Let’s be honest. Shoe lingo isn’t always clear-cut. Why are there so many names for everything anyway? Surely a shoe either has laces or it doesn’t?
Never fear! We’re here to help. We’ll soon be bringing you a concise dictionary of all the shoe terms you need to know. In the meantime, we’ll take you on a thrilling journey through the world of Oxford Shoes (just kidding, but we hope this guide will help).
So, what are Oxford shoes?
Oxford shoes are plain, low-heel lace-ups in which the tongue of the shoe is a separate piece to the vamp (that’s the upper part of the shoe). Their ‘closed lacing’ style brings the eyelets completely together – making them different from Derby shoes which they are often confused with (but more on that later). Named after the iconic University, the Oxford shoe became popular as students began to champion the ankle – rather than knee-high – shoe trend.
Oxfords come in two styles – dress styles (sometimes referred to as Balmorals) and casual styles (sometimes called Saddle shoes). Saddle shoes are distinctive because they have a layer of leather in the middle of the shoe that is often a different colour.
Nowadays, there are lots of variations of the Oxford (see below just a few!) Traditionally a men’s shoe, over time Oxfords have also crept into the women’s fashion scene, becoming an androgynous yet fashion-forward wardrobe staple for women.
Different types of Oxford Shoe
The varieties of Oxford include:
- Traditional (or Balmoral) Oxfords – Most common shoe for smart or professional occasions in black or brown.
- Plain Oxfords – Similar in design as the traditional Oxford but no toe cap. Best for formal occasions in classic or patent leather.
- Saddle Shoes – Two-tone, plain oxfords usually for more casualwear. Commonly found in the US.
- Wingtip & U Tip Oxfords – Features brogue patterning in a ‘W’ or U shape.
- Kiltie Oxford – The Kiltie Oxford features a flap of leather over the laces which looks like a kilt. These became common on the golf course but as a style, the Kiltie has become a fashion-forward shoe.
- Whole Cuts or Seamless Oxfords – Usually reserved for bespoke shoes as it is prone to creasing and wrinkling unless shaped to your foot and last. These look great paired with formal or eveningwear.
Oxford Shoes for Men
Oxfords are one of the most timeless, classic and stylish shoes a man can own. Traditionally, men would choose an Oxford shoe for smart and formal occasions such as around the office, weddings and other ceremonial occasions where suits or eveningwear is advised. Nowadays, Oxfords are also worn during more casual occasions and can add a rock and roll edge to the right look. You can go classic with black or dark brown for formal occasions whereas a tan Oxford can go well with dark jeans. Don’t be afraid to mix it up though. Experiment with tailored trousers with subtle patterns.
Oxford Shoes for Women
The Oxford is the most basic and timeless of the dress shoes due to its minimalist design. Pair your Oxfords with cropped, straight leg trousers for a take on the ever-popular androgynous look, or inject a classic dose of feminine flair with a modern, knee-length skirt. Feeling adventurous? Go for the full suit, but make it tailored – you’re guaranteed to get heads turning (for all the right reasons).
Quickfire – you asked, we answered.
Q: What’s the difference between Brogues & Oxford Shoes?
A: Brogued shoes refer to the decorating perforated edging pattern and like Oxfords, can have multiple leather pieces – but a brogue can have any type of fastening, while Oxfords have a lacing style that brings the eyelet tabs completely together.
It’s more commonly understood (especially in the US) that Oxfords are plain shoes and any brogued shoe is a brogue. Broguing can be applied to numerous shoe styles.
Q: What’s the difference between Oxfords & Derby Shoes?
A: Derby shoes have a more open lacing system that when the laces are removed, you’ll be able to run a finger down the gap. For this reason, Derby’s are considered less formal than Oxfords.
Q: And Balmorals?
A: Balmorals and Bluchers are the common US names – Balmorals are another term for Oxford shoes and Bluchers are Derby shoes.
Q: Lastly, what are Saddle shoes again?
A: Saddle shoes are a casual form of Oxfords where the centre section of leather (the “saddle”) is a different colour (typically black on white) – as is sometimes the heel spine.