Oxfords are the archetypal dress shoe. Simple, elegant and stylish – they are a staple of many men’s wardrobes.
But for many, Oxford shoes are confined to the workplace, only to be kicked off unlovingly at the end of the day.
So to save Oxford shoes from such neglect, we’ve uncovered their history and made a simple style guide.
What are Oxford shoes?
The story is that the Oxford came from a style of boot with side slits, popular with 19th century Oxford university students. Over the time this slit turned into laces, which migrated to the top of the shoe, where they live today.
The eyelets for these laces are on the underside of the top quarters, otherwise known as the lace tabs. These are also stitched together, unlike a Derby or gibson where they are open.
And though any shoe can have brogue patterning, or decorative perforations, it is the plain cap toe that makes the Oxford so distinctive.
When should you wear them?
Work for many means suits, ties and formal shoes – and the most popular of these is the Oxford.
Because of their sleek design they go well with any formal outfit, and they aren’t too flashy to upset a traditionalist boss. And if tradition is your thing, then you’ll love a wedding, the perfect occasion for your Oxfords.
But life isn’t all about work and weddings, and if you need shoes for a smart casual party, then the Oxford works perfectly.
How should I wear them?
The undoubted way to wear Oxford shoes is with a suit. Their simple construction fits in with the style of the outfit and finishes off the formal look perfectly.
But in this modern dressed down world, many men seldom wear a blazer, or even a tie, so where does an Oxford fit in? Well black Oxford shoes still go well with trousers and a shirt, but for a really casual look you could always try jeans and a t-shirt.
For more casual options try other colours, as these will give you more room to manoeuvre. Brown, tan, sand and taupe are all versatile shades, allowing you to mix up your outfit. If you switch from leather to a pair of suede Oxfords, then the outfit immediately becomes more casual.
As long as you match colours tastefully, the rules become quite loose.
What to avoid
There are many obvious no nos. For instance, shorts can be worn with brogues, Derby shoes and a whole host of men’s footwear choices, but would look silly paired with Oxfords.
There is one less obvious but equally more important no no, that many people forget.
Oxford shoes are great for formal occasions, but wearing them every time may portray you as a one shoe pony – or someone who doesn’t care about their appearance. So mix things up by wearing other shoes every now and then, and dress down occasionally, so when you do wear your Oxfords, you really make a statement.
The Oxford is without doubt the quintessential gentleman’s shoe and is a formal footwear staple for many men. And though they may seem married to the suit, they can be worn with other outfits too – and should never be chucked off, but placed on the shoe rack lovingly.