Anatomy of the Oxford

In the eyes of many men, the oxford is the quintessential dress shoe. Aside from a gradual transition from side slits to eyelets for laces, the oxford’s design hasn’t changed much over the course of the shoe’s 200 year history. The style’s appeal is so universal that it even dips its proverbial toes in the waters of women’s wear from time to time; you can catch Rhianna kicking around town in a pair of oxfords on a pretty regular basis. Like a plain white T-shirt or a pair of black wayfarers, the oxford should have a permanent home in every man’s wardrobe.

In spite of its popularity, there still seems to be some confusion as to what makes an oxford an oxford. In this entry, we’ll put this classic design on the dissection table and take a close-up look at its defining characteristics.

The Quarters

Quarters comprise the side and rear sections of a shoe that hug your heel. Think quarter panels on a car. The oxford was originally designed as a comfortable alternative to the stylish, high boots that dominated 17th century men’s fashion. Likewise, the quarters are cut low to allow for more range of motion in the ankle. While low-cut quarters are not exclusive to the oxford – many monk strap styles have similar quarters – they are a necessary feature of the oxford’s design.

The Lacing

What makes an oxford an oxford? The short answer is that it’s all in the laces. The oxford pioneered the closed-lace style, wherein the quarters, which hold the eyelets, are sewn beneath the vamp – the front panel of the shoe that covers the toes.

“Sorry, come again?”

Alright, a visual aid is in order.

Cagney Cap-Toe Oxfords

Check out this top view of our Cagney cap-toe oxfords. Here, the vamp is laid over the front surface of the quarters - hence the closed-lace design. Now compare this with our open laced Newman chukka boot where the quarters are sewn over the vamp. The closed-laced design affords the oxford a clean, streamlined look that has yet to fall out of style.

The Broguing?

Broguing, the decorative perforations that line the edges of a shoe’s panels, is a kind of take it or leave it item on oxfords. Our Cagney oxfords are brogue free, whereas the Brando showcases a “semi-brogue” design. Generally speaking, the oxford is such a good looking shoe on its own that it doesn’t need much in the way of frills. Tack on enough broguing, and your oxfords might get mistaken for an old-school pair of golf shoes. Probably not the look you’re going for.

The Oxford is a timeless classic, widely regarded as an absolute staple of men’s formal wear. We carry a number of variations on the style, all constructed with the same great quality you’ve come to expect from a pair of Paul Evans. Stop in today, and step into the oxford that’s right for you.