Ghillie brogues began their evolution humbly. In their earliest forms, they were little more than a piece of flat leather laced atop the foot through a series of holes along the edges. Over time, however, they have become the classic dress shoe for Scottish pipers.
Ghillies resemble regular brogues or lace-up dress shoes without a tongue under the laces. Some styles have soles that are stitched on while other are glued in place. Like most shoes, there are fit differences between manufacturers. Therefore, there is no one pair of ghillies that will provide maximum comfort to all wearers.
For a proper look, it is important to learn to tie ghillies correctly. They can be tied in the front, in line with the shin bone, or on the outer side of the leg. The location of the knot is subject to personal taste and uniform regulations.
If you wish to tie the laces in the front, first pull them tight across the eyelets and then begin twisting them one around the other. How many twists you make is up to the wearer, but most make three to six twists. If there not twisted tightly enough, they can slip; if too many twists are taken, they can look sloppy. (If you prefer, you can tie them just like you would begin to tie a regular shoe before you begin twisting.) Pull the laces to the back of the leg and twist again, usually two to four times. Tie the knot on the side or front as preferred.
Laces should be tied so that the ankle is no more than two inches below the laces. If they are too high, they will likely slip. Attempts to correct the slippage can lead to tying the laces too tightly, making them uncomfortable in very short order. If the wearer continues to experience problems with slipping, he might opt for flat laces over round ones or even pin the laces on the underside.
If needed, laces can be adjusted so that tassels will fall correctly. An extra wrap around the ankle may take up enough length, or they can be cut. Lacing the shoes so that one end of the laces is shorter than the other can also help to create a symmetrical look once the ghillies are tied and tasseled.