The Oxford Shoes Story
The beginnings of the original Oxford shoes are a little hazy. Some claim the first “Oxford” shoes were worn in Scotland and Ireland. The cap toe Oxfords still called Balmorals after Balmoral Castle, however, a more familiar term used by Americans. The Balmoral is an entirely different shoe design to the English who use the term “Oxfords”.
It seems the Oxford style of shoe, popularised by the University students came from a half boot called the “Oxonian” around 1825. The Oxonian featured narrow slits on the sides which made it much more comfortable to wear around campus than the fashionable high boots of the time. The slits on the side of the shoes slowly became replaced with laces. The laces eventually made their way around the boot to the instep along with the lowering of the heel and height of the boot, giving us the more recognisable design of the shoes we see today, and the shoes the students preferred in the 1800s as opposed to the knee high and ankle boots of the time.
The main points of modern designed Oxford shoes are a closed lacing system with a low heel and exposed ankle. All Oxford shoes have these classic design points, with the exception of a Whole-cut or Seem-less design. Today, the Oxford shoes have evolved into many different styles with the cap toe and plain probably being the most common. The cap toe has an extra piece of leather added across the toe, hence “the toe cap”. The plain Oxford is exactly that, there are no toe cap or brogue detail, just the simple but classic shoes.
The wing-tip or brogue have the brogue detailing across the toe, the Saddle Oxford have a strip of leather that runs across the top of the middle of the shoes down to the sole in a contrasting colour. The Kiltie Oxford shoes have an additional fringed tongue covering the main lace up fastening. Whole-cut and Seem-less Oxford shoes are slightly different to the others. Whole-cut, made from one piece of leather with a seam along the heel, while the seamless doesn’t have a seam along the heel, meaning it is much more difficult to produce and uses a lot more leather also.