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Culture

Brogue Bros

There is a famous fable from the UK northern-soul scene, from around the time the skinhead look first became popular in about 1969 or 1970.
02 March 2009, 12:00am

BY DOUGLAS HART

PHOTOS BY BEN FREEMAN

Vice: So people just know you as Fred?

Fred the Shoe:

That’s a great name.

How long have you been working here now?

Brogues have always been my thing. They’re my personal passion. I remember my first introduction to them as a really young kid. I had an uncle who used to dress impeccably and he always wore a beautiful pair of brogues.

A lot of girls that I’ve known have said, “Look at a guy’s shoes and if they are up to something, well, you know…”

Have you noticed that over the years the same waves of youth fashion—or whatever you want to call it—keep coming back time and again?

and

That’s what I’m dressing like now. My grandfather.

So in the 70s, when the mod thing was happening the first time around, were they buying brogues?

What was your mod-shoe regimen like?

Is that when people started wearing brogues with denims?

I remember that Revels used to be there right up until the 80s, when I moved to London.

You always see black-and-white photographs from that period, so it’s a shock when you come across color photographs and realize how many different shades the shoes were in.

What are those shoes in the old unopened boxes up there on the very top shelf called?

Unworn, brand-new 50s and 60s shoes would cost an arm and a leg on eBay now.

Have you ever been up to Northampton to see the factories where they make the shoes?

Are Loake and Church’s still there?

How come it’s panned out that Church’s have ended up being viewed as the fancier brogue on the high street? Are they the best company?

Have you noticed a renewed interest in brogues just recently? I’ve been wearing them for years but it’s only been in the last few that you see so many kids with brogues on.

I can just imagine a business like this going on forever because people are always going to want quality shoes.

When you first moved in here, what was the area like?

So you never got into scraps?

These are, of course, the Doc Martens. You can’t get these ones anymore.

These are suede Alfred Sargents. You see, these are English brogues. You can tell from the way that the seam drops down to meet the sole. That’s the difference between English and American brogues.

You’ll go mad for these—Alf Sargent correspondents. Your sort used to wear these back in the day. Journalists and that.

These are Crocket & Jones. They’re expensive. It can set you back around £270 for a pair of these. Still not as much as Church’s. They can be about £300. I once sold a £700 pair of casual crocodile-skin shoes.

This is a classic Alfred Sargent boot, designed somewhere near the turn of the century. Brogues go back as far as 1890. They’ve dug up Romans with these on, mate.

These are black Church’s brogues, the Mercedes of shoes.

Now these are classics—Trickers. A heavy brogue. These are the ones that sell. Young people seem to like them more than the other styles.

This is a semi-brogue by Loake. You can see it has less brogueing than the others. “Brogueing,” by the way, is the name for the holes in the leather. Originally they were to let water out of the shoes.

These are Loakes too. This color is called royal burgundy, but these are American brogues. You can tell they are American because the seam stays horizontal all the way to the back. It doesn’t curve down. Skinheads were into these in the old days.

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