Ghillie Brogues were originally a flat piece of leather which had holes running along the edges, which laced at the bottom of the leg, above the ankle. Descriptions of highland dress going back to the 16th century tell that the holes allowed the water to flow through as the Highlanders often walked through wet marshland and the laces were tied above the ankle to prevent them from getting wet or muddy.
They were the shoes worn mainly by the lower class and the word Ghillie Brogue translates to “young boys shoe”, which as you can imagine, meant these shoes were not very well respected. Nowadays however, these shoes are a staple of the highlandwear outfit and are worn with pride by pipers, wedding guests and royalty alike.
Ghillie Brogues (or “ghillies” for short) do not have a tongue, but are still classified as a dress shoe and are appropriate to wear at both formal and informal events. The idea of no tongue on a Ghillie Brogue was to drain water and to make the brogues dry faster and this traditional aspect of the brogue continues today. Some Scottish Lairds added fringed tongues to their Ghillie Brogues in the 17th century which added a touch of flair, but this is uncommon nowadays.
There are many different ways to make Ghillie Brogues. Some have glued on soles, some have leather stitched soles. Some have light weight leather uppers while others incorporate tartan within the main body of the shoe. Traditionally kilt brogues are black, but a stylish variant are brown Ghillie Brogues. Most Ghillie Brogues are made to be wide fitting, so are generally very comfortable (good for dancing!), but there are some brogues that can be narrower fitting if that is what you prefer.
Now a step-by-step guide on how to tie Ghillie Brogues
Take your Ghillie Brogues and hold the end of the laces, twisting them around each other 5 times, creating a nice column at the front of the leg. If the twists are too loose, the laces may slip down later on, so ensure they are pulled tight.
Tie the laces round the back and your leg and tie a half knot. Some gents twist the laces round each other at the back (just as you did at the front) and you can do this 2-4 times at the back, but it is not necessary. The main rule is to have less twists at the back than at the front.
Bring them to the front of your leg and tie a full knot around 5 inches above the shoe. The tassels will then hang downwards. The significance of where you tie the bow represents where in Scotland your clan or district came from, North for the front, South for the back and East and West represented by tying to the right and left.
The bow can be a double knot to keep them secure. Tying the laces too far up the leg can cause the laces to slip down during the day, especially during dancing. A nice, secure knot 5 inches from the top of the shoe will suffice.
If you feel the bow has too much lace, you can add more twists during the steps above to decrease the amount of lace you have at the end.
With so many Ghillie Brogue options to choose from in our collection, you are certain to find the perfect colour and style to suit your kilt outfit.