What is an Oxford?

Ask Alex Guides & Information

Back in Victorian-era Britain, boots were the go-to item of footwear for formal wear, mostly because horses were still the preferred method of transportation and the last thing you wanted was dirty socks. Life was probably hard enough, right?

Then in the early 1800s, in typical schoolboy style, students at Oxford university lopped the tops off their boots to aid movement and breathability – what they were left with was a closed-laced shoe. What to call it? The Oxford. Obviously.

Cheaney Lime Classic Oxford in Black Calf Leather and Alfred Capped Oxford in Mocha

From then on, any item of footwear with closed lacing, i.e with the facings stitched flush with the rest of the shoe, has been known as an Oxford. It doesn’t matter if it’s a shoe, boot, has brogueing or not; if there’s closed lacing, it’s an Oxford and they quickly cemented themselves as a formal shoe suitable for business or evening wear.

You can see the progression yourself by having a look at our version of the Balmoral boot (as it was known), the Brixworth, next to any oxford toe cap shoe, such as Alfred or Brackley. This is also why Oxford toe cap shoes are also referred to as Balmoral oxfords.

Cheaney Brixworth Balmoral Boot in Burnished Mocha and Brackley Oxford in Burgundy

Because of this heritage, Oxford shoes or boots will always be more formal in style than their Derby counterparts. Balmoral boots can be worn easily with tailoring and will effortlessly dress up any casual outfit. Oxford shoes are your footwear essential for work, important meetings, formal events, weddings, funerals…and everything in between!

Browse our full collection of men’s Oxfords here and women’s oxfords here