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Men’s shoes – Derbys vs Oxfords

Allen Edmonds brogue shoes
Posted: February 14, 2012 at 12:12 am   /   by   /   comments (6)

As the modern office gets less formal when it comes to men’s clothing, does it really matter if you struggle to tell the difference between the two styles of men’s shoes, The Derby and Oxford? To the modern gentleman, it matters a great deal. These classic leather men’s shoes will form the foundation of your men’s style wardrobe.  Oxfords have always been considered more formal dress shoes than derbys, but why and how can you tell the difference? Knowing how to spot the finer details will enable you to dress up or down your our outfits subtly and with style. You wouldn’t want to be knowingly under dressed at a formal event, or worse still, unknowingly.

Men’s Derby Shoes

A quick internet search will bring up a multitude of articles about what kind of men’s shoe a derby is. All will make reference to a men’s leather shoe with open laces, but most have slightly inconsistent definitions of what they might be.  So for the avoidance of any confusion, here is my simple definition so you will never again be in doubt what these more casual of men’s shoes look like.

Open Laces

If you remove the laces, could run your finger from the top of the shoe’s tongue, down past the lace holes to the top of the shoe? If you can, it is because the laces are open at the bottom edge. It is this characteristic that defines a Derby shoe. Any reference to toe caps, or special stitching is smoke and mirrors. It is just the open laces that defines  a men’s shoe as a Derby. The reason Derby shoes are considered less formal than their Oxford cousins is because the open laces allow the shoe to open much wider and as a result, are easier to put on. If you are going to wear a leather shoe in a causal setting, Derby shoes are the key to making the outfit look great, but not stuffy. Derby shoes are perfect with jeans or chinos with a crisp shirt and a nice spots coat.

Derbys vs Oxfords

Men’s Oxford shoes

Oxfords, or Balmorals if you prefer, are the basis for most formal men’s shoe available today. Often plain with a toe cap, or embellished with details like elaborate perforations or Brogueing (more of this later..). The Oxford is a truly versatile shoe that can be had in a style to suit any formal occasion from daily office wear (not that I recommend wearing your shoes every day without rotation, but you get my point) to one off events like weddings and ceremonies. The Oxford is the shoe that can do it all.

Closed Laces

Using the picture above and the same test used to determine the Derby shoes, if you (imagine this with laces removed) could not run your finger from the top of the tongue to the top of the shoe because the base of the laces is stitched to the top of the shoe, then they are Oxfords. This lends itself to a sleeker, more elegant shape that take your style to the next level and are the perfect finishing touch to a sharp tailored suit.

Wingtips and Brogues

I often read articles proclaiming wingtips and brogues are Oxfords. This is however incorrect, or at least in some situations. Wingtips are that distinctive W pattern on the top of the shoe, and Brogueing is the distinctive perforations that often accompany wingtips details. You are more likely to see these details on an Oxford shoe, but the country Brogue is a great example that usually buck the trend, as these Cheaney Avon shoes demonstrate. They are design details that can be found on Derbys and Oxfords alike.

Cheaney Avon country brogues

Comments (6)

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comments ( 6 )

  • Pingback: May 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm Guide to Oxford Shoes | LegalInk
  • November 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm Bruce

    Good writeup – thanks!

    Reply
  • September 19, 2012 at 10:09 pm Firefox

    Great summary! I’ve had some confusion over this for some time.

    Reply
  • September 6, 2012 at 5:27 am Max

    Thank you! This post is really helpful… I was searching on the web about “Derby” shoes and then stumbled upon your site.

    Reply
    • September 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm The Mitchelli

      Hi Max,

      Glad I could help. I am surprised at how few gentlemen can tell the difference, or were even aware there were different styles.

      Reply
  • Pingback: May 31, 2012 at 3:04 am Oxfords, Derbys, and Bucks – Oh My | Tweed Librarian