Oxford vs Derby Shoes | Comparing Styles & Occasions

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Yes, we get it. Distinguishing between Oxford and Derby shoes is about as problematic as telling apart a set of identical twins. They apparently have the same silhouette, the same construction and generally tend to use the same type of materials. So then what gives? In this detailed guide, we will cover the key differences between Oxford and Derby shoes, and how to style each one according to occasion!

Oxford vs Derby Dress Shoes Men

Courtesy of eu.barkershoes.com

Before delving into the distinction between formal and informal shoes, we thought it would be useful to breakdown the anatomy of a shoe. Yes – that is in fact, a thing! From back to front, a dress shoe is comprised of four key components – the toe, the vamp, the facing and the quarter.

Anatomy Of A Men's Dress Shoe | Oxford versus Derbys

Courtesy of www.ties.com

It is the construction and attention to detail with respect to these four components that largely determines the uniqueness of each shoe.

Insole: Is the layer you see inside the shoe. The insole is almost always comprised of leather, although more casual shoe styles may use a textile layer. The insole covers any piece that lies directly above the outsole.

Welt: A strip of material and subsequently, stitching, that connects the insole to the shoe’s outsole. Cheaper, mass produced shoes are glued together rather than stitched, often resulting in significantly lower quality construction.

Upper: A self explanatory term, refers to the combined elements that sit above the sole of the shoe.

Quarters: The portion of the upper part of the shoe that starts at the laces and runs under the ankles. Quarters secured under the vamp are referred to as closed lacing (refers to Oxfords) while quarters stitched above the vamp are designated as open lacing (refers to Derby’s).

Vamp: The portion of the upper that usually sits below the quarters, and occasionally (Oxford’s) sits above the shoe’s quarters!

Toe / Top Cap: An optional component, this segment of the shoe is not found on whole cut styles. The toe cap is an additional layer of leather, that if implemented, usually sits over the toe and provides enhanced strength and durability, in addition to aesthetic appeal.

Key Differences Between Oxford & Derby Shoes

Now that we’ve covered the anatomy of a dress shoe – back to Oxford versus Derby shoes!

Oxford vs Derby Dress Shoes


The most concise summary possible of Oxford versus Derby Shoes! Courtesy of www.realmenrealstyle.com

The key differentiating factor between Oxford & Derby Shoes lies in their lacing system. Oxford Dress Shoes are characterized by their closed lacing system – indicating eyelets that are stitched underneath the shoe’s vamp – the top part of the shoe that covers the foot. This particular type of construction lends to a more streamlined silhouette.

Conversely, Derby Shoes are distinguished by their open lacing system. This design element encapsulates eyelets that are sewn to the top of the vamp, which lends to a more casual fit that isn’t as streamlined as that of the oxford dress shoe.  

  • Oxford dress shoes are considered more formal than derby shoes. While both types of dress shoes can be worn with suits, it is imperative that you pay attention to the level of formality! Oxford dress shoes are best worn with a traditional suit in a more business / formal setting such a daily work, an important presentation or an evening wedding reception.
  • Conversely, Derby Shoes, if worn with a suit, are best worn with a sports jacket and pants as part of a separates ensemble, or with a more casual suit such as a linen or cotton suit during the spring / summer months! – Alternatively, Derby Shoes can be worn with dark denim jeans or chinos on an evening out!Oxford vs Derby Shoes Men

Oxford Dress Shoes work immaculately with a suit. Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com

  • Derby Shoes allow people with narrower or wider feet to find a better fit, as the less restrictive lacing system allows for more freedom of movement to find an adequate level of tightening. When lacing derby shoes, there is more margin to fasten the lacing loose or tight. Hence, this is one of the reasons why derby shoes are a more popular choice for the paradoxical casual wearer of dressier shoes!Derby Shoes Casual GetUpDerby Shoes, as evidenced by their looser, more relaxed fit, can pair exquisitely with a more casual getup! Courtesy of www.stylegirlfriend.com

History Of The Oxford Dress Shoe

As sleek and as definitive as the oxford dress shoe is, its history is paradoxically one that elicits confusion. There are apparently two controversial accounts regaling the history of the Oxford Dress Shoe.

The first states that the shoe originated as a boot in the 1600’s at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The shoe eventually became the preferred choice of footwear at court, and underwent numerous changes over time.

The second recalls a period of time at Oxford University where people were growing wary of the restrictive, knee high boots popular in the 1800’s. Subsequently, university students rebelled and the Oxonian boot was birthed. Narrower slits along the sides of the boots made them more comfortable to wear, and in time, this transitioned over to the modern oxford lacing system as we know it today!

The Classic Oxford: A Blend of Elegance and Formality

Oxford dress shoes exude an air of polished sophistication. With their close lacing system and sleek silhouettes, oxford dress shoes offer a refined aesthetic that make them ideal for dressing up in a more formal capacity.

Oxford Dress Shoes

Oxford Dress Shoes. The perfect complement to your formal attire needs. Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

While Oxford Dress Shoes are typically associated with black & brown, there are no distinct rules set in stone. These timeless, stylistic dress shoes are also offered in alternate hues such as burgundy, navy or even two-tone styles!

 Oxford Dress Shoe

Two tone Oxford Dress Shoes can add some serious kick to your ensembles. Courtesy of row.barkershoes.com

Are you looking to make an impression at a wedding? A pair of black patent leather Oxfords are bound to do trick and effortlessly raise your style game! Looking for an alternative look for an upcoming business negotiation? How about a pair of classic, brown Oxfords – that can help instill a sense of authority and trust – unless, of course as Morgan Freeman so eloquently says in The Shawshank Redemption – ‘how often do you really look at a man’s shoes’!

Oxford Dress Shoes

Strut those Oxford Dress Shoes the next time you are dressing in a formal capacity! Courtesy of www.businessinsider.com

Within the realm of men’s style, oxford dress shoes have truly stood the test of time!

Silk Ties | Ties | Neckties | Extra Long Ties

History Of The Derby Shoe

Similar to the history of the Oxford Dress Shoe, the Derby Dress Shoe has been mired in controversy since time immemorial. Ok, its not that serious- but you get the point!

Some of the earliest references to the shoe date back to the Early Of Derby, a 12th century Earl. Others indicate that the shoe did not fully come into being until a new Earl Of Derby in the 14th century needed larger shoes to accommodate his uncharacteristically large feet.

Derby shoes, however, were later popularized as hunting and sporting shoes during the mid 19th century. The Derby Style Shoe, that is widely recognized today, may have originally been intended as footwear during the Napoleonic wars.

The first written record of the derby shoe comes from a book that was published in the mid 19th century, describing the aforementioned as a boot rather than a shoe. Several years later, Saint Crispin’s Magazine described the Derby as a super shoe to the ‘Oxonian’, indicating that this was due to the seam not being near the tender part of the foot!

The Versatile Derby: A Balance of Comfort and Style

Seeking out a shoe that blends comfort & style? Look no further than The Derby! The Derby’s distinctive lacing system not only lends itself to a more relaxed vibe, but also offers your feet extra room, as mentioned above. Derby shoes, in contrast to oxford dress shoes, provide a certain level of nonchalance that can really elevate your look, without making it look like you’ve tried too hard! Derby shoes are therefore the perfect bridge between formal and more casual wear.

Derby Shoes

Derby Shoes can work exceptionally well in a business casual setting. Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Whether you are looking to dress up / down in a business casual setting at the office or are indulging in some libations at the local country club on the weekends, your Derby Shoes will have you in good standing! No pun intended)!

The versatility of the derby shoe also happens to extend to materials and colors! Whether you prefer the classic appeal of leather or the contemporary touch of suede, there’s a Derby shoe available for every taste.

With the Derby Color Palette extending beyond conventional shoe color realm of browns and blacks, Derby Shoes are often offered in alternative tints and shades, such as tan, burgundy, or even two-toned styles. Derby Shoes therefore offer you a way to express your individual preferences!

Derby Shoes with Chinos

Tan Suede Derby Shoes pair stunningly well with white chinos! Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Essentially, the heart and soul of the derby shoe lays in its ability to balance comfort & style, without compromising on either. Therefore, whether you are stepping into an important business meeting or gallavanting around the city, Derby Shoes offer the perfect blend of comfort and style that is hard to beat.

Styling Oxford vs Derby Shoes

The decision on how to style an Oxford vs Derby shoes should essentially be predicated on the unique characteristics of each. The Oxford Dress Shoe, distinguished by its sleek, closed lacing system, offers a more formal aesthetic, and is thus best paired with a well tailored suit or tuxedo. Oxford dress shoes in traditional colors such as black & brown provide fail safe options for a timeless, classic appeal.

Patent Leather Oxford Shoes

Patent Leather Oxford Dress Shoes can be a gentleman’s best friend when dressing up for Black Tie! Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

By contrast, Derby Shoes, which are characterized by their open lacing system, offer more flexibility and a relaxed elegant aesthetic. Consequently, Derby Shoes pair extremely well with a pair of chinos or well fitted jeans for that highly coveted smart casual look!

Irrespective of shoe fabric – whether you are opting for the timeless appeal of leather or the contemporary touch of suede, derby shoes are ideal for styling up a more casual ensemble!

When To Wear Oxford & Derby Shoes: Occasion Matters

Given that Oxford Dress Shoes epitomize formality, they are best reserved for more formal settings such as daily work, an important presentation or a wedding reception! In these instances, the sleek design and closed lacing system of Oxford Dress Shoes can complement your formal attire exquisitely. As mentioned above, pairing your oxford dress shoes with a tailored suit will help create the most refined aesthetic.

Conversely, Derby Shoes, which perfectly blend comfort & style, can allow you to transition seamlessly from semi-formal events to more casual settings. Therefore, whether you are dressing apropos for business casual attire or looking to make an impression at your next weekend brunch, your treasured set of Derby’s will do the trick. As a result of Derby Shoes falling on the more business casual end of the formality spectrum, they pair best with chinos or a pair of well fitted dark denim!

Derby Shoes Men

Yes, Derby Shoes can be worn to a weekend brunch!  Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

How To Pair Oxford & Derby Shoes With Your Pants

Given that Oxford Dress Shoes are best worn in more formal settings, these are best paired with well fitted trousers or suit pants for maximum effect! The smooth and refined finish of Oxford Dress Shoes tends blend seamlessly with the crisp silhouette of tailored pants, resulting in a polished and sophisticated look.

Oxford Dress Shoes Tailored Pants

Oxford Dress Shoes require streamlined, fitted pants. It’s all part of the deal! Courtesy of www.askthegentleman.com

Conversely, Derby Shoes, which are better known for their versatility, can pair well with a wider variety of pant styles. If you’re gearing up for a relaxed weekend setting, feel free to match your Derby Shoes with a pair of comfortable jeans or chinos. This combination can help you attain that coveted relaxed chic aesthetic!


Summary: When To Wear Oxford & Derby Shoes

Ultimately, the decision on whether to opt for Oxfords vs Derby Shoes will depend on your personal preferences, the aesthetic you are going for and the occasion that you are dressing up for!

Oxford Dress Shoes, known for their closed lacing system, offer an air of sophistication, elegance and formality. These characteristics make Oxford Dress Shoes your quintessential choice for formal and more upscale settings. Whether you are dressing up for an important presentation or a black tie event, these shoes will have you in good standing and looking the part!

Conversely, Derby Shoes, with their open lacing system, offer that perfect blend of comfort and versatility, allowing you to transition seamlessly from semi-formal events to more casual settings. These shoes pair extremely well with everything from jeans and chinos to contemporary summer such as seersucker or linen.

And that’s a wrap for this one! We hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it!


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