Oxfords, Not Brogues, Maybe Derbies: Which One Is For You?3 min read

You may have seen the movie Kingsman in which the phrase “Oxfords not Brogues” is used as code words for their secret service. This implies that oxfords are the classier shoe. And technically they are, but there’s much more to it than that. And what about derbies anyway?

Types of Dress Shoes Men's | GENTLEMAN WITHIN
In this article I talk about 3 types of men’s dress shoes, specifically the difference between the often confused oxfords, derbies and brogues.


You can watch the video below as it better illustrates the differences between the different men’s dress shoe types.

OXFORDS NOT BROGUES Maybe Derbies | Which Dress Shoe Type Is For You?


Beckett Simonon Dean Oxford Side Profile | GENTLEMAN WITHIN

Let’s start off with the oxford also known as balmoral (US). A wholecut oxford is the most formal of the three shoes. As decorative features are added such as a cap toe or brogue, then it’s going to dial down the formality of the shoe.

Oxfords are formal shoes distinguished by its closed lacing system. What this means is that the two sides of the leather upper that are drawn together by the laces are sewn under the front part of the shoes (vamp).

Black oxfords are pretty much the most formal pair of shoes a man can own, besides opera pumps.


The term “brogue” is derived from bro, the Gaelic word for shoe. Brogues are characterized by the unique punching or decorative perforations along the shoe’s leather uppers. Technically, both an oxford and a derby can be considered brogues if they have the distinctive “broguing” along the leather uppers.

There are also different variations of brogue shoes. A quarter brogue is typically minimal broguing along a shoe’s cap toe. A semi or half brogue has even more broguing. And then a full brogue has the most decoration, also known as a wingtip.

Something that you may not know about brogues is that they were originally added to leather shoes to serve as drains for muddy water. Pretty cool, right?

Personally, I love brogues. So much so that they comes in at number one on my list of shoe essentials for men.


Derby shoes are slightly less formal than their oxford counterpart. Although most people can’t tell the difference, nor do they care, but derbies are described as formal shoes with an open lacing system. This means that the leather uppers containing the shoelace eyelets are sewn on top of the shoe’s vamp and not under as with oxfords.

I’d say the derby is more versatile than the oxford because it’s more relaxed, yet still formal. And so, you can pair a derby with more casual outfits (especially suede derbies) as well as dressier ones.


If there’s one illustration I’d show someone looking to distinguish oxfords from derbies.


Difference Between Oxford And Derby Shoes | GENTLEMAN WITHIN


So which of these three types of dress shoes is for you? Well, that’s not the right question as all three can be right for you depending on the situation you find yourself in.

My number one element of timeless style is to dress for the occasion, and depending on where you’re going and with whom, that will help for you to determine whether an oxford, derby or brogue is most appropriate. Whatever the case, you always want to be wearing a clean pair of oxfords, derbies or brogues.

Harry Hart misspoke when illustrating the difference between oxfords and brogues to a young Eggsy. He said that Oxfords are formal shoes with open lacing which is clearly wrong. A formal shoe with an open lacing system is a derby.

In the end, just know that both oxfords and derbies can be brogues and vice versa.

Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.

Looking forward to seeing you in there.


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  1. Senshoeality says

    Out of all the styles one can pick out for men’s work wear I must say brogues and derbies have always been favorites. I love your selection of the most classiest and stylish brands in the market. I love how well written this article. Great job.

    • Khoi Nguyen says

      Love brogues and derbies, though I haven’t had reason to wear them at all lately. Thanks covid! Appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

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