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The Gentleman’s footwear: Oxford Shoes

The Oxford shoe is frequently regarded as the most formal option among ordinary men’s boots and shoes, both official and informal. However, what precisely are Oxford shoes, where did they originate from, and how can you wear them in the twenty-first century? Continue reading to know all about it!

What are Oxford shoes?

The Oxford shoe is distinctive from most other shoes and articles of clothing because of its main distinguishing feature: the lacing mechanism. Although it’s not precisely accurate, some individuals will use the name “Oxford” to refer to any type of lace-up dress shoe, including Derbies and Bluchers.

Short History

The Oxford’s precise ancestors are unknown, however one origin myth claims that they originated in Scotland and Ireland due to the fact that cap-toe Oxfords are also known as Balmorals, a tribute to the famous castle in the area. Here is a synopsis of the development of the Oxford shoe:

Boots give rise to oxfords. Men’s shoes tended to be tight, high-fitting boots (with heels) in the 1700s, but that would soon alter in the 1800s when a half-boot—the Oxonian shoe—became well-liked among Oxford University students. These half-boots, which would soon develop into the Oxford shoe, had side slits that made them more comfortable to move around campus.

We now have laces. As the Oxonian developed, the slits were swapped out for laces, which were then extended to the instep. The classic men’s Oxford shoe originated when the ankle and heel were reduced for greater visibility.

Oxfords are examined by the maker of Chelsea boots. Joseph Sparkes Hall, the shoemaker who invented the Chelsea boots—classic ankle-high boots that are still a mainstay in men’s footwear—was the first to use the phrase “Oxford shoe” in a published review. Hall praised the Oxford in a review of the fashionable shoe as a wonderful walking shoe.

Women are increasingly wearing oxfords. Eventually, this fashion reached the United States, where women began to wear it as well. Women who wore Oxfords at the time were viewed as rebellious because they did not wear the traditional heel.

The change brought by students

University students were among the first to adopt a new form of footwear in their search for a more comfortable shoe. They were a hybrid of the laced Balmoral boot and the low, slipper-like evening pumps that were common for formal occasions. This new shoe was both more informal than putting on an evening pump and easier to wear than previous boots since it met in the middle, with an opening that was higher than the pump but lower than the boot. The shoes got a name since Oxford University was one of the most esteemed universities in England at the time.

Surprisingly, most gentlemen continued to wear boots throughout this period of time, in the first half of the 1800s, even as the Oxonian shoe gained popularity among students. This was because formality was more important than comfort. Although it’s ironic to think of the Oxonian as a casual kind of footwear today, it was once. However, as the young men received their university degrees and transitioned into their new employment wearing Oxonian shoes, things quickly changed.

Characteristics of an Oxford Shoe


Unlike a slip-on shoe like a loafer or a buckled Monkstrap shoe, an Oxford shoe has a laced closing. Not only are the laces essential to the Oxford shoe’s construction, but the lacing method itself is distinctive since the laces are “closed.”


The vamp, often known as “the front” of the shoe, is the area of the uppers that covers the toes and instep. The vamp of an Oxford is normally made of one single piece of material, though additional decorative elements may be incorporated.


The portion of the shoe uppers known as the quarters is where the vamp and the heel meet in the middle of the foot. The quarters can be thought of as “the back” of the shoe if the vamp is referred to as “the front” of an Oxford shoe.

Heel & Sole

You are more likely to see an Oxford with a thin, elegant sole that leads to a sturdy heel because it is a very formal shoe. The heel often measures between 1 and 1.5 inches in height, creating a sleek shape. Yes, it is technically conceivable for an Oxford to have a “flat” sole similar to a sneaker, but doing so significantly lowers the Oxford’s formality and isn’t advised.


An Oxford shoe’s construction makes it possible to decorate it in a variety of ways or, if you’d rather, leave it plain. Oxford shoes come with a variety of distinctive styles, including plain cap toes, broguing, and medallions.

The different Renditions over the years

There are numerous variations of Oxford footwear, including:

1. Classic: Also referred to as Oxfords with a plain toe, this design is more formal than other Oxford shoes. These formal shoes, particularly dark brown and black Oxfords, go well with formal clothes like tuxedos since they have minimal decoration and no toe cap. Find out what kinds of men’s suit styles go well with Oxfords.

2. Cap-toe: The leather strip that is stitched over the toe box to form a “cap” gives cap-toe Oxfords their name. Cap-toes are ideal for events that call for smart casual wear, such as work attire (think chinos and a blazer).

3. Wingtip: This particular pair of shoes includes wingtips that extend along the side of the shoe, followed by a pointed toe cap with a “M” or “W” form. These shoes are sometimes referred to as brogue Oxfords (for their decorative perforations, also known as broguing). Although less formal than cap-toe Oxfords, wingtip Oxford shoes are nonetheless a wonderful choice for a night out or a networking event.

4. Saddle: These retro Oxfords first gained popularity in the 1950s, when they were a staple of school dress codes and worn for activities like cheering and tennis. Plain-toed Saddle Oxfords have a leather strip in the shape of a saddle running down the centre of the shoe body (and usually in a contrasting color). The distinguishing colours of this two-tone design are black and white.

5. Whole-cut: Oxfords constructed from a single, complete piece of leather are known as whole-cut styles. A whole-cut Oxford is a great shoe for both formal and informal attire because of its simple style.

Brogues and Seamless Oxfords?

A closed lacing mechanism and broguing, or perforated details, define an Oxford shoe. As a result, not all brogues are Oxfords, and vice versa, but an Oxford shoe might proudly feature broguing and still be considered an Oxford shoe.

The wholecut and seamless are quite similar in that both are constructed from a single piece of leather. The seamless is considerably more challenging to make since, unlike the wholecut, it lacks a heel seam. Additionally, it requires twice as much leather as is needed for a typical cap toe Oxford, which is even more leather than a complete cut.

How do you dress them?

Styles of Formal Oxford Shoes

A black cap toe Oxford should be every man’s first pair of Oxford shoes. It is a shoe that can be worn to work, memorial services, nuptials, evening gatherings, and possibly black tie affairs. This shoe’s versatility when it comes to traditional menswear is difficult to match.

The plain cap toe is thought to be more formal than wingstips or Brogues. While it can be worn to work in black, it becomes more adaptable in dark brown because you can pair it with considerably more casual clothing and looks, including jeans. These are wonderful for the office in non-white collar settings, especially in colours of brown, and go particularly well with sportcoat or blazer combos.

After investing in a black cap toe Oxford, one of the second or third pairs of shoes you should acquire is possibly a dark brown leather brogue.

Styles of Casual Oxford Shoes

The most informal Oxford shoe designs are arguably saddle shoes and two-tone spectators. Both styles are extremely uncommon and might even be viewed as showy in the twenty-first century. As a result, we advise concentrating first on building a solid basis for your shoe collection before making a special purchase.

The Oxford is regarded as a formal shoe in strict terms. However, they now come in a wide range of hues and variants, as well as with distinctive accents that can soften an Oxford’s traditional vibe.

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