Kicking off our men’s shoe guide is the mighty Oxford (or a Balmoral for our UK blokes), probably the best-known type of dress shoe. The Oxford is a sleek, formal lace-up shoe identified by it’s “closed” lacing style and the appeal that the shoe is made from one piece of leather. The closed style means that the eyelet flaps on top of the shoe are stitched over the vamp, or the front section of the shoe, restricting the flap’s movement. Oxfords are usually worn in more formal situations, but can also be worn casually with a business suit. You might hear someone call this shoe a “closed front”, but it’s okay, you know they mean Oxford.
Features: almond toe
Often confused with the Oxford, the Derby is a close shoe relative, but not the same type of men’s shoe. Rather than having a closed lacing system like the Oxford, the Derby sports an open lacing system with the flaps being sewn under the vamp and not connected at front of the shoe. This style of stitching makes the flaps capable of movement and when laced the shoe looks as if it’s broken up into segments (top, side, back, etc.) Originally a sporting shoe, the Derby was used in more relaxed environments like hunting. Although a Derby could be worn in formal settings, it is more casual than an Oxford and could arguably make for a more comfortable, functional fit.
In the U.S., Derby’s and Bluchers are often used interchangeably to describe the open front lace style, but they’re actually two slightly different types of men’s shoes. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll see that Derby’s have the two sides sewn under the vamp, whereas Bluchers connect the two sides onto the vamp. Very similar, but it isn’t quite tomato/tomato.