Kilties are shoes that have fringed leather panels covering the instep. Also referred to as an “extended tongue,” this is to protect the instep from mud and prevent laces from catching on foreign objects.
This has been a common style for golf shoes for decade and has also been referred to as a “golfing brogue.”
Nowadays, the style is found on slip-on shoes and is often paired with tassels.
Golf & The History Of The Kiltie
Golf as we know it can be traced back to what is now Scotland in the year 1457. Anyone who’s ever played golf knows that your shoes can get rather mucked up, and this is particularly the case in the British Isles, which is known for its rain, which creates mud, which wrecks shoes.
Kilties were common in Scotland; the shoe’s name is derived from the tradition of wearing these shoes with kilts. Basically, the shoe was a brogue (a Scottish-Irish invention) with an extended tongue to cover the laces. This is simply how shoes were made in Scotland at the time, and golfers didn’t wear special shoes to golf, they simply wore their kilties.
Voila! They became golf shoes. Nowadays, you can buy golf-specific kilties that have cleats if you so choose.
Modern Kilties: How To Wear Them
In modern times, “kiltie” or “kilty” refers to any shoe that has a fringe leather panel covering the instep, regardless of whether it’s an extended tongue or not. In fact, in a loafer the kiltie is created by folding an extended vamp over itself. They may have laces, tassels, and even buckles adorning them.
These are “sporty” shoes, whereas true golf kilties (which still exist and are worn by golfers who like the look) would be considered “athletic” shoes.
They have a bit of reputation as a shoe for older men (what we prefer to call “Grandpa chic”), but depending on the last, they can look quite sleek.
Kilties are casual shoes. Not shorts and a t-shirt casual, but chinos and a collared shirt casual. Some pairing suggestions are offered below, but know that the possibilities are much more exhaustive than what’s laid out here:
- Jeans: Brown or tan suede or leather kilties
- Casual trousers: Lace kilties in blue or brown suede
- Odd jackets & trousers: Burgundy, brown, or black calfskin buckle kilties
As you can see, we’ve talked about a few different kinds of kilties here. Below you’ll find some pictures for reference.
Kilties can be worn any time of year, you just need to be conscious of color and material when making selections. Lighter colors and suedes tend to be best for spring and summer, while darker colors tend to work better in cold autumn and winter months.
We offer some suggestions below. Note that these are starting points, not hard-and-fast rules:
- Spring: Tan or light brown buckle kiltie in leather or suede
- Summer: Light brown and white two-tone kiltie in leather & nubuck
- Autumn: Chocolate brown tassel kiltie in leather or suede
- Winter: Burgundy tassel kiltie in calfskin or cordovan leather
How To Not Look Like An Old Man In Kilties
As we said above, these shoes can either look geriatric or Grandpa-chic. The difference is in the height of the vamp.
Shoes with a vamp that sits relatively low on the foot (that is, closer to the toes than the ankles) will have an “older” vibe about them. This isn’t to say young guys can’t wear them, it just means that you have to have a certain panache to pull it off well.
Vamps that sit closer to the ankles than the toes, however, have a younger appearance and are thus easier to pull off as a kiltie. This isn’t to say that older gentlemen can’t wear them, it’s just that younger men won’t look as if they’re trying too hard.
Top Kiltie Manufacturers
So, who makes the best ones? We can look to American and British shoe manufacturers for top-quality kilties. Bear in mind that the focus here is on sporty kilties, not athletic ones.
Kiltie As Charged: Are Kilties For Me?
Good question. It depends.
If you’re just starting to build a collection, don’t buy a kiltie shoe. There are more versatile shoes you need to focus on acquiring, and if you’re a young guy, wearing kilties may make you look like a kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing, so he just borrowed his dad’s shoes before he left the house.
If, however, you’ve got a good collection going and you want to branch out into something not commonly seen on men under sixty, pick up a pair of kilties and wear them with well-tailored trousers.