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Defining Shoe Types by their Seams

What Kind of Shoe?

Is it an Oxford, a Derby, a Wholecut, a Brogue, a Wingtip? All of the above or none of the above? It's easy to get confused about what type of shoe you have or you're looking for, when multiple terms can be used for similar (or vastly different) styles.

Defining Your Shoes by their Seams

Seams are one of the main factors in defining the style of your shoe. So, we're giving you a list of the various seams and describing how they differentiate for each given style.

Another aspect of seams is broguing (holes punched into the leather for decoration) which also play a role in the definition of a style.


First lets start with the Wholecut style which is defined by the lack of seams other than the single seam running vertically up the back of the shoe. This is referred to as the Back seam (the small leather extension that comes across, from one side to the other, at the top of some back seams is called a Dog Tail).

Wholecut Shoe Seam


The most common seam on shoes is the Gooseneck seam which is where the quarters overlay the vamp to create the facing of the shoe. On closed laced shoes (oxfords) this seam also goes across the top of the vamp.

Gooseneck Shoe Seam

Swan Neck

A more decorative version of the Gooseneck seam is the Swan Neck seam, which runs up the side of the facing.

Swan Neck Shoe Seam


A seam not seen as often in shoes as it is in boots is the Balmoral seam, which starts at the vamp and runs horizontally along the length of the quarters then wraps around the back of the shoe.

Balmoral Shoe Seam


A seam that is one of my favorites is the Adelaide seam, which makes a “U” shape around the facing, and is exclusive to Oxford type shoes.

Adelaide Shoe Seam

Heel Counter

A Heel Counter seam exists when a piece of leather is wrapped around the back of the shoe for decoration and visual balance. This piece of leather is called a heel counter. Not to be confused with the internal support built into the inside of the back of the shoe, also referred to as a heel counter.

Heel Counter on the back of the men's leather dress shoe

Saddle Shoe

Any time a piece of leather (or other material) is laid over a part of the upper a seam is created. A good example of this is the Saddle Shoe seam that is created by placing a piece of leather across the facing and down the sides of the quarters.

Saddle Shoe Seam

Top Line

The open edges of the Facing (that the shoe laces pull together) is also considered a seam, as is the seam around the top of the shoe opening known as the Top Line seam.

Shoe Facing

Top Line Facing Seam

Then, of course, there are the toe seams:

Aside from the typical Cap Toe and Wingtip, which I will go into with more detail shortly, there are less typical Split Toe, Apron Toe, Moc Toe, and Bicycle Toe seams.

Split Toe

The Split Toe seam is also known as an Algonquin or Norwegian seam. It runs vertically up the center front of the toe until it meets either an Apron Toe seam, or a Moc Toe seam.

Dress Shoe Split Toe Seam

Apron Toe

An Apron Toe seam is a seam attaches a piece of material (leather or other) covering the top of the vamp like an apron, around the upper perimeter of the vamp, but typically not extending to the end of the toe. An Apron Toe can be simulated with just a seam, and does not require a separate piece.

Apron Toe Dress Shoe Seam

Moc Toe

A Moc Toe is similar to an Apron Toe, except that a Moc Toe is set into the vamp rather than being on top of it.

Moc Toe Dress Shoe

Bicycle Toe

A Bicycle Toe seam is created by extending the quarters forward along the sides of the vamp toward the front of the toe.

Bicycle Toe Dress Shoe Seam

Now back to Wingtips and Cap Toes:

There are different styles of wingtip and cap toe shoes that are distinguished mostly by broguing (or the lack thereof).

Stitch Cap

A Stitch Cap is defined by no broguing on the top cap seam, only a single or double stitch line along the seam (more than two stitch lines can be used for additional decoration).

Stitch Cap Toe Oxford Dress Shoe

Quarter Brogue

A Quarter Brogue is defined by broguing along the toe cap seam, as well as broguing on any seams across the quarters and the facing. If a heel counter seam exists it should have broguing as well. Broguing on the top line seam are optional. A quarter brogue also has a plain cap toe (no Medallion).

Quarter Brogue Men's Dress Shoe

Semi-Brogue (or Half-Brogue)

A Semi-Brogue (or Half-Brogue) is the same as a quarter brogue, except that a semi-brogue has a medallion punched into the cap toe.

Semi-brogue Men's Dress Shoe

Full Brogue (or Brogue)

A Full-Brogue (better known as just a Brogue) is a wingtip with the same broguing requirements as a semi-brogue.

Full Brogue Men's Dress Shoe


A Longwing is a full brogue with the tips of the wings extending to the back of the shoe.

Longwing Brogue Men's Dress Shoe

Austerity Brogue

An Austerity Brogue is similar to a stitch cap as there is no broguing, only a stitch line along the wingtip seam.

Austerity Brogue Men's Dress Shoe

Blind Brogue

A Blind Brogue is defined by the lack of an actual seam, replaced by a line of broguing directly in the upper to imply a wingtip seam.

Blind Brogue Men's Dress Shoe

Understanding shoe seams will make it much easier to distinguish the various shoe styles at a glance.

Thanks to Glen Tippets, the creator of our formulas for Pure Polish Products, and blogger on Old Leather Shoe blog, for all of the research, image aggregation, and permission to use this post. All images are the rights of their respective owners.

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