Oxford shoes are popular, versatile, and classic. You can learn all about men’s Oxford shoes below including, the best brands and how to wear them.
What Are Oxford Shoes?
Men’s Oxford shoes are, in modern terms, laced shoes that companies craft with leather. Since their introduction to the United States in the 1800s, Oxford shoes have become one of the most ubiquitous men’s shoes in fashion.
Their name stems from a shoe style that attendees of England’s famous Oxford University wore in the 19th century. They were short-heeled laced boots as opposed to buttoned shoes with high heels.
Oxfords are sometimes known as Balmoral shoes after the Scottish castle of the same name. But the term Oxfords is more common.
Since their rise in popularity almost 200 years ago, Oxford shoes have undergone some modifications but have maintained their classic and timeless look. You will not find them on college students as often as businessmen, but Oxfords are ageless and complement everyone.
Derbies vs. Oxfords: What’s the Difference?
You can easily mistake Derbies and Oxfords for each other. They are, however, different styles of shoes and these different titles are not frivolous.
The primary distinction between Oxfords and Derbies lies in the lacing system. Derbies are open-laced. This means the quarters, or the flaps, that hold the lace eyelets rest on top of the shoe’s vamp.
With Oxfords, the quarters are tucked and sewn underneath the vamp. This design gives the shoes a flush, smooth appearance. The quarters on Oxfords also tend to sit closer together with a smaller gap between them than Derbies.
How to Wear Oxfords
Oxfords for men are adaptable shoes that you can wear with a few different styles. However, Oxfords suit formal or smart casual attire best.
Formalwear includes suits appropriate for weddings, special events, or workplaces with higher-standard dress codes.
Smart casual covers a wide range of looks which often incorporate items such as khakis, leather jackets, collared shirts, and sweaters. You can wear Oxfords with jeans, but usually with a more formal top.
Types of Oxfords
Men’s Oxford shoes historically were most commonly crafted using leather. Since then, designers use a larger selection of materials and different styles that still adhere to the rules of Oxford-style shoes.
Oxfords come in various materials that suit different moods and occasions.
Oxfords still come in leather and this texture lends itself to a more dignified air. The leather ranges from calf to faux to genuine patent leather.
Canvas Oxfords also populate the market. They suit situations where smart casual attire is appropriate and give a warm, cozy feel.
Oxford shoes can also be suede. These shoes have a smooth and soft appearance. Their sleekness makes them more appropriate for formal occasions than canvas shoes.
Oxfords also come in various styles in addition to materials. Each style exhibits a different personality that flatters various situations.
Plain-toe Oxfords live up to their name by bearing no stitching across the vamp. You can see the stitching that attaches the quarter to the vamp, but the structure lacks any significant embellishments, especially on the toe.
Wingtip or Brogue
You can identify wingtip Oxfords by the signature M or W shape of the material across the vamp. The leather forms a peak at the center of the foot below the laces.
If you look up wingtip Oxfords, you are likely to find brogue Oxfords as well. Brogue-style, or broguing, is when the material has decorative perforations over the shoe. Wingtip Oxfords often bear broguing, so these terms are sometimes interchangeable.
However, they are not synonymous terms. Brogue is the term for the decorative perforations on the shoes, and wingtip is the cut of the material that forms an M or W atop the toe.
Wholecut Oxfords are uncommon because they require a single piece of leather. They have no quarters or vamps, thus presenting an incredibly streamlined appearance. They are becoming more popular, especially as formal dress shoes.
Saddle Oxfords possibly are most often seen as part of the typical and inaccurate 50s costume of a poodle skirt and saddle shoes. Kitschy costume associations aside, saddle shoes are, in fact, Oxfords. They come in plenty of styles and colors. They get their saddle name from the alternately-colored material that spans across the shoe.
Cap toe Oxfords frequently hold a place in stores, offering subtle stitching across the vamp. This pattern forms a cap at the toe, thus the design’s name. They occasionally feature broguing though it is not usually as intricate as what you find on a wingtip.
What to Wear with Oxford Shoes
Oxfords are versatile but suit formal occasions better than casual ones. Certain Oxford styles are more appropriate in formal settings while others may feel too dressed-down. Let’s take a brief look at what to wear with Oxford shoes.
Occasion determines the style of what you wear, and Oxfords are no exception to this. Choosing the right style matters greatly in tying your look together.
Formal Events or Weddings
Oxfords classically find their place in formal settings. One of the most common formal events that people attend is a wedding. Oxfords also suit grooms and any members of a bridal party. The color depends on the style of the wedding.
Nighttime formal events favor black leather shoes, whether the event is a wedding, gala, or similar scenarios.
Companies don’t expect their employees to dress as formally as they did 25 years ago. However, this depends on the company, and Oxfords fit the professional world well. They complement suits, khaki-and-blazer combinations, or even a sophisticated pair of jeans and a sweater.
Suede and leather meet professional dress code standards, while canvas works less well if your workplace dislikes casual attire.
Semi-Formal or Smart Casual Scenarios
Semi-formal and smart or business casual settings support a similar nuance in their attire. In these settings, you can wear suede, leather, or canvas shoes. Canvas probably has the least formal vibe and goes well with jeans. Leather has the most elegant flare, so you may want to steer clear of it in less formal situations.
Specific colors denote different flavors, some being more sophisticated, and others feel appropriate for everyday wear. A basic understanding of what color Oxfords to wear in a given circumstance goes a long way with perfecting your fashion sense.
Black is the most formal color of shoes. Black leather Oxfords suit tuxedos and other black suits. While wingtips and brogues are intricate and fancy, many formal situations favor a sleeker look.
Black leather wholecut Oxford shoes radiate elegance and sophistication, making them an ideal choice for special occasions.
Brown Oxfords are probably the most versatile of any color. You can dress them up or dress them down. You can wear them with a suit, jeans, and khakis or light-colored slacks.
Gray Oxfords are not as common as black or brown shoes, especially if they are a lighter shade. You can get gray Oxfords in any material, but suede adds depth to the grayness and helps it look less flat.
You should probably wear gray Oxfords in smart casual scenarios. They work with jeans or slacks in a similar shade, generally not black or tan.
Typically, Oxford shoes showcase a standard array of black, brown, and gray shoes. However, some companies take a modern turn with this classic footwear, releasing Oxfords in unusual colors such as vibrant blues and earthy reds.
You should not wear such unique schemes in professional or formal situations unless you intend to make a statement. Funky colors work best at smart casual occasions where you can afford to have a little fun with your wardrobe.
Who Makes the Best Oxford Shoes for Men?
What is best for you may not be the best for someone else. But, here are a few brands that many consider the best for men’s Oxford shoes.
Stacy Adams started in 1875 and currently produces a variety of Oxford shoes for men. Some of their styles veer towards Derbies rather than Oxfords, but their shoes are high-quality and mostly use genuine patent leather.
Crockett & Jones
For a more genuine flare from the British Isles, Crockett & Jones began in 1879 and focus on traditional, handmade shoes. You can search their website for either Oxfords or Derbies and they will show you a selection that properly distinguishes between the two. They create beautiful, artisan footwear, including their Oxford selection.
Like Crockett & Jones, Church’s is an English company founded in 1873 that creates top-of-the-line footwear. Also like Crockett & Jones, they got their start in Northampton, which is the show capital of England. They design a wide array of Oxford shoes, often utilizing calf leather to produce their slick, supple appearance.
Learning how to wear your Oxfords changes the landscape of your wardrobe. They are classic, chic, and suit several situations. With a good pair of Oxfords, you will never go out of style.
If you still need more details, check out these questions and answers to deepen your understanding of Oxford shoes for men.
How to Lace Oxfords?
Lacing Oxfords is not difficult and only takes a few minutes.
- Step 1: Thread each end into the bottom eyelets.
- Step 2: Adjust the lace’s length so that the lace on the instep side is roughly 2 and ½ inches longer than the other lace.
- Step 3: Take the longer lace and bring it through the next eyelet on the instep side.
- Step 4: Continue with that lace across to the eyelet just opposite to form another rung.
- Step 5: With that same lace, skip the eyelet just above and bring the string back through the next eyelet.
- Step 6: Bring the lace across to the eyelet opposite it.
- Step 7: Bring the lace through the top eyelet that is diagonal from your current location.
- Step 8: Grab the other end of the lace and feed it through the empty eyelet nearest the shoe’s outer edge.
- Step 9: Take the lace across to the opposite eyelet and feed it inside the hole.
- Step 10: Bring the lace out through the only remaining eyelet at the top.
And you’re done!
What Socks to Wear?
For a light and airy look, no-show socks tuck neatly beneath the line of your shoe. This style does not always suit more formal situations, however. Calf-length socks are better for special events or work.
You should choose socks with subtle patterns or subdued colors that complement your Oxfords. Avoid ankle socks as they match sneakers best. Also, you should avoid loud colors or childish patterns as they do not suit the understated formality that Oxfords possess.
Classically, black calf-length socks suit black leather Oxfords for a well-rounded and formal appearance.
Brown shoes allow for patterns and various colors, though blue or navy look excellent with this color.
What Are Some Good Brands?
The brands mentioned above are fabulous choices. However, in the cases of Church’s and Crockett & Jones, their Oxford selection runs a little steep in price. The wonderful thing about Oxfords is that most reputable dress shoe brands manufacture an Oxford of some kind.
Some other reliable brands are Johnston & Murphy, Mark & Spencer, or Kenneth Cole. These brands generally are not as expensive but still make quality footwear.
As you search for Oxford shoes, take into account that some brands lump Oxfords and Derbies together. Look for the hallmark closed-lacing if you want authentic Oxford shoes.
How Much Do Oxfords Cost?
Oxford shoes’ prices range from approximately $60 to nearly $1000 or more. Oxford shoes are merely a style, and companies can craft them at different costs. Faux leather will cost much less than genuine materials, and factory shoes will be less expensive than handmade ones.
Like any pair of shoes, an exceptional pair of Oxfords costs at least a hundred dollars. Ultimately, well-crafted shoes should last you years and not lose their luster with proper care.