There are so many options when it comes to men’s shoes that it is rather surprising. The first “Kingsman” film had a secret code: “Oxfords, not brogues.” Naturally, this begs the question, “What’s the difference?” Throw in Derbies, monk straps, and loafers, not to mention sneakers and boots, and the world of men’s shoes explodes into almost limitless possibilities.
Let’s start with the Kingsman: “Oxfords, not Brogues.” An Oxford is a type of shoe, mostly identified by the section containing the eyelets for the shoelaces, which is attached underneath (or inside) the front section of the shoe or the entire shoe is simply cut from one piece of leather. Brogues, as used by the Kingsman, refers to shoes with perforations, typically at the toes and often around the entire front of the shoe. So the code word for good old Eggsy was really preferring smooth leather over what is essentially known as wingtips.
To confuse the matter a little more, then, we can say that brogues may be Oxfords, but Oxfords are not always brogues. That is, Oxfords may indeed be decorated with perforated leather, or broguing, and they may also just be smooth leather all around. When Oxfords are made with one piece of leather, known as whole-cut, it produces a more formal style that would unlikely be found with broguing. Perhaps a more appropriate code word for the Kingsman would have been, “Oxfords, not Derbies.”
Derbies have a bit less formal style to them, as the distinguishing feature in a Derby is that the piece of leather containing the eyelets for the laces is stitched or otherwise attached on top of the front section of the shoe. Derbies, too, may he brogued, of course.
Notice the section containing the laces, on the wingtips you can see the leather stitched on top of the shoe. Another distinguishing feature of the Oxford is closed-lacing, notice above how the laces close the shoe together and that does not happen in the Derbies.
The Imperials, by the way, have been with me for almost 20 years and they still look great! Shout to to Florsheim for the quality of these shoes. Oh! And for some reason Cole Haan has decided to call their shoes Derby Wingtip Oxfords…I’m not sure what that’s about, but the shoes do look great!
So, broguing is essentially a decoration for the shoe: the more broguing, the less formal the shoe; what makes the shoes different is the section of leather containing lace eyelets, again as Oxfords generally have it sewn or otherwise attached underneath the front section of the shoe, when they are not whole-cut, and Derbies have that piece sewn on the top or outside. And both styles may be brogued.
Finally, with so much mention of the shoelaces and the eyelets, it is important to note that there is a correct way to tie lace your Oxford and Derby shoes. Here is a great video from Gentleman’s Gazette on the proper way to lace your oxfords:
Here is how to lace your derby shoes:
So, Oxfords or Derbies?