A look at the history of the increasingly fashionable wingtip shoe.
Wingtips are Scottish in origin and more commonly known as brogues in the rest of the world. These lace-up men’s dress shoes got their colloquial American name from the stitching design seen on the toe of the shoe, that looks like the letter W, or, more fancifully, a bird taking flight.
Most correctly, the brogue or wingtip is actually a semi-formal shoe. It’s appropriate for a business casual or suited office look, but not for a formal dinner or with a tuxedo. In such circumstances the Oxford is required, although this distinction is often lost in an increasingly casual society.
Whether it’s because of, or despite, the classic styling of the wingtip (which has been popular for decades) the shoe has recently appeared in a whole new range of style permutations, vastly expanding the style category. Once a shoe that only appeared in black or brown leather, the wingtip began to evolve flashy two-tone color combinations (usually, but not exclusively, white and black or brown leather) by the middle of the 20th century.
Wingtips directly modeled on these men’s shoes soon became available for women, but were indistinguishable from the original versions in anything but size for a long time. More radical colors for women’s wingtips came to the type through rockabilly and other retro-inspired fashions and as retro-styling became mainstream, so the women’s wingtip has taken off.
In recent years the women’s wingtip has acquired high heels (from the sensible through stilettos and including platforms); been produced in boot form and even evolved into a sandal featuring cutouts mimicking the structure and design of the traditional men’s shoe. In fact, these louder, flashier, high-fashion wingtips have become so popular for women, it’s increasingly difficult to find the traditional women’s version of the shoe.
Men’s wingtips have also learned a bit from all this experimentation, with the classic W motif now appearing on sneakers and more casual shoes. Non-leather versions of the wingtip also exist, some incorporating mesh to produce a lighter, cooler summer shoe.
Retro fashion trends have also helped the popularity of the wingtip for men, who can now wear the traditional, staid version of the shoe or a flashier variation with an assurance that their style is simultaneously hip and classic.