When it comes to formal wear, you could have the best suit in town. But fail to pair it with the right pair of dress shoes and you may as well consider it a fashion failure. Dress shoes are an incredibly important piece of formal outfits, so getting them right is paramount.
But while dress shoes encompass a range of styles – think Monk Strap, Derby or Loafer – the best-known and most popular style is undoubtedly the Oxford shoe, which hails from all the way back in the 17th century, during the rule of King Louis XIV of France.
With it being such an important footwear style that every man should own (at least one pair but ideally more) we thought it about time to provide a complete guide, including some of the best pairs currently available (and which don’t cost the earth).
But first, a little history lesson.
What Is An Oxford Shoe?
So, what’s the difference between an Oxford shoe and any other typical leather lace-up? The answer lies in the lacing system.
Oxford shoes utilise a closed lace system compared to the open lace system of a traditional Derby shoe. Put the two styles side-by-side and you’ll immediately notice the difference.
Additionally, the uppers of an Oxford shoe consist of quarters (rear leather section) and the vamp (separate mid-leather section) stitched over one another. When the laces are tied, the two leather quarters should form a narrow ‘V’ shape. And lace holes? Modern British Oxfords consist of 5 eyelet holes on each side whilst American Oxfords tend to have 6.
Identifying Quality Oxford Shoes
Now that you know the difference between standard leather dress shoes and Oxfords, it’s time to get into the best and most affordable ones on the market today. It’s not just all about the big-ticket names as the focus here is about the shape. We’re going for rounded toe Oxfords which exude contemporary tailoring prowess without that horrid pointy shoe trend that should have died with the elves. It’s an elegant shape which should last the test of time and save you money which leads us onto another good point: How to pick a quality pair of Oxfords.
The pros we’ve spoken to have noted these signs to look out for in the perfect leather shoe.
- Leather and suede flexibility – the softer the leather, the more comfortable it is on the feet. The downside to this is that it doesn’t last as long as thicker leather constructions which can also be cheaper to use
- Smell the inside of the shoe – if it smells like glue, you know it’s been made on the cheap with glue bonding as opposed to stitching
- Smell the leather – a good quality leather shoe needs to smell like good quality leather (i.e. non-synthetic smell)
- The soles of leather shoes are vital components – high-end luxury shoes often have “hidden channels” where you can’t see the stitching on the bottom of the shoe. It’s a more elegant look which can add to the final cost of the leather dress shoe – it’s worth noting that with everyday wear, you can expect your Oxford shoes to eventually become worn down, but rather than replace them, you can get them repaired.
- Leather grading is important – good quality leather should last longer and hold its shape more, especially in a deconstructed shoe like loafers
- When trying on leather shoes, try to feel the firmness of the inner sole. This will determine how comfortable the shoe is and its general quality
- Expensive shoes will use a better quality sole that’s designed to last up to three times longer than the average lifespan
And there you have it. Now go forth and grace those feet with our selection of the finest Oxford shoes available to buy right now.
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