The Oxford shoe

Updated: Mar 14


During the 17th century, Boots were the popular choice of men's footwear worn indoors and outdoors distinctively fitted with buttons instead of laces and are often high heeled, a style popularised in France which was at that time, was the cultural centre in Europe. King Louis XIV of France, who was of modest height, the influenced the sartorial choices.


This style of footwear, as it may be, its invention, is still subject to debates. However, it seem cogent to say that, the Oxford University brought into focus the "half boot" known as the Oxonian shoes in 1825.  Initially, the Oxonian featured a narrow slits on its sides which made it more comfortable to wear around campus than the high boots then in fashion. Over time, however, the side slits were replaced with laces (on the sides) which also made their way to the instep of the boot. The heels lowered and further changes lowered the height of the boot to expose the ankle .Weather the changes occurred at the Oxford university is still subject to debate and with various sources giving different timelines for these changes its not very clear, when the changes actually manifested with certainty.

Some alleges that the Oxford shoe actually emerged from Scotland and Ireland. The Cap toe Oxfords are often called Balmorals after the Balmoral Castle to this day. Nonetheless, what is more true is that, the evolution of the Oxford shoe today is inspired by the drive for comfort wear and the drives were first linked to the University Students. Joseph Sparkes seems to confer the drive towards comfort shoes. In an article in the New Monthly Magazine, stated that "Dress pumps are the only shoes now worn. The Oxonian shoe is for walking, It laces up the front with three or four holes. It is none other than high lows now called Oxford shoes".


The Oxford shoe has its origins from the University campus. Its now an acceptable choice of wear for the office or formal occasions.


Main features of modern Oxford Shoe


Black Tie and White Tie Occasions
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-Closed lacing system.

-Low-heeled

-Exposed ankle.


All Oxford shoes share these essential features, and although most have the eyelets on the quarter, a whole cut or seamless Oxford are the exceptions.


Types of Oxfords


Plain Oxford





The plain Oxford basically consists of the quarter and the vamp. It features neither a leather cap over the toe box nor does it have  broguing. This style is simple yet elegant; black is  the number one choice for evening shoes, and patent leather for black tie and white tie.

If you want to refine the look of your black patent oxfords for tuxedo or tailcoat events, you should take a look into evening shoelaces. Basically, they are much wider than regular shoelaces — they resemble a bow tie and thus mirror the look of your black bow tie.


Of course, some men also wear pumps, but most men wear laced shoes. Some men prefer a water polish calf leather version that is polished to a mirror shine. Patent leather is definitely more traditional but a mirror shine is fine too. Although in theory this shoe can be made in brown, you are likely to only ever see them in black.


Cap Toe Oxford



Cap toe" refers to the horizontal stitching on the toe box that runs from the welt on one side to the other, forming what appears to be a "cap" on top of the toe. Sometimes, this seam holds an extra piece of leather on top of the toe box. The most popular colour is undoubtedly black, it is also available in tan, brown, cognac, oxblood, etc., but the black variety is the epitome of Oxford shoe. In black, the cap toe Oxford is the classic business shoe worn by elegant men with their business suits across the globe. Can also be worn on blacktop occasion, it's not technically correct.


Wingtip Oxford / Brogue



The Wingtip Oxford has a pointed toe cap with extensions called wingtips which extend along both sides of the shoe.  Although technically an Oxford, it is generally referred to as a Brogue. When seen from above the cap is shaped like a ‘W’ or a ‘M’ depending on the viewpoint. This style is considered a bit more casual than the Cap Toe


Saddle Oxford


The saddle shoe, also known as "saddle oxford", is a low-heeled casual shoe, characterized by a plain toe and saddle-shaped decorative panel placed mid foot. Saddle shoes are typically constructed of leather and are most frequently white with a black or dark blue saddle, although any colour combination is possible. The first saddle shoes on record date back to 1906. They were originally intended for indoor sports. The reinforced instep was designed to provide extra support for strenuous activity., it is an American style, but you can find them offered by companies all over the world.


Kiltie Oxford



The Kiltie Oxford is distinguished with an additional fringed tongue hanging over the top. These shoes are no longer very common. The kiltie, or 'kilty' as it's sometimes called, is a type of slip-on shoe that has a decorative yet practical fringed leather panel that covers the instep. The extended tongue feature is meant to protect the instep and keep laces from snagging


Whole cut


Whole Cut Leather shoe with lustrous coating  naturally created over time on surfaces from copper all the way to leather. This over time  creates  that time worn effect.
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This type has an upper that is cut from one single piece of leather. Usually, shoes are made from multiple pieces of leather sewn together. The wholecut oxford has the distinctive closed lacing system and this along with the single piece construction gives it an extremely clean and sleek look. It also requires more leather to make a wholecut because it generally has only one seam at the heel. In recent year, this style has become rather popular and often features a medallion on the toe box or other broguing. It is available in all kinds of colours and is usually a bit more expensive than a cap toe or plain oxford because it requires more skill and more leather. An all black wholecut in patent leather or mirror polished calf works as an evening shoe as long as it has no broguing.

Seamless


The seamless is very similar to the wholecut in the sense that it is made from one piece of leather as well. While the wholecut has a seam on the heel, the seamless does not have a seam, making it even more difficult to produce. Also, it requires even more leather than a whole cut and it takes on average about twice as much leather as is needed for a regular cap toe Oxford. As such, it is usually only offered by bespoke shoemakers. Sometimes, the term wholecut is used synonymously with seamless simply because the term is more well known, although technically this is incorrect.


Style Guide


Strictly speaking, the Oxford is considered to be a formal shoe, however, this does not hold true anymore as they come in many colours, variations and more casual leathers such as suede and brogues.


The Plain & Cap Toe Oxfords


These days the Cap Toe Oxford is often acceptable at less traditional Black Tie events and with dark evening suits. However, traditionally these are the quintessential dress shoes for your day – to – day suits and business wear. They can also be worn when you want to add a dash of sophistication to your casual dress options like chinos and a blazer. It is not recommended to wear black with denim. Cognac, mid-brown, cherry or ox blood serve this purpose much better. For tweed, it is generally recommend to wear boots or derby shoes instead, while fresco, solaro, linen or seersucker can be worn with cap toe Oxfords, although it is recommended not to wear black with these outfits. Instead, a spectator or a solid shade of brown are a much better choice.

The first Oxford every man should own is a black cap toe Oxford. It may seem unexciting but at the end of the day, it is the shoe that can be worn to the office, funerals, weddings, evening events and maybe even black tie and as such, it is very versatile. Unlike brown, black does not come in different shades, and so you don’t need two pairs of black shoes of the exact same style. Many well-dressed men may have only a couple pairs of black shoes in their shoe closet, one of them always being the black captoe Oxford, while they have 10, 50 or 100 pairs of brown shoes.




The Wingtip Oxford / Brogue



Wingtips or Brogues are considered to be more casual than the Cap Toe. In black, it can be worn to the office but in dark brown it becomes more versatile because you may now combine them with tweed, and other more casual outfits and looks, including jeans. Especially in shades of brown, these are great for the office in non-white collar environments, sport coat / blazer ensembles. A dark brown brogue in suede is probably one of the 2nd or third shoes you should buy after you have invested in a black cap toe Oxford.


The Saddle Oxford/ Kiltie Oxford



These are probably the most casual of the lot but certainly the most difficult to carry off. Either style is only recommended for men who already have at least 15 pairs of shoes and who want to add something unique to their shoe closet. Traditional saddle shoes often come in cream or off white, with a navy blue saddle and red rubber soles, but of course, there are many variations available today. They can work really well with jeans, coloured chinos or corduroy trousers and other casual to semi-casual outfits.

This type has an upper that is cut from one single piece of leather. Usually, shoes are made from multiple pieces of leather sewn together. The wholecut oxford has the distinctive closed lacing system and this along with the single piece construction gives it an extremely clean and sleek look. It also requires more leather to make a wholecut because it generally has only one seam at the heel. In recent year, this style has become rather popular and often features a medallion on the toe box or other broguing. It is available in all kinds of colours and is usually a bit more expensive than a cap toe or plain oxford because it requires more skill and more leather. An all black wholecut in patent leather or mirror polished calf works as an evening shoe as long as it has no broguing.


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Wholecut Oxfords are rather popular right now, and they can look particularly handsome when a patina is acquired or applied to the shoe. In plain black, they are a modern alternative for a Tuxedo, and in brown they can be worn with all kinds of suits, combinations or casual outfits. Basically, they can be worn just like a cap toe Oxford.



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