The Difference Between Oxford And Derby Shoes
The big difference between the Oxford and the Derby has to do with whether or not the laces are opened or closed from the vamp (front) of the shoe.
- Broguing (perforated leather patterns) has no impact on whether a shoe is considered an Oxford or a Derby
- A toe cap (an additional piece of leather across the toe area) also has no impact on the parent style
In today’s marketplace, many designers like to mix old and new shoe styles along with different materials to create something fresh.
Oxford Shoe – Closed Lacing System
If you can’t run your finger from the top of the tongue to the front of the shoe without interruption, you’re not dealing with an Oxford. This is a sleeker, more formal shoe and is sometimes referred to as a “Balmoral.”
Traditionally, oxford shoes are best paired with a suit.
Derby Shoe – Open Lacing System
If there is a seamless piece of leather from the top of the tongue to the front of the shoe, you have a Derby shoe. This shoe is also known as a “Blucher.”
Originally, the Derby was used as a more casual hunting/sporting shoe for its ease of cleansing after muddy days out in the field. However, Derby shoes have become increasingly acceptable as casual dress shoes over time. This shoe looks great with a sports coat, or even less formal ensembles.
Style Options For Oxford & Derby Styles
Now that you are familiar with how to identify the style of shoe, the next question is how could / should you wear them.
The Formal Look (Suit)
Winner = Oxford
In our opinion, there is no better formal shoe than the Oxford, particularly in a darker tone of leather. While a Derby style may still look good with a formal ensemble, the Oxford wins out here.
The Casual Chino Look
Winner = Tied
When it comes to the ideal footwear for a casual pair of trousers such as chinos, both the Oxford and Derby style can work. In such a scenario, the tone of the leather will play a larger part in bringing your outfit together rather than the specific style of shoe.
The Casual Jeans Look
Winner = Derby
As with the Chino trouser scenario above, the tone of the shoe’s leather will be important when pairing with a nice pair of jeans. However, the slightly casual look of the Derby appears to meld better with jeans, whereas a pair of Oxfords may appear too formal for such outfits.
Although we have arbitrarily applied winners and losers for each category with respect to style, if we had to pick one over the other, the Oxford would come out on top. It is always better to have the option of being more formal rather than trying to dress a less formal shoe up (it doesn’t work quite as well that way around).
With that being said, every man should have several shoe options available to him, especially in the brown palette as there are so many shades. So when you’re shopping, take into consideration where you’re most likely going to be wearing the shoes and make the best decision for your particular needs.
[It is also important to note that the light brown color of the Derby shoe above makes it more informal and favorable for summer wear.]
Both shoes featured above are from Allen Edmonds, have a full leather welt, and are made in the USA. We recommend shopping these styles on Zappos as they often have sales through which you can save a significant amount compared to the full retail price.
For more men’s shoes guides, visit our other articles below: