Probably best known by the catch-all term ‘black lace-ups’, the Oxford is actually a low-heeled dress shoe, forged from multiple strips of leather, with eyelets for the laces punctured directly into the material.

This beautifully constructed formal shoe should be part of every man’s wardrobe; and yet, so many avoid this staple in favor of the more affable loafer.

Beneath, you’ll find a brief introduction to the shoe, plus more information on what makes it so essential for you to own a pair as part of your everyday attire.

Origins of the Oxford Shoe

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shoe originated from Oxford, England. A derivative of the Oxonian – a low-slung boot with slits in the side – the shoe became de rigueur at the world-renowned university, and thus a hot commodity among the well-to-do of the age.

Over the years, the Oxford has retained its dignified heritage regardless of the new range of materials, styles and colors it now routinely appears in. A pair of black Oxfords will hold their stoic form for just about any occasion, be it a black tie event or a job interview – just always remember to keep them clean & polished!

In terms of style, you want something slim-line with a cap-toe. Thick soles and squared edges look unbalanced and inelegant; go for classic looks with a modern, lightweight design where possible.

Getting the fit down

Like any shoe, the key to optimum comfort is a good fit. With the Oxford there are a few simple ways of determining an apt pair.

Firstly, make sure you receive solid support around the heel. Whilst tight leather will soon ‘give’, slackness around the heel will make the shoe slide and dislodge around the foot – blistering be warned!

Secondly, the length of the shoe should be around half an inch longer than your longest toe. Too many men recall their school days and leave some extra ‘growing room’ when its not required.

Finally, whether you’re choosing wingtips or quarter-brogues keep the level of decoration to a minimum for maximum impact. Too many decorative perforations leave the shoe looking overly ornate – let your personality do the talking, not your shoes.


Everyday Maintenance

If you want your lace-ups looking debonair for years to come, here’s a few basic tips you’d be wise to follow.

Start by keeping your Oxfords away from heavily soiled environments: walking through a marshland bog is best done in wellington boots.
Should you find your shoes sodden or muddy, ensure you leave them overnight to air dry and then gently sweep away the debris – artificially drying will crack the leather and, like red wine on a white suit, rubbing away wet mud will only make things worse.

Want to keep those heels looking sharp? Use a shoe horn; it’ll keep those Oxfords looking dapper around the back. Lastly, go easy on the waxes and polish; too much and it’ll ruin the natural look of your leather – a small amount will go a long, long way.

About The Author

Johnathan Bell is the founder, owner and main author of Guy Style Guide, a website dedicated to everyday male fashion, style and grooming. The primary mission? To guide clueless men through the tricky mindfield that is the growing world of male couture. Find him on , Twitter and Tumblr.

3 Responses

  1. Kyle

    Great post. Does the shoe run a bit narrow? I’ve had trouble getting my foot in similar shoes sometimes, even with a shoehorn.

    • Johnathan

      Hi Kyle,

      The shoe does tend to be on the narrow side due to its construction; however, like all great leather shoes, Oxfords will slowly ‘give’ over time, making them easier to accommodate wider feet.

      Great point & thanks for the comment.

  2. mike

    Hello Johnathan. Any chance you can tell me what is the brand/model of the brown oxford shown above? thanks