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Classy, elegant and sleek, the Oxfords are staples in men’s wardrobes. Every Oxford features closed lacing, which means that the front (or vamp, to be technical) covers the back (or the quarters). Below is a comparison of the Oxford (top) and a Derby (bottom), the latter characterized by open lacing.
Some men prefer the open-laced feature because it allows for the expansion of the upper, enabling a more comfortable fit. Nevertheless, closed-laced shoes make for a more formal pair than the open-laced, exuding elegance which instantly sharpens your suiting into a classic masterpiece. It is no wonder that they are the go-to dress shoe for formal and business events.
The Oxfords may look simple, yet its history remains a riddle. There are two opposing stories behind the emergence of Oxfords. The more popularised one is undoubtedly linked to its name; it is said to be made by students of Oxford College in the late 18th century to early 19th century, in response to the uncomfortable high-calf boots men had to wear then. The second narrative involves Oxford’s other name, the ‘Balmoral’, which is associated with the Balmoral Castle in Scotland. And as the story goes, the Oxfords originated from Scotland.
Regardless of which narrative you may think is more valid, there is no doubt that the Oxfords gained popularity from the mid-19th Century throughout Europe. Not only is it more comfortable than its predecessor, it also maintained its predecessor’s sturdiness, remaining the staple shoe of men’s wardrobe to this day.
There are variations to Oxfords. First up, we have the traditional, whole-cut Oxfords that emanates simplicity and unity. Unlike most leather shoes which are made of multiple pieces of leather, the whole-cut is only made of one. Have a look at this pair of Westminster in Tan (coming up this June)
Indeed, less is more. There are no seams nor perforations, but its lack of detail makes for a sleek pair of dress shoes that conveys luxury.
If you feel that the traditional whole-cut Oxfords are too formal, and are looking for a more jazzed-up pair, go for a pair of cap toe Oxfords, such as the Norwich in Black (top) - made with an additional piece of leather right over the toe. Another interesting pair of Oxfords we recommend is the Cambridge in Black (bottom) that plays with different textures: Pebble grain for the vamps and calf leather for the rest of the shoe.
The Norwich is suitable for both work and business casual events. If you were to own only one pair of dress shoes that’s suitable for both work and casual events, then this is the shoe that you should get.
However, the Cambridge, with its pebble grain texture, is meant to be styled casually and not suitable in events of high formality. With regards to material, this is the rule of thumb: The smoother the leather, the more suitable it is for formal events.
Another shoe I would recommend, which is smart casual, is this pair with a medallion right on its tip – the Cavendish in Tan.
This pair of Oxfords calls for attention, with a darker shade of brown at the tip adding dimension to the shoes. Its smooth calf leather makes for a polished shoe, while its broguing allows you to make a statement without being overstated.
What style of shoes is your favourite? Comment below and tell us why! Also, feel free to tell us what kind of shoes you would like to see featured next!