Oxfords: A Sure Footing

Chronicled as the go-to foot accompaniment for a black-tie soirée, the Oxford’s pairing capabilities stretch to a whole range of outfits, within reason.
The royal tour to India in 1961: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, are pictured with Nehru (left) and Krishna Menon (right) at the beating the retreat ceremony. (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Name the most indispensable style of shoe. Tricky isn't it? There are many different and wonderful styles - each worthy and timeless in their own right, and each with their own time and place. However, if I was told to flee to a city and wasn’t privy to where I was going, and could only pick one model it would always be the Oxford. Elegant-yet-unassuming it is quite simply a stalwart shoe. Characterised by its closed vamping - that is, eyelet tabs attached underneath the vamp - it offers a sleek and elegant silhouette. It's a clean, classic shoe, offering a great canvas for leather to shine, with the construction adding soft touches of delineation. Tradition holds that its formality sits above that of a monk strap or a derby shoe, though the leather is a factor. A cinnamon suede pair, for instance, would still be comfortably worn with weekend separates where a high-shine monk strap would not.

As with many traditional items of dress there is no clear story of the Oxford’s origin and no shortage of apocryphal tales. What is clear is that it’s a descendant of the heeled boots worn in both the French and British courts during the 17th and 18th centuries. As early as 1830, there are reports of Oxford University students sporting a ‘half-boot’ variation on this style that lost much of the original’s height called the Oxonian Shoe. The Oxonian was prized for its comfort, and whilst there is no distinct record of when (or where), over time the closed vamp lacing system was added, the heel lowered and the boot height whittled down to its current form.

Contributor

Freddie Anderson

Published

January 2022

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