The Oxford Shoe Guide

Cap-toe brown brogues

I once knew a friend who had a pair of whole cut oxford shoes. It was one of his best purchases at that time, very comfortable pair that quickly became his go-to shoe for any occasion, that it almost made it to the beach on one occasion! Hahaha!

Regardless of how comfortable your pair of oxfords is, it’s definitely a shoe most suitable for more formal occasions and environments than others.

The Oxford Shoes: A bit of history

Oxfords were inspired by the Oxonian, a half-boot with side slits, which gained popularity among Oxford University students in the 1800s. Oxfords can also be traced back to Scotland and Ireland, where they are occasionally referred to as Balmorals after the Balmoral Castle. In France, the Oxfords are known as Richelieu.

The Oxonian Boots

An Oxford shoe features a shoelace eyelets tabs attached under the vamp (also termed “closed lacing). This is essentially what differentiates an Oxford from a Derby. Oxfords were originally plain formal leather shoes, but as fashion has evolved, the style has significantly evolved as well, now offering wide varieties in fabric, color and detailing thereby making it a must-have for every gentleman.

Talking about different types of oxfords, it is worth mentioning that the oxford and the brogues are basically the same – with closed lacing. The only difference is the perforated holes on the brogues, which therefore makes it less formal than the oxfords.

The Whole-Cut Oxford
Oxford shoes: Whole-cut cordovan burgundy oxfords by Carmina
Oxford shoes: Whole-cut cordovan burgundy oxfords by Carmina

The whole-cut oxford shoe is for that gentleman that wants to slay 20 birds with one shoe. The whole cut oxford is made with one whole leather all the way through, with the closed vamp and lacing being the only added feature to it. Of course, it has a sole and a heel. Its elegance is in its simplicity and you’ll find that the absence of designs gives a very classy look to an outfit. Its clean look also makes it very versatile as it can be dressed both formally and casually.

The Plain Toe Oxford

Easily one of the most commonly worn designs of oxford shoes, the plain toe features additional leather detailing close to the eyelet. This minimal design therefore renders it very formal and so it is your go-to for black-tie events.

Oxford shoes: Plain toe black oxfords
Oxford shoes: Plain toe black oxfords
The Cap Toe Oxford

Between the plain toe and the cap toe design, I’m not quite sure which takes the crown as the most worn design of oxford shoes. Why cap toe anyway? Because an additional piece of leather is stitched right above the toe. The cap toe is a winner any day in the conference room and in a business meeting. If you’ve ever wondered why that client is taking so long to come around, wear a cap toe oxfords to the next negotiation meeting! I’m sure you get the point.

Oxford shoes: Cap-toe brown oxfords by Carmina
Oxford shoes: Cap-toe brown oxfords by Carmina
The Wingtip Oxford

The wingtip oxfords can definitely be said to be the most casual of all shoes in the oxford family. It features a cap above the toe which extends all the way to the sides of the shoe, thereby giving it a wing design. This style is most common in brogues with the wingtip having perforated holes. However, you’ll also find wingtip oxfords without perforated holes which are most commonly referred to as “Balmoral oxfords”.

Oxford shoes: Wingtip brogues by Carmina
Oxford shoes: Wingtip brogues by Carmina

So now that you know the most common designs of oxford shoes available, what color should you go with? Well if this is going to be your first pair of oxfords, start off with a functional and neutral color such as black. Nothing says more formal, elegant, classy and sophisticated than a pair of black oxford. This is what you pull out for that black tie event and your formal business meetings. It is versatile and works perfectly with formal and casual looks.

If you’re someone who likes a pop of colour, then brown is your new black. When paired with colors, the brown oxford is an attention grabber, so you better be ready for the attention when you’re wearing one. The trick is to pair it with another matching accessory. This could be a belt, scarf, outer jacket, pocket square or even a handbag.

Some look inspirations!



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