The best Oxford shoes for men

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‘Oxfords, not brogues’. As movie clangers go, it’s hardly on the scale of that Starbucks coffee cup in the last season of Game of Thrones. Nor that impatient stormtrooper who couldn’t wait for the door to open in the first Star Wars film. Still, for a flick that puts classical men’s tailoring front and centre, it’s fair to say that someone in the writers’ room of Kingsman: The Secret Service had a bit of a stinker.

In the Savile Row-centred sardonic spy-comedy, the line ‘Oxfords, not brogues’ is tendered as a style rule by Colin Firth’s debonair Harry Hart to Taron Egerton’s tracksuit-loving ‘Eggsy’. Subtext reading: ‘real gentlemen wear Oxfords, not brogues’. The thing is, one’s a type of shoe. The other a decorative pattern. It’s not a binary choice. The line should have been, ‘Oxfords, not Derbys.’ What’s the difference? It’s all in the laces.

Oxford shoes are defined by a closed lacing system, where the eyelet tabs are attached under the shoe’s vamp (the bit that covers the toes and top of the foot). Derbies, on the other hand (foot?), feature eyelet tabs that are sewn on top of the vamp. Essentially, it all comes down to stitching.

oxfords vs derby shoes

The Connaught II Oxford shoe by Crockett & Jones (above) vs. the company’s Norwich Darby shoe (below). Note the way the eyelet tabs are stitched to the vamps.

While you’ll never going to look out of place pairing Derbies with a suit, for their cleaner, sleeker look, Oxfords are considered the smarter, more formal option. Cap-toe, plain-toe, whole-cut and wingtip are the most popular options. ‘Brogued’, meanwhile, simply refers to the process of perforating shoes with small decorates hotels. Both Oxfords and Derbies can be brogues. You’d have thought that Firth would have known that.

Now we’ve cleared that up, allow us to present this season’s best Oxford shoes (including some brogues)…  

Russell & Bromley Cumulus Oxford shoes

The most formal of formal men’s shoes, the patent-leather Oxford is the ultimate Oxford. This version, from British shoemaker Russell & Bromley, features a classic toe-cap and a full-leather flexible sole. Your black-tie go-to for every wedding, awards evening and dinner and dance for the next two decades (maybe more).


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Crockett & Jones James Oxford shoes

The clumsily shoehorned bottles of Heineken and screen-wide Omega Seamaster cameos of recent James Bond films may have been the product of paid-for partnerships. The shoes on Bond’s feet, however, were chosen specifically by Daniel Craig. A long-time Crockett & Jones customer, upon becoming 007 Craig apparently insisted on wearing only shoes from the Northampton-based cobbler. See these form-meets-function Oxfords as to why.


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Cheaney Tarbert EF Oxford brogues

Today, brogue detailing is purely a decorative touch. At one point, however, the small holes punched in the uppers of shoes served a purpose – allowing water to drain out of sodden country boots. Like all good-quality shoes, Cheaney’s are Goodyear-welted and feature a sturdy, stacked leather sole.


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Crockett & Jones Fairford Oxford shoes

A classic, full-brogue Oxford from the leading name in classic English shoemaking. Full brogues, rather than semi-brogues, or quarter-brogues, feature W-shaped ‘wings’ that run along the side of the shoe, ending near the ball of the foot. This pair also features punch medallion detailing on the toe.


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Church’s Consul 173 Oxford shoes

According to Church’s, the Northampton-based shoemaker sells more of its Consul Oxford shoe than any other of its designs. Manufactured continuously since 1945, the Consul has become something of an icon in the world of luxury shoes and is named after the English ambassadors and politicians that first took a liking to it during the ’40s.


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Oliver Sweeney Aldeburgh Tobacco Oxford Brogues

Who said Oxfords had to be made out of leather? Oliver Sweeney’s brogued Aldeburgh Oxfords are manufactured from tobacco calf suede, with a full leather lining and Goodyear-welted sole. A slightly elongated toe adds a contemporary edge.


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Christian Louboutin Greggy Chick Oxford shoes

Some shoes are made for walking. Others for dancing. This pair of Christian Louboutins is made for dancing. Cut from velvet with a look-at-me patent-leather toe-cap, the Greggy Chick sports a subtle heel and an attention-grabbing V-shaped notch at the ankle. Dress shoes for when the dancefloor calls.


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Brunello Cucinelli patent Oxford shoes

The high priest of socio-friendly high fashion brings us this pair of refined patent-leather Oxfords, manufactured in the Italian brand’s idyllic hamlet of Solomeo, Tuscany. These polished dress shoes feature a rounded toe and slightly oversized sole. Classic and contemporary all at once.


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