Badger & Blade has been enthusiastically recommending Allen Edmonds for over a decade. While this article is sponsored, our opinions and content have not changed. Support a vendor that supports B&B, and save some money during the Allen Edmonds Anniversary Sale, now through April 24th.
Men are by nature a rebellious lot. Individualism is an ideal as old as time, and it explains why as we conformed and submitted to the drab office uniform known as “business casual,” we just had to find a way to stand out in spite of muted tones of khaki or charcoal grey. Your humble author is no exception, with argyle patterns and purple stripes peppered throughout my sock drawer.
While never fully comfortable with embracing the conventional faux pas of wearing a sock that contrasts your pant leg, I got it, and I dabbled, but I knew there had to be a better way to stand out without screaming, “peak at me while I casually cross my leg to expose my zany stocking for your titillation.” This will likely be a contentious proclamation, but, my fellow individualist, there is.
Enter the Brogue. Brogue is a style of ornamental perforations in the leather of the shoe. It can be as simple as a clean line accentuating a cap toe, or an elaborate pattern encompassing the vamp, circling the quarter, accentuated with serrated edges (known as pinking) where these various pieces marry. Brogue shoes originated in Scotland and Ireland, where the perforations were purely functional, allowing water to drain and the shoe to air out as the wearer trod through wetlands and bogs… I romantically presume harvesting peat for a fine Scotch.
Due to its humble origins, the Brogue was long considered an outdoorsy shoe, not fit for the work place, or more formal attire. It also used to be the case that lobster was considered a pauper’s food, fit for feeding servants, or fertilizing crops. Thankfully, times change, and you can be at home in any upscale restaurant, dunking your lobster-tail in clarified butter while fashionably making a statement in your brogue cap-toes.
Dollar for dollar, in terms of craftsmanship, quality, longevity, and downright artistry, it’s tough to beat a pair of American made Allen Edmonds, expertly pinked and perforated. While their selection is vast, there are three pairs that will help you make a statement in any occasion.
In my personal experience, Allen Edmonds run narrow. If you’re near one of the numerous Allen Edmonds stores across the country, avail yourself of a fitting by someone who’s an expert with the brand. As a bonus, from my most recent visit to their Palo Alto location, I learned that in addition to their knowledge, there are services they provide, such as shoe stretching (helpful for those of us with one foot marginally larger than the other).
If you don’t have a local Allen Edmonds, you can visit many higher end shoe stores or department stores, but don’t let the salesman hoodwink you into a shoe that’s uncomfortably tight as happened to me many years ago when I purchased my first pair. The leather will expand some, but don’t believe that an uncomfortable shoe will become comfortable. Worst case, they have a solid return program when purchasing through their website, which is how I found my perfect fit (they took back a pair that was too narrow without question, or expense to me).
If there is one shoe that above all else belongs in every gentleman’s arsenal, it’s the classic, jet black Oxford. No matter the office setting, or function, nothing screams class like a perfectly polished, scuff free, glossy Oxford. To add just a bit of pop while remaining conservative enough for a boardroom meeting, consider the Fifth Avenue; a cap-toe Oxford with a single row of perforations that accent the cap. What I love about the Fifth Avenue, specifically in black is that it checks all the boxes for a timeless Oxford that will last you easily a decade, while still adding a touch of originality.
If you’re looking for a shoe that is not quite so formal, but still firmly puts the business in business casual, and stands out without being out of place (e.g. polka-dotted socks), your best bet is to stick with an Oxford, but add more embellishments and lighten the finish. The Cornwallis in walnut is drop-dead gorgeous. No hyperbole, feast your eyes, that’s the only logical description. The Cornwallis boasts a flourish of brogue on the toe, brogue and pinking encircling the upper, and their walnut finish is deep and complex, complementing and highlighting the leather’s natural beauty. The Cornwallis is equally at home beneath light grey slacks, or deep blue denim.
Lastly, if you’ve already invested in your pair of black Oxfords, it’s time to consider upgrading your hip but fading Chuck’s with a pair of more casual shoes that show you still care about your appearance. The bonus being, a pair of well-maintained leather shoes will outlive a pair of canvas shoes by several orders of magnitude.
This brings us to the tried and true Blucher. A more casual style, fitting for weekend wear, but still suitable in many business (emphasis on) casual
environments. If you really want to make a statement without screaming “look at me,” look no further than the Leiden Weave. My wife has endured plenty of eye-rolling moments with me to the point where she’s accustomed to it. So, it’s notable to mention that I was able to elicit a healthy eye-roll when I first showed her a picture of these splashy beauties that I planned on adding to my stable. Once I actually brought them home, she agreed; they’re bold, but not ostentatious. With a brogue wingtip, and a woven upper, the Leiden Weave masterfully straddles that fine line between brilliance and insanity. I also find that the woven upper adds some ventilation and flexibility, giving it a light feel.
Gone is the need to let brightly dyed fibers shout your battle cry, slowly losing their vigor with each cycle through the wash. With the right pair of Brogues, you can assert your rugged (or refined) individualism without asking for attention. To Brogue or not to Brogue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
If the above isn’t enough to spur you to action, consider that for a limited time, you can take advantage of the very generously discounted Allen Edmonds Anniversary Sale which runs through April 24th, featuring the above models, and many more.