What's the Difference Between an Oxford and A Derby?

Among the many different styles of mens shoes available, almost all will fit into a category of either oxford or derby shoe. But do we really understand the difference between the two?

An oxford is arguably one of the most popular styles worn today and would typically be what the older generation would describe as a ‘proper’ shoe.

An oxford shoe is defined by its closed lacing system in which the side tabs with the eyelets, are sewn into the front section of the shoe known as the vamp. This can be seen as the seam that runs horizontally underneath the laces.

Traditionally, oxfords were plain, formal shoes made from leather but as they have evolved into a range of styles they have become synonymous with both business and evening wear a like and are the perfect accompaniment to any occasion suit.

Although it was not officially documented where the oxford originated, it is widely believed they began appearing in Scotland in the 1800’s and its original name ‘Balmorals’ was in reference to Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. They quickly became adopted and worn frequently by students and faculty of oxford University, where the style became known as oxford.

An oxford is ideal for someone with a slim to normal foot, as the stitching over the top of the foot would restrict the movement and flexibility for the wearer. However, it’s this feature that has given the style its elegant and smart look, that it has become known and loved for.

A derby is a classic yet comfortable style choice, however is typically thought to be less formal than an oxford. Today a derby is worn as a cross over shoe between smart and casual dress and pretty efficiently gives the wearer far more diversity in how they are worn, due to their sleek and simplistic silhouette.

As with an oxford, a derby is too defined by the lacing system, with a derby having the tabs with eye lets open and sat on top of the vamp. Notice there is no seam between the tongue and the front that is visible on an oxford style.

You would find a derby to be more comfortable when worn for long periods of time, as the open vamp allows the width to be adjusted and the leather to stretch over the bridge of the foot as the day progresses. They’re perfect for a gentleman with a wider foot or higher arch for this reason, too.

So put simply, an oxford or derby is referring to whether or not the lacing system is sewn into the vamp or sat on top of the upper of the shoe.

There are many other design features that can give a shoe its name, for example brogue detail, wingtip and toe or heel cap. Often a show with brogue detailing will be referred to as a brogue when it may in fact be an oxford brogue or derby brogue.

So now we’ve fully investigated each style, which is your style of choice? Let us know in the comments!

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