Have you ever found yourself puzzled while shoe shopping, trying to choose between Oxfords and Brogues? You’re not alone. These two classic styles often leave even the most fashion-savvy among us scratching our heads.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the history and differences between these iconic shoes, helping you understand when and how to wear each.
Whether you’re gearing up for a job interview, a wedding, or a casual day out, understanding the difference can significantly elevate your style game.
Oxfords: An Introduction
Oxfords are a style of dress shoes with a specific way of lacing up. Unlike other shoes where the eyelets for the laces might be on top of the shoe, in Oxfords, they’re tucked under the front. This gives the shoe a clean, streamlined look. They’re usually made from quality materials like leather and are often worn for formal events or in professional settings.
Brogues: An Introduction
Brogues are shoes with decorative holes or patterns known as “broguing.” These designs make the shoe stand out and add some style.
Brogues can come in different forms, like Oxfords, Derbys, or even boots, but they all have these unique designs. They’re usually made from materials like leather or suede and are great for adding a creative touch to your outfit.
Oxfords vs Brogues: History
The Oxford shoe started at Oxford University in England in the 1800s. Students wanted a more comfortable and stylish option than the tall boots they were used to wearing. So, they came up with a low-cut shoe with a special way of lacing up—the eyelets are tucked under the front part of the shoe. This unique feature gives Oxfords a clean, formal look.
Over time, these shoes became famous worldwide as a classy choice for men. In the U.S., they’re sometimes called Balmorals, and in France, they go by Richelieu.
Brogues happen to share their origin with Oxfords. They have their roots in the rugged landscapes of Ireland and Scotland, originally designed as a functional solution for farmers traversing boggy terrains. They became a gentleman’s staple when the Duke of Windsor started wearing them casually in the 20th century. The shoe’s signature perforations were initially practical, allowing water to drain as wearers crossed wet fields.
Over time, these perforations evolved into intricate decorative patterns, transforming the brogue from a practical necessity into a fashion statement.
Varieties of Oxfords and Brogues
Here are some of the common types of Oxfords and Brogues.
A more restrained version of the Full Brogue, the Semi-Brogue features perforations only along the toe cap and the seam of the cap and upper. It offers a balanced blend of flair and formality, making it a versatile choice for various occasions.
The Wingtip Brogue family is the most elaborate of the Brogue family, featuring a pointed-toe cap with extensions resembling wings. These “wings” stretch along the sides of the shoe and are adorned with intricate perforations, making it a standout choice for those who appreciate detailed craftsmanship.
It features perforations solely along the edge of the toe cap, providing just a hint of decorative detail. This style is ideal for those who seek a touch of ornamentation without going overboard.
Unique in its design, the Longwing Brogue features wingtips extending from the toe to the heel of the shoe. The wings meet at the back, creating a continuous line of decorative perforations. This style is particularly popular in the United States and offers a distinctive aesthetic.
Originating from traditional Scottish attire, the Ghillie Brogue is unique for its absence of a tongue and its open lacing. This design allows for greater flexibility and was initially intended for ease of movement across uneven terrains.
The Plain-Toe Oxford epitomizes simplicity, featuring a clean, unadorned toe box. Its minimalist design makes it popular for formal occasions where elegance is key.
The Cap-Toe Oxford is perhaps the most classic of all Oxford styles. It features a horizontal line of stitching across the toe box, creating a “cap” that adds a touch of detail to the otherwise minimalist design.
The Kiltie Oxford features a fringed leather tongue, known as a “kiltie,” draping over the laces. This decorative element adds a vintage flair and is often favored for its unique, old-world charm.
The Saddle Oxford is characterized by a saddle-shaped piece of leather or suede sewn over the instep, creating a distinct two-tone effect.
Made from just one piece of leather, the Wholecut Oxford is a dress shoe with a smooth and seamless appearance. Without any extra stitching or details, the leather quality in these Oxford leather shoes really stands out.
Differences between the Oxfords And Brogues
Now that we know the origin and types of Oxfords and Brogues, let’s dive into their key differences.
Generally, traditional Oxford shoes lack perforations, adhering to a minimalist, sleek design emphasizing simplicity and elegance.
The defining feature of brogue shoes is the presence of decorative perforations, known as “broguing,” which can range from simple toe cap designs to elaborate patterns covering the entire shoe.
Oxfords are characterized by a closed lacing system, where the eyelet tabs are sewn under the shoe’s vamp. This creates a streamlined silhouette and is considered more formal.
While brogues can come in various lacing styles, including open lacing (as seen in Derby brogues), they are not defined by their lacing system. It’s the perforations that primarily distinguish them.
The absence of perforations and the closed lacing system make Oxford formal shoes, which are generally more suitable for formal occasions.
The decorative perforations add a casual element, making brogues more versatile but generally less formal than Oxfords.
The focus is on sleekness and simplicity, often achieved through high-quality materials and meticulous craftsmanship.
The emphasis is on intricate detailing, achieved through various patterns of perforations, which add artistry to the shoe.
Dressing and Occasion
The Oxford shoe is a popular dress shoe for formal events like black-tie affairs, important business meetings, or elegant parties. Its closed lacing system and smooth shape make it a formal shoe with a simple yet elegant look. It goes well with a well-fitted suit or tuxedo.
Conversely, brogues offer different versatility that leans towards casual and semi-formal settings. The decorative perforations that define brogues add visual interest, making them a perfect match for outfits that call for a touch of flair.
Whether paired with chinos and a blazer for a business-casual look or worn with jeans and a button-down for a weekend outing, brogues bring an element of artistry to the table.
The Intersection: Can an Oxford be A Brogue?
One of the most significant areas of overlap is the lacing system. While a closed lacing system traditionally defines Oxfords, modern brogues have adopted this feature as well, leading to styles that are essentially brogued Oxfords. This fusion creates a hybrid shoe that combines the formal lacing of an Oxford with the decorative flair of a brogue, making it suitable for a range of occasions, from formal to semi-formal.
Moreover, contemporary fashion has seen the emergence of Oxfords with subtle broguing, further blurring the lines between the two. These designs incorporate minimalist perforations, offering a nod to the brogue style while maintaining the formality and sleekness of an Oxford.
Oxfords are considered more professional, adding a “Vintage” touch to outfits. Still, brogues are also finding their place in workspaces and casual events in casual shoes, boots, canvas, and leather sneakers.
Are Oxfords More Formal Than Brogues?
Yes, Oxford shoes, with their clean leather upper and closed lacing system, are typically chosen for formal wear like black-tie events and official business meetings. Their smooth and unembellished style makes them more formal than Brogues.
On the other hand, Brogues, with their detailed leather designs, are lace-up shoes that fit well in business casual or smart-casual settings.
Can Oxfords Have Brogue Detailing?
Absolutely. An Oxford can feature brogue detailing, but this addition makes the shoe less formal. Such a shoe is often referred to as a “Brogue Oxford.” While it retains the closed lacing system characteristic of Oxfords, the brogue detailing adds a decorative element that makes it more versatile for less formal settings.
What Should I Consider When Choosing Between Oxfords and Brogues?
When choosing between Oxfords and Brogues, consider the occasion and the dress code. Oxfords are your go-to for formal events like weddings, galas, and important business meetings. Brogues are versatile and can be worn in business casual settings or even more relaxed social events. Your choice should align with the level of formality required by the occasion.
What Is the Significance of the Closed Lacing System in Oxford?
The closed lacing system in Oxfords contributes to a streamlined silhouette, thereby enhancing the shoe’s formality. This design feature involves the eyelets being sewn under the vamp, which allows for a snug fit and a more contoured appearance, making it the quintessential choice for formal events.
How Does the Number of Eyelets Affect the Formality of Oxfords?
British Oxfords typically feature five pairs of eyelets, while their American counterparts usually have six. Although a subtle difference, the number of eyelets can influence the shoe’s overall aesthetic and, by extension, its formality. Fewer eyelets often lend a cleaner, more formal appearance.
What Is the Role of Color in Determining the Formality of Oxfords and Brogues?
Color is indispensable in the formality spectrum of both Oxfords and Brogues. Black is universally considered the most formal hue, followed by dark brown and burgundy. Lighter shades like tan or gray are generally reserved for less formal or casual settings.
How are Oxfords and Brogues Different From Derby Shoes?
Oxfords are the go-to for formal events, known for their closed lacing system where the lace eyelets are sewn under the front part of the shoe. On the other hand, Derbys have a more relaxed vibe with open lacing, where the lace eyelets are sewn on top of the shoe’s front part. Brogues can be either an Oxford shoe or a Derby shoe, but they stand out for their decorative hole patterns. Each style has its unique charm, so your choice ultimately depends on the occasion and your taste.
In the world of men’s footwear, the debate of Oxfords vs. Brogues often leaves people scratching their heads.
Oxfords epitomize formal elegance, perfect for black-tie events and business meetings. Their closed-lacing system allows you to style Oxford shoes with a range of formal wear.
Brogues, conversely, offer intricate detailing and are more versatile, suitable for casual and semi-formal settings. Ultimately, the choice between the two boils down to the occasion and your personal style preference.