The history of the Oxford shoe from its origins to the present day
One of the most common questions we are asked is the origin and history of Oxford shoes. And it is normal, since it is our favourite model in Beatnik, both for men and women. And they have a beautiful story that we are going to try to synthesize as best as possible. Furthermore, we are going to explain to you the different types of Oxford that exist.
Like all good stories, there are different versions about the origin of this model.
One of them evokes directly the name and the geographical origin of these wonderful shoes, Oxford. But the Oxford of the beginning of the 19th century. At that time students wore high boots, up to the knee. Boots that around 1825 were trimmed to a medium sized boot called the Oxoniana. This boot did not yet have laces, but slots and had much more heel than the current one. It was only a matter of time before it was cut out more and gave rise to a shoe with laces instead of buttons. At that time the closure was lateral instead of in the central position we all know.
This whole process was gradual and the first time that the term “Oxford shoe” appears in writing is around 1846, when Joseph Sparkes Hall, who we have already talked about in this blog as the “inventor” of the Chelsea boot, wrote in The New Monthly Magazine that “The Oxford shoe… is the best shoe for walking. They are tied at the front because they have three or four holes. They are nothing more than what are now called Oxford shoes”.
The other version of the origin
The alternative story about the history of Oxford shoes is that they emerge somewhat later from Balmoral Castle. The inventor would be Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria who wore lace-up boots for hunting. And also for other quieter tasks, such as walking around the palace. It should be noted that “Balmoral” is another name for the Oxford, which is very widespread in the United States.
In any case, the truth is that the model was gradually imposed, as opposed to the buttoned boots that both men and women used to wear in the 19th century. Young people were the first to opt for this model, being fitted at first with a very light sole and using them more for the summer. It is worth mentioning that there were men who thought that laces were a little too feminine and took time to convince themselves of the comfort and ease of use of the new model.
The Oxford shoe changes century
The Oxford was an elegant model and also comfortable and versatile. So much so that from the beginning of the 20th century, in line with the change in the role of women in society and their new role, this model came to be used by many women who made it their own not as a formal model, but for everything that was free time and even sports use.
It was in the 1920s that the use of two-colour combinations became popular. The history of Oxford shoes continued, adding colour. Again at the beginning among young people and from there it became popular with the rest of society. And in fact they still remain a colour-loving model.
Later, it has not moved from being the elegant shoe model for the wardrobe of both boys and girls. Both male and female models have worn Oxfords on multiple occasions and regardless of fashion, have always been the most comfortable and elegant of the place.
Different types of Oxford shoes that we can find
Along with the question about the origin and history of Oxford shoes, there is another very common question. How many types of Oxford shoes there are. And what differences there are between them. To begin with, there is a very subtle prior distinction between models. The Oxford shoe is a shoe with laces. But depending on whether the laces are placed on the shovel itself (giving a more closed image) or are in two pieces facing each other and sewn to the shovel (leaving a more open bridge), we would talk about an Oxford or a Blucher (also called a Derby). The Oxford is perfect for medium and low bridges and the Blucher is special for wider and higher bridges. Both models are equally flawless.
There are also different types of Oxford shoes, especially in terms of their decoration. Many of you have asked us about the stitches or holes in the shoe, because they wear them. The motif is clearly ornamental. And the origin could not be more curious. The peasants of Scotland (some also speak of Ireland), given the amount of water their shoes took on when they walked in the meadows, began to make holes in them (brogues) to let the water out. The English gentlemen saw the detail and began to imitate this finish. They have survived to the present day, obviously as decorative elements.
Models without brogue decoration, i.e. without dots on the shoe
Seamless Oxford shoe. This type of shoe completely avoids any kind of decoration. Only the design of the piece, the cleanliness of the construction and the light of the leather used is all that a good model needs to shine. It is a very classic model. In our collection we have two models with the shovel without seams, in black and burgundy. This is our Blucher Beatnik Jack.
Oxford Cap Toe shoe. In this case we are talking about an Oxford whose only decoration would be the lines of stitching, including a longitudinal one on the toe, which is what gives the piece its name. The Oxford Cap Toe is, in terms of elegance, the favourite as a very formal shoe and also the most used as a ceremony. Our Beatnik Miller would be a perfect example of this model.
Oxford Brogue shoes (i.e. brogue or dotted)
The Classic Full Brogue or Wingtip Model. This model is decorated along all the seams. What gives this type of decoration its name is that seen from the front, it has a W-shaped pattern. Or seen in a more poetic way, you can see open wings from the tip to approximately half of the piece (hence the term Wingtip). In our collection we could talk about our Oxford Beatnik Holmes models.
The Oxford Spectator would be a variation of the Oxford Full Brogue, normally combining two colours. There are different possibilities to play with the colours, lighter or darker. Our Lena Black & White would be an example of Spectator.
Another variation of the Oxford Brogue Wingtip would be the model called LongWing. The decoration of this model makes the brogue wings reach the heel. To illustrate this model we could talk about our Beatnik Lucien. A classic among classics.
The Half or Quarter Brogue Oxford model would be a model with less dotted decoration. And that basically reduces to the toe, normally with a seam that embraces the whole shoe. As a variant of this shoe without a central seam, we would have our Oxford Beantik Kaufman.
Creativity has no limits and although there are more models, these would be the most representative. Despite the fact that we are talking about models that have advanced two centuries in history, their design and ergonomics have made them still a perfect model to dress the man and woman of the 21st century. And what remains of the history of Oxford shoes. Now, you can have a look to our Oxfords collection.
If you have more questions about the origins of these pieces or about their typologies, we are at your disposal.