Shoe Smarts

One of the most important parts of a man’s wardrobe is his footwear – indeed, since we spend so much of the day on our feet, and our posture is so important for our general health, our shoes may well be the most important part of our wardrobe.

Shoes are also important if we want to make an impression – we all know what trainers are, but what are the different types of smart shoe available?

Your questions will be answered here.


Oxfords are the smartest shoe a man can wear – fact. They owe their name to the popularity they gained at Oxford University in the 19th century, where students rebelled against wearing knee-high and ankle-length boots by wearing the low-cut Oxford. However, the shoe actually originates from the Celtic parts of the UK, Scotland and Ireland, as hinted at by the name Balmorals given to a type of seamless Oxford, distinguished by its M-shaped toe cap.

Oxfords are the most formal type of footwear you can own, and the standard, whether for black tie events, weddings or funerals. They should be worn with smart trousers – they do NOT go with jeans. Black and brown are the most common colours, their neutrality making them extremely versatile. Black shoes will match well with any colour of suit, provided you wear black socks. Brown shoes will go with pretty much any colour of sock, but cannot be worn with a black suit, unless you want to be detained by the fashion police. The contrast break in colour between the suit and the shoes will completely destroy the illusion of sophistication you’re trying to create.

As sober and restrained as the Oxford is, there are many variants which can be rung on the classic design. The plain toe is the simplest, arguably the most elegant, and the best for very formal events.

Cap toe Oxfords

The cap toe Oxford is the most common smart shoe in the UK, worn in offices everywhere, and named for its extra piece of leather stitched over the toe.

Wing tip Oxfords

Wing tip Oxfords are a smart but less formal alternative, which take advantage of broguing, the practice of perforating and pinking the leather for decorative effect. This was another technique imported from Scotland and Ireland, where the perforations could drain water that came with working in a damp climate.  Some mistake brogues for Oxfords; in fact, some brogues are just a type of Oxford, and wing tips are a type of brogue, with their pointed toe and distinctive extensions running along the midsole.

The Brogue

However, not all brogues are Oxfords – some are in fact Derbies. There is one crucial difference between the Oxford and the Derby, and that’s in their lacing systems. A Derby has an open lacing system, while the Oxford’s is closed, making it more streamlined and sleeker. Derbies originated  to accommodate – and are more suitable for – gentlemen with broader feet.

The Derby

OK – so that’s the lowdown on smart shoes. Now you have no excuse for not looking your best at formal occasions!