“Seriously, How Often Do You Really Look at a Man’s Shoes?”

A guest blog post by Phil


“Seriously, how often do you really look at a man’s shoes?”





With apologies to Shawshank Redemption, maybe a little closer after this. I just wanted to point out and hopefully shed a little light on a common misconception regarding the type of shoes millions of people wear every day. The shoe pictured above isn’t an Oxford.  It’s well made, comfortable, great for the office, dinner out, business meetings, interviews, and with jeans on casual Fridays.  It’s a very nice shoe. However, it’s not an Oxford.  It’s a Derby. That’s a common mistake though, thanks in large part to a great many shoe retailers and even some shoe companies.


Lots of sites lump all dress\work shoes into the category of Oxfords. Understandable (to an extent) because they all look very similar.  All can be made of the nicest materials, finest construction, have a cap toe, quarter-brogue, wingtip (full brogue), decorative stitching, etc.


However, there is one main difference and it has to do with how the shoe is put together.  To start, here’s a very basic look at the main parts of a shoe (the Upper).  There are other terms for the specifics, but these basics contain the two parts that form the difference between Oxford and Derby.




Plain Toe, Cap Toe, Quarter Brogue, Semi Brogue, Wingtip (Full Brogue), and Longwing are all levels of decoration detail and all can be found on either shoe. The decorative punch holes and perforations on the shoe above are referred to as broguing. I’ll leave the origins of that design feature for a later discussion and say only that in the interest of having brought it up, the shoe above is a Wingtip Derby.


“If there’s a point Mulder, please feel free to come to it.”


The only difference between an Oxford and a Derby is a construction difference; the lacing.  Oxfords have a closed lacing build.  The eyelet facings are sewn in place under the vamp and are very close together. The fit is less adjustable, so proper size is more important.


The lacing on a Derby is more relaxed.  The eyelet facings are sewn only on the outside edges, above the vamp, and almost always more open when tied. The fit is somewhat adjustable depending on sock thickness, width, desired snugness, etc.




That’s it really.  Now you know the small, yet inarguable difference between an Oxford and a Derby.  One more thing, there are multiple terms for each depending on where you are in the world or where the shoe may have been manufactured.


The terms Oxford and Balmoral are often used interchangeably.  Balmoral in the US, Oxford in the UK.  No surprise since they’re named after Oxford and originated from the boot version, Oxonian, in the 1800s.


Likewise, the terms Derby and Blucher are also used interchangeably depending on location. Blucher in the US, Derby in the UK.  The only occasional difference being that some manufacturers reserve the term Blucher for a shoe where the vamp and the quarter are one piece, with a smaller piece for the eyelet facings.




Last but certainly not least, there are plenty of very nice versions of both types for women.




Phil, Guest Blogger