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What’s the difference: Oxford and Derby Shoes

The who, what, when and wear of two timeless styles of men’s footwear.

What’s an Oxford?

While its history is up for debate, we know for certain that the Oxford gained its name from the city’s university students with whom they were all the rage in the 1800s. Since then this traditional style shoe has become synonymous with business and evening wear and the perfect uniform wear to round off a suit.

The main difference between an Oxford and a Derby lies in the laces. The former features a “closed lacing” system in which the quarters, the side tabs where the shoelace eyelets are punctured, are sewn under the front part of the shoe known as the vamp. For those who are still not sure, what we are essentially referring to is the seam that runs directly below laces.

aldeburgh tan oxford shoe

The main characteristics of Oxford shoes include:
  • Closed lacing
  • Elongated toe (with or without cap toe)
  • Three-part panelled construction
  • Stitched leather sole

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How to wear them: to put it simply, with a suit. The elongated toe lends itself particularly well to a slim fitting silhouette while the mix of short cropped double-breasted blazer, trousers with turn-up cuffs, widespread collar shirt and woven silk tie adds a modern twist to traditional English tailoring.



What’s a Derby?

Better suited to gentleman who have a high instep, the Derby is commonly thought to be an evolution, at least in terms of comfort, of the Oxford. Setting aside which came first, we can all agree on is that the Derby has a more relaxed look giving the shoe added diversity both in terms of how they are worn - smart or casual - and how they are made, suede being as popular a choice as leather.

Unlike an Oxford, the Derby has “open lacing” meaning that quarters are stitched on top of the vamp - notice how there is no seam between the tongue and front of the shoe. Less-bound in both appearance and fit, the looser tightened laces allow for more freedom of movement.

saunders dark tan derby brogue

The main characteristics of Derby shoes include:
  • Open lacing
  • Elongated or round toe
  • Three-part panelled construction
  • Stitched leather sole

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How to wear them: though you would never expect to see a Derby shoe worn with evening dress, the outfit really depends on what material the shoes are made from. A pair in black leather works best with a suit while brown leather and suede adds relaxed formality to jeans, chinos or smart trousers especially when worn with a polo shirt.

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OOur shoes have been made in the same family-run factory in Italy for more than 20 years.

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Published November 2017