Best Men's Oxford Shoes Guide: Ultimate Styling Tips, History, & More (2024)

What Are Oxford Shoes?

Best Men's Oxford Shoes Guide: Ultimate Styling Tips, History, & More (1)An oxford shoe is any lace-up shoe that utilizes a closed-throat lacing system. This is the case regardless of broguing, cap-toe stitching, number of eyelets, or any other aesthetic detail.

Here in the U.S. you’ll often hear the term “oxford” used to refer to any lace-up shoe. This is technically incorrect, as bluchers are also lace-ups but are structurally distinct from oxfords.

This shoe is the mother of all dress shoes. In black patent leather, they are the number one choice to wear with a tuxedo in the evening.They’re considered the dressiest of daytime shoes, as their slim profiles pair excellently with business suits. If they’re exceptionally well-polished, a pair of non-patent black oxfords can be worn with a tuxedo.

If you’re going to own just one pair of dress shoes, you can’t beat an oxford for versatility and classic appeal.

Are They Called “Oxfords” Or “Balmorals”?

Both names refer to the same thing in a general sense. Theterms have English origins, with “oxford” coming into use as a result of the shoe being born at Oxford University, and “balmoral” being named after Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

One key difference is that balmoral sometimes refers to acap toe oxford shoe. This varies from country to country and there’s no standardized parlance.

“Balmoral” is often shortened to “bal.”

In the States, oxford is certainly the favored term among the majority of men. We use the term interchangeably.

History OfMen’s Oxford Shoes

Best Men's Oxford Shoes Guide: Ultimate Styling Tips, History, & More (2)We can trace the oxford’s origins to the year 1800 in -big surprise- England. At the time, students at Oxford University commonly wore a half boot with side slits that was called the Oxonian.

As students developed a distaste forhigh boots and adopted shoes, the low-cut “oxford” became a go-to option.

The laces of an oxford were originally placed on the outside of the shoe, taking the place of the side slits of the boot from which it’s derived. This is a rather uncommon look today and is regarded as quite fashionable.

It’s fun to think that this unorthodox shoe is actually closer to the original article than what is typically on offer in stores.

How Do You Wear Oxford Shoes?

The balmoral isthe quintessential suit shoe, for starters. If you own a pair of bals in black and medium brown, you will be able to wear them with nearlyany suit you can imagine. It’s a popular shoeamongst those who work in government, law, finance, and other sartorially conservative industries.

They aren’t just limited to suits, however. Available ready-to-wear or custom-made in leather, suede, canvas, and many other materials, you can find a pair for any occasion.

Do Oxfords Need Laces?

Back around 2010-2011, there was a popular trend of wearing oxfords without laces. This became so popular that shoemakers were making oxfords with stretchy gore under the tongue so that they would hug the foot like a loafer; the laces weremade to be removed. See below for a laceless, off-white suede full brogue version:

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This author once owned a gorgeous pair of caramel-ish tan cap-toe oxfords made in this way. Having the option to go laceless or not was great. Those shoes got worn into the ground, and sadly they’re no longer with us.

Some folks loved this look, especially without socks. Others found it to be affected, the opposite of thesprezzatura it was trying to convey.

We say that if you’re going to go laceless, do it with a lighter-colored, more casual oxford. This is more sartorially logical; dressy black oxfords will look incomplete without laces.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s a nice touch to use black ribbon as laces for formal occasions.

Formality

Oxfords are the most formal shoe available for civilian men in the Western world. Generally, they go best with suits and evening wear.

Best Men's Oxford Shoes Guide: Ultimate Styling Tips, History, & More (4)

Keep in mind that their formality level will decreaseas the amount of ornamentation on the shoe increases. A full brogue, for example, maybe an oxford, but it cannot be worn with a tuxedo. The only exception to this rule is a cap-toe, which retains formality when it’s not the perforated variety.

Given the wide range of options in terms of material and color, they’re incredibly versatile and can be worn with:

  • Tuxedos (black patent leather)
  • Suits (any medium-to-dark colored leather or suede)
  • Odd Jackets & Trousers (various shades of brown leather and suede
  • Chinos & Other Casual Trousers
  • Jeans

Seasonality

Oxfords can be worn any time of day, any time of year. You just have to be mindful of color and material. Here are some suggestions, but know that there’s much more that can be done with this shoe:

  • Spring: Light-to-medium brown leather or suede
  • Summer: White nubuck, beige leather, canvas sneaker
  • Autumn: Burgundy cordovan leather, dark brown suede
  • Winter: Black and dark brown leather

How Oxfords Are Constructed

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Closed throat lacing on a black balmoral

We’ve referenced different lacing systems and we have an entire article based around the difference between an oxford and a derby.

In case you’ve missed both of those, here’s a very quick explanation:

  • Closed throat lacing (oxford / balmoral): Quarters (leather sides through which laces pass) are sewn down to the instep. Creates a “V” shape under the center of the laces.
  • Open throat lacing (blucher derby): Quarters are not sewn down to the instep. No “V” is created.

As a result of this construction, oxfords offer a less forgiving fit than bluchers. If you have a smaller foot, this is great. If you have a larger foot, or even a foot with a high instep, be sure to try on many pairs before buying, and buy the most comfortable pair you an afford.

Parting Words On Balmorals

Best Men's Oxford Shoes Guide: Ultimate Styling Tips, History, & More (6)

From a wardrobe-building perspective, the oxford is the first dress shoe a man should buy. It will go with just about anything, so if he invests wisely (i.e. doesn’t get a cheap pair and doesn’t wear them every day), the cost per wear will be peanuts.

College grads, men re-entering the workforce, and guys just looking to expand their wardrobes: buy a high-quality oxford shoe. It’ll provide years of stylish pleasure.

What Next?

Now that you have learned about Oxford shoes, check out some our related footwear guides for men:

  • Oxford Shoe Style Guide
  • Best Dress Shoes For Men
  • Most Comfortable Shoes For Men
  • Men’s Shoes Homepage
Best Men's Oxford Shoes Guide: Ultimate Styling Tips, History, & More (2024)

FAQs

What is the most versatile Oxford shoe color? ›

Styling Oxford shoes for men

- For a casual look, pair brown whole cut Oxfords with dark denim jeans and a white t-shirt. - When it comes to colors, black and brown are the most versatile choices. Black is perfect for formal occasions, while brown can be dressed up or down depending on the outfit.

What is the most formal Oxford shoe? ›

Plain toe Oxfords

The plain-toe oxfords are the most classical design. Nothing can go wrong with this model. Embrace the essence of sophistication with Plain toe Oxfords. Universally admired for their sleek and minimalistic design, these shoes are a quintessential choice for formal occasions.

What is the difference between wingtips and Oxfords? ›

Wingtip. Featuring a pointed toecap that extends along each side of the shoe, these are a less dressy incarnation of the Derby and Oxford (but still business appropriate, in our opinion).

Why are Oxford shoes so expensive? ›

The price of Oxford shoes can vary based on several factors, but higher-end Oxfords tend to be more expensive due to the following reasons: Quality of Materials: Premium Oxfords are often made of high-quality leather or suede. The type of leather, its source, and its treatment can significantly affect the shoe's cost.

Which men shoe Colour goes with everything? ›

Black, beige, and gray shoes go with anything. Since they are all neutrals, you can wear these colors to offset a more vibrant outfit. Of course, with these neutrals, you can either mix and match or keep them in a similar tonal family. Red shoes are an ideal way to get an elevated look.

Which Colour Oxford shoes is best? ›

Brown. Whole-cut Oxford-Brown is the right option when they are paired with dark brown, gray, or even navy suits. Brown is way more striking when styled with these colors and will make you visually stand out in the room.

Which company makes the best Oxford shoes? ›

Nowadays, some of the best oxford shoes are still produced in England, many in Northampton, by classic labels such as John Lobb and Crockett & Jones. Of course, other brands have adopted the style, making their own stellar versions in beautiful leathers and suedes.

Which company makes the best formal shoes? ›

Best Formal Shoes For Men For All Day Comfort and Longer Durability
ParticularsPrice on Amazon
Clarks Tilden Plain Black LeatherRs. 3,000
Hush Puppies Mens Taylor Slip-on EUniform Dress ShoeRs. 2,543
HITZ Men's Black Leather Slip-On Formal ShoesRs. 2,714
Lee Cooper Lc1473erRs. 2,999
1 more row
Apr 7, 2024

Should you wear Oxfords with a suit? ›

Typically, oxfords, brogues and derby shoes are the most formal shoes which are commonly paired with suits.

What is another name for Oxford shoes? ›

In the United States and Scotland, "Balmoral" is often synonymous with "Oxford". In the United States, "Oxford" is sometimes used for any more formal lace-up shoe, including the Blucher and Derby.

Are Oxfords out of style? ›

Oxford shoes are a timeless classic. They've long held a coveted status as a style staple in the wide world of footwear. No matter how many fleeting trends may come and go, the Oxford shoe continues to prevail.

How tight should Oxford shoes be? ›

The Oxford shoe should fit snugly, close to the foot, but not so tight that you are unable to lace them together, resulting in an undesired V down the centre of the top of the shoe.

Which is better derby or Oxford shoes? ›

The best choice depends on the occasion and your personal style. The simplest guideline is oxfords are for formal dress and derbies are better for semi-formal to casual wear. Fortunately, men today are given more freedom than ever to express themselves with their choices.

What's the most expensive shoes in the world? ›

The "Moon Star Shoes” are the most expensive shoes in the world. They were showcased in 2019 during the MIDE (Made in Italy, Designed in Emirates) Fashion Week, held on a yacht in Dubai. The heels of the shoes are made from solid gold and decorated with 30 carats of diamonds.

Which Colour formal shoes go with everything? ›

Hands down, no questions asked, black is the most formal shoe color. The only classic option for tuxedos and very commonly seen on business suits, black shoes are ubiquitous.

What color of shoes go with everything? ›

Black, beige, and grey shoes go with anything. Since they are all neutrals, you can wear these colors to offset a more vibrant outfit. Of course, with these neutrals, you can either mix and match or keep them in a similar tonal family.

What is the most versatile work shoe color? ›

A neutral color is always a safe choice for a business casual shoe, especially at more formal offices. It is always a good idea to have a quality pair brown or black leather shoes in your closet. Its versatility will be appropriate for both formal and casual occasions.

Are black Oxfords versatile? ›

No matter the variation of Oxford shoe chosen (plain, toe cap, brogue or whole cut) the colour black is the obvious decision for a versatile formal shoe that can be worn indefinitely at formal occasions and events but furthermore for going to the work office every day.

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