When it comes to dress shoes, the three most prominent are the oxfords, derbies and brogues. This is because they are about the most formal you can get.
However, even between them, certain characteristics make some more formal than others.
You might know the names, but it is just as important to note what they are, what makes them that and how to identify them.
In this article, we will be comparing oxford vs derby and then brogues, to understand their differences and similarities.
What is an oxford shoe?
An Oxford shoe refers to any shoe where the space between shoelace eyelets are made to form a ‘V’ shape. This means that the shoelace eyelet tabs are sewn together under a vamp (the top of the shoe).
Let’s look at it this way; if formal shoes were artists, Oxfords would be the Picasso. These shoes are about as formal as you can get.
Oxfords, or Richelieu, as they are called in France, were originally referred to as Balmorals, as they are still called in the United States. They became known as Oxfords after they gained popularity at Oxford University.
The original design for oxfords was plain (which today is the most formal version of the shoe). However, the need for modern styles has inspired a bunch of other designs to be added to them.
The more number of designs added to an oxford, the less formal the shoe becomes.
6 basic types of oxford shoes by design
A wholecut oxford is one that is made from a single strip of leather. They are often carved from toe to ankle without a seam.
Plain wholecut oxfords and plain-toed oxfords are about the most formal shoe you can find. They are characterised by their V-shaped eyelet tabs. They are versatile and can be worn with a whole range of formal and semi-formal outfits.
Plain-toed oxfords are another simple oxford design, made for formal outfits and occasions. Wholecut oxfords may be open to several forms of details, but plain-toed oxfords are just what they are; plain.
One of the most popular oxford designs of the day is the cap-toe. It is crafted by adding an extra piece of leather at the top of the toe area of the shoe, usually joined to the rest of the shoe using a seam.
It usually features seams at the sides, and sometimes the back as well. This design makes the cap-toed oxford as the most elegant of the set. It can be worn with casual outfits, to semi-formal occasions, etc.
Saddle oxfords usually feature a plain-toe design, but with an extra layer of leather. This leather is usually of a different colour, preferably one that contrasts the main colour.
This extra layer runs across the middle of the shoe from the sides to the eyelet tabs. It is classy and can be worn over a range of semi-formal or casual outfits.
Wingtip is generally used to refer to brogues; that will be discussed later in this article.
What is a Derby shoe?
A Derby shoe is one characterised by a system known as “open-lacing system”. In this system, the shoelace eyelet tabs are sewn over the vamp. These shoes generally came to light in the 19th century and have only gotten better ever since.
If oxford shoes were apes, then derby shoes would be monkeys; so similar yet quite different.
Derby is another style of formal shoes which in the United States derby shoes are called Bluchers.
They are generally seen to be more versatile than oxfords. As such, a derby can be worn with more informal or casual outfits like jeans, chinos etc.
The classifications used for oxford shoes is the same with derby shoes. That is to say, a derby shoe can be wholecut, plain-toe, cap-toe, saddle or wingtip.
Moreover, how formal a shoe is, is determined by the design and the amount of add-on on the shoe. The more the add-on, the less formal it is.
What is a Brogue shoe?
A brogue refers to any shoe that possesses unique decorative perforations made on the uppers of a dress shoe. This is known as ‘broguing’.
The word “Brogue” is a derived term for the Irish word that means shoe. Meanwhile, brogues are not so much of a major design in shoes as they are an add-on. Due to this, an oxford shoe can br brogue as well as a derby shoe.
5 types of brogue shoes
1. Wingtip/Full brogue
Full brogues are the most popular style of brogues. They are known to have an ‘M’ or ‘W’ shape at the toe area of the shoe, with the M or W stretching to around the middle of the shoe.
It also features the characteristic brogue perforations at the seams and toe area of the shoe. Full brogues are known to be classy and can be worn with any casual or semi-formal outfit. They are the least formal brogue shoes.
2. Longwing Brogues
The longwing brogues are the same with Wingtips. The only difference here is that the M or W extends to the back of the shoe and wrapped around it.
3. Half Brogues
Half brogues refer to cap-toe shoes; whether oxford or derby, that feature brogue perforations on their seams and toe cap centre.
4. Quarter Brogues
Quarter brogues are cap-toe shoes that feature brogue perforations only across the cap-toe seam. These are the most formal brogue shoes there are. They are best worn with semi-formal clothing.
5. Blind Brogues
Blind brogues are brogue shoes that contain decorative perforations similar to wingtips/full brogues. The difference here is, there are no seams. The toe cap isn’t sewn. Instead, the perforations are made to look similar to the cap-toe seams of a Wingtip.
What is the difference between Oxford, Derby, and Brogues shoes?
First of all, brogue is only a design attribute. So an oxford shoe and a derby shoe can bear this design (decorative perforations). That is why you can get a brogue oxford and brogue derby shoes.
But an oxford shoe is quite different from derby. While a Derby shoe has an open lacing system, an oxford has a closed lacing system.
Also, lace eyelet tab of an oxford shoe is sewn under the vamp while that of a derby is sewn on the top.
Oxford vs derby, which fits better?
Often times, oxford shoes come narrow and because the lacing tab doesn’t open widely, it wouldn’t properly fit those with big foot or high tarsal bone. In such case, derby fits better.
Aside from this, an oxford would hold onto the feet better than a derby. The comfort each offers is however determined by the size and cushioning features of the shoe.
Should I wear a derby or oxford shoe for wedding?
However, if you want something more formal, an oxford will do. But since wedding isn’t such a formal occasion, a derby would fit too.
What should I wear for businesses ; Derby or Oxford?
For a formal setting like business, a whole-cut, cap-toe, and plain toe oxford shoe is best. A Chelsea boot would also be a good option for such settings.
In summary, the difference between oxford and derby shoes lies in their lacing system. And each of these styles of dress shoe can be brogue.
While oxford is purely formal, derby and brogue shoes are less formal. So, choose any relative to its target wear.