If we had to pick the most commonly misused sartorial term ever, “wingtip” would likely take the cake. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.
The wingtip is, on paper, a member of the brogue family. Brogues are some of the most widely worn shoes in menswear, with broguing in some form showing up on everything from sneakers to monkstraps, from oxfords to derbies, and from chelsea boots to chukka boots. They can be found in leather and suede, custom or ready-to-wear.
The thing is, we have an article on brogues as it is. Why address wingtips separately?
The term “wingtip” has been technically misused for a long time now. It’s understandable why this is the case, but we feel that shedding some light on the usage of these terms is in the best interests of anyone who wants to buy shoes without confusion.
Wingtips Versus Brogues: There’s A Difference?
Yes, kind of. We’re rewriting some rules here, but it’s for the greater good.
Let’s break down some terms we’ll be using, for clarity’s sake:
- Brogue: A shoe with perforations in the leather. Often referred to as a “wingtip” by Americans
- Austerity brogue: A shoe with nothing but a wingtip pattern on the upper. No perforations, pinking, or medallions. It’s technically not a brogue as there are no perforations.
- Wingtip: A term used to describe a stitching pattern that’s in the shape of a bird’s wing. Often erroneously used by Americans to describe a full brogue, it’s actually more appropriate to use the word to describe an austerity brogue.
We have decided to use the term “wingtip” to refer to an austerity brogue. Yes, this bucks the industry standard, but the industry standard doesn’t make sense. “Wingtip” is already used incorrectly, and “austerity brogue” is calling something that isn’t a brogue a brogue, so we feel that it’s best to break the terms down and re-define them in a way that makes more sense.
Wingtips have nothing but a wingtip pattern. Brogues have perforations and pinking. Austerity brogue is a nonsense term, and we are throwing it out except to keep it around for historical reference.
The history of wingtips is tied up in that of the brogue.
Brogues are a 16th-to-17th century Scottish/Irish invention. They were shoes made for wading in water; the perforations were functional and served to let the shoes drain. Nowadays, the perforations are purely decorative. For a long time, brogues were strictly country shoes, but the blurring of the lines between country and city wear has made them more acceptable for town.
Brogues are made in full, semi-, quarter-, blind, and austerity versions (click the link above for pictures of each). The austerity brogue, though technically a misnomer, is a member of the brogue family and is thus bound by its history.
How To Wear Austerity Brogues
Because they have less ornamentation than regular brogues, wingtips are a bit dressier than their perforated, medallion-ed counterparts. With that said, they can be easily dressed up or down depending on the color and material you select. How can you wear them?
- Sneaker: Jeans, shorts, casual trousers
- Light-colored leathers and suedes: Jeans, casual trousers, odd jackets & trousers, “casual” suits
- Brown or black leather or suede: Jeans, odd jackets & trousers, business suits
There’s nothing particularly seasonal about a wingtip in and of itself. The style can be worn whenever you like, just be sure that your colors are seasonally appropriate.
- Spring: Stone, navy, or tan suede or nubuck slip-on
- Summer: Bone or white leather or suede derby
- Autumn: Medium or chocolate brown monkstrap
- Winter: Black suede oxford
Who Makes Good Wingtips?
Many shoe makers manufacture brogues, but austerity brogues can be a challenge to find. The following places will occasionally have wingtips as we define them on offer, though if you’re hankering for a pair and can’t find any, you may have to go the made-to-order or custom route if you can’t wait for a maker to serendipitously make one.
Do I Need To Buy Wingtips In Addition To Brogues?
The wingtip is a derivative of the brogue, so our advice is to buy a pair of brogues before looking for a pair of wingtips. In fact, you’re better off buying brogues, semi-brogues, and quarter brogues all before buying a pair of wingtips. These are much easier to find than austerity brogues, and as such you’ll spend less time looking and more time enjoying the shoes you bought.
If you’re a man just beginning to build his shoe wardrobe, a wingtip (if you can find one) is a great sixth or seventh shoe to add to your rotation. Its versatility is such that it can be worn with anything from jeans to suits, so if you invest well, you can have one pair that you wear for years.