The History of the Oxford Shoe

Every man should own a pair of Oxfords. Whether in black or brown leather for the office and formal occasions or suede for a more casual look, they are certainly a timeless wardrobe staple. Simply-designed, lace up shoes with flat heels, thin soles and lace-up fronts, they were worn in Europe from as early as the 1640s. Now that’s what we call a classic.

In the UK, they first became really popular in the late 1800s, before their appeal spread to America. By 1910, anyone who was anyone was wearing lace-up Oxford shoes, and the 1920s saw men beginning to wear two-toned Oxfords, for a sporty look.

True to its name, the shoe was originally worn by students at Oxford University, and as the style became increasingly popular, modern young people – both men and women – found Oxfords to be comfortable, smart and fashionable; three of the main reasons they are still a go-to shoe today.

Some claim that the Oxford shoe originated from Ireland and Scotland. Even today, cap-toe Oxfords are referred to as ‘Balmorals’, after Balmoral Castle. In the United States, ‘Balmoral’ is often synonymous with ‘Oxford’, whereas in the UK the Balmoral is an Oxford with no seams.

The shoe differs from the Derby in that the eyelet tabs are stitched on top of the shoe – a construction method known in the trade as ‘closed lacing’. This design is sleek, elegant and makes the Oxford shoe slightly more formal than the Derby.

The traditional Oxford is plain and can feature some detailing, such as toe caps stitched over the toe, embellished holes punched into the leather, and wingtips – a ‘W’-shaped toe cap running back from the toe to give the look of a bird spreading its wings.

These days, modern men choose Oxfords because their classic appeal goes with a range of different styles – from smart suits to casual jeans. When it comes to suits, a pair of brown Oxfords with a charcoal suit, crisp white shirt and navy tie is one of the most stylish combinations. However, if you are going for the casual look, show your shoes off with some slim-fitting jeans or chinos. You could even go for a burgundy coloured pair of chinos to really make a statement and complement your footwear.

Here at Steptronic, our Oxford shoes remain one of the most sought-after varieties. With timeless appeal and effortless style, they not only complete your outfit, but the love and attention that goes into how they are made means they are also the most comfortable pair of shoes you will own. Try a pair on for yourself and see the Steptronic difference - check out our lookbook