanni asked me to read and comment on the chapter about shoes in his book before it was published, and I remember that I told him that I didn't buy this explanation. I didn't see how the lack of broguing would save any leather. "Well," he said, "that's the story that I have heard from the London shoemakers." But now that I've thought about it, it really does make sense. If you have broguing on a toe cap or heel counter, you have to back it with finished leather so that the proper color shows at the bottom of the broguing. That means that the toe cap and the heel counter on a standard full brogue must be almost completely underlaid with other pieces of finished leather. Not so on an austerity brogue. The overlap just has to be at the seams. Hence, austerity brogues will use less leather.

(BTW, the shoe pictured is from John Lobb St. James.)

1 comment:

mamacita said...

That shoe pictured has a rather high heel, doesn't it?

P.S. Thanks for the answer.