The Difference Between Oxford and Derby Shoes – Which One Is for You?

Oxford Shoe Outfits

What should I wear for work Oxford Shoes or Derby Shoes? 

How are Oxford Shoes different from Derby Shoes?

When it comes to men’s formal footwear the most common names that come to light are Oxford shoes and Derby shoes. But why are they named differently when they appear almost the same. The following article talks about the differences between Oxford and Derby shoes and when to wear which one of them.

Oxford vs Derby shoes is an all-time debate. While there are many differences between Oxford-style shoes and Derby-style shoes, the main difference relies on their lacing system. While Oxford shoes have a close lacing system, Derby shoes consist of an open lacing system. These lacings are closed or open from the vamp of the shoe.

What are Oxford Style Shoes?

Oxford style shoes

In popular belief there rely mainly two theories on how Oxford-style shoes came into being. The first theory says that it was popularized by the students of Oxford University in the year 1825 as ‘half boots’ called Oxonion shoes. They had narrow slots on the sides and were more comfortable than the then-popular formal footwear for men, ‘boots’.

Another theory says that they were originated in Balmorals Castle in Scotland in the 1600s. The side slits over time were changed to lacing which then made their way to insteps of the shoes and the heels were gradually lowered.

Some characteristic features of Oxford shoes make them what they are today. There is a closing lacing system in Men’s Oxford style shoes, the eyelets are stitched under the quarters. Both the quarter and tongue of the shoe are stitched to the underside of the vamp.

It has a lower heel compared to that of boots and an exposed heel. The sole of the shoe is of leather and is stitched to the bottom of the shoe.

Presently, the Oxford-style shoes depending upon their lacing and broguing are available in several types. The types include plain, cap toe, wingtip, saddle, whole cut, and seamless. Out of these cap-toes, Oxford shoes are most commonly paired with a formal outfit.

What are Derby Style Shoes?

Derby style shoes

Similar to Oxford style shoes, the exact origination story of Derby style shoes is also unclaimed. One theory claims that they were originated as gentlemen’s hunting shoes as they were sturdy and comfortable for treks in harsh conditions.

Another theory claims that they were originated in the search of more comfortable shoes for the Prussian troops, during the Napoleonic wars. The shoes had an open lacing system, a high ankle, and a tongue. They were more comfortable than the earlier heavy shoes.

The open lacing system, eyelets stitched to the top of quarters, quarters stitched above the vamp, rounded or elongated type of shoes toe, and a stitched leather sole collectively make a Derby shoe. They can be paired with formal as well as semi-casual outfits.

Oxford vs Derby- What is the Difference Between Oxford Shoes and Derby Shoes? 

Oxford vs Derby

Before getting into the details of Oxford vs Derby shoes first let’s look into the different parts of shoes we would be taking into consideration while making a comparison.

  • Vamp: The part of the shoes that cover toes and insteps is called the vamp.
  • Quarter: The part of the shoe that covers the ankle and meets the vamp at the middle of the shoe
  • Tongue: It is a leather strip that is attached to the vamp and is located under the laces. It protects the foot to rub against the laces.

Both the Oxford style and the Derby style shoes are slightly similar in appearance and hence, the debate of Oxford vs Derby is highly relevant. The key differences between Oxford shoes and Derby shoes are:

Lacing system

The most prominent difference between Oxford shoes and Derby shoes lies in their lacing system. The Oxford-style shoes have a close lacing system. In the closed lacing system, eyelet facings are stitched under the quarters. On the other hand Derby style, shoes have an open lacing system in which the eyelet facings are stitched on top of the quarters.


The quarters in Oxford shoes are stitched under the vamp while in Derby shoes both the quarters are stitched on the top of the vamp. The interior and exterior quarters meet the vamp on the side of the shoe and have a different stitching style in Oxford style and Derby style shoes.


The tongue part in the Oxford shoe is stitched separately under the vamp. The Derby shoe doesn’t have a separate tongue but the vamp only extends into the tongue. Hence, Derby style shoes have 3 pieces vamp extending to the tongue and two quarters while Oxford style shoes have 4 pieces a vamp, a tongue, and two quarters.


The instep in Oxford shoes is form-fitting because of the close lacing system while the Derby shoes with open lacing system have a roomy instep.


The toe part in Oxford-style shoes is always elongated while in Derby-style shoes it can be elongated as well as round.


Oxford shoes on one hand because of their stitching pattern have a sleeker and slimmer look while Derby shoes, on the other hand, have a broader look. 

Oxford vs Derby – When to Wear?

In the previous section, the differences between Oxford vs Derby shoes were discussed. Based on those differences the outfits with which the shoes can be paired are different.

Oxford shoes are considered more sophisticated and formal than Derby shoes because of their sleekness. Oxford shoes can be paired with formal outfits like suits and tuxedoes. They are the most desired shoes when it comes to traditional occasions like job interviews or formal events. They are perfectly consistent with formal pants and chinos.

On the other hand, Derby shoes increase their versatility with their wider appearance. Although Oxford shoes are more preferable on formal occasions, Derby shoes do not go wrong either. They can be paired with trousers and pants to attain a formal look.

When it comes to semi-casual or casual occasions Oxford shoes are not that desired compared to Derby shoes. Although Oxford shoes can be paired with jeans and trousers, Derby shoes go perfectly on these kinds of occasions.

The debate of Oxford vs Derby shoes has its main basis on the style of its lacing and stitching of different parts of the shoes. The Oxford shoes having a slimmer look goes better informal events while Derby shoes having a wider look goes better in semi-casual and casual

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