The most formal of men’s shoe choices, the Oxford is considered a design classic. It’s the shoe you reach for when you have a wedding to attend or a black-tie dinner to impress at. It’s also the go-to shoe for an English gentleman
and from Cary Grant to Kingsman, the Oxford has become shorthand for polished style.
The Oxford is distinctive for its ‘closed lacing’ - this means that the eyelet is stitched under the vamp – providing a clean and streamlined look. The Oxford does allow some room for design variation though, and from capped toes, to Wingtips, you can find an Oxford that works with your style personality.
This timeless shoe has been around in one form or another since the 18th century and despite its place in fashion history - its backstory is a little murky.
Read on and discover 5 facts about the Oxford that could transform your view on this men’s fashion icon.
1. They are linked to the famous university
Every design staple needs an origin story and the Oxford is no exception. Unfortunately, the beginnings of this shoe trend are a little hazy. One story says they were developed in the 18th century by Oxford students who found them easier to wear than the high-heeled boots that were in vogue previously. They are thought to have been an evolution of the popular Oxonian boot – a half boot with side slits rather than laces.
2. They have Scottish influences
Another Oxford tale argues that they were, in fact, developed in Scotland and gives them the name Balmorals - a term you will still see used, particularly in the US, today. The truth is they probably weren’t invented in a single place or at a single time. They instead represent a move away from the impractical and often ornate men’s shoes of the previous decades.
3. Colin Firth namechecks the Oxford in Kingsman
In the action film, Kingsman, Colin Firth’s dapper spy character, Harry Hart, teaches his young protégé Eggsy about the importance of great footwear. He tells Eggsy that ‘Oxfords not Brogues’ are ‘words to live by’. This drives home the iconic status of black leather Oxford shoes
as the only shoe to truly embody refined British styling.
4. There is only one acceptable way to lace them
Oxfords must always be straight-laced
so that the lace lies in neat horizontal rows across the shoe. This not only produces a crisp finish that sits well against the Oxford’s clean lines it also helps to distinguish the Oxford from its country cousin, the Derby. Don’t get sloppy on the quality of the laces either – thin, round, waxed cotton is the only choice. Find out more about how to get your laces perfectly aligned, here
5. Cary Grant wore them in An Affair to Remember
Cary Grant is one of the most stylish men to ever grace the screen and his impeccable tailoring looks as sharp now as it did 50 years ago. All these impressive suits needed perfectly poised shoes and he was often seen in immaculate Oxfords. In ‘An Affair to Remember’ he sports a pale grey suit with pale grey socks and shining mahogany brown leather Oxford shoes. It’s a lesson in classic style.
Inspired to invest in a pair of timeless men's leather Oxford shoes? Explore Cobb London
today and find this style staple alongside a carefully curated range of men’s heritage footwear.