Tuesday, July 21, 2015

All About Oxfords: Men's Shoe Style Explained

Fashionable Reader, this is a reboot of a blog post from Aug 2008 (before Retro Rack existed) on the subject of Oxfords. I recently made the purchase of a new pair and it reminded me of my love for this shoe style. (Mine are Derby Spectator Wingtips in black and white. They are dance shoes that I had resoled and sprayed for outside wear.)

Oxford, 1894-1900, USA via shewhowirshipscarlin tumblr

I realized, because they use men's terminology, I was lacking knowledge on the subject of Oxfords versus Spectators versus Wingtips. So I did some research. It's relevant, given a certain fashion forward individual who first appears in Changeless.

Oxford is a specific cut of men's shoe with enclosed lacing.

Classic Men's Oxford and a Women's Oxford Pump in Grey by Aerosole

Sometimes called balmorals and originally quite plain, the later style "bluchers" or "derbys" had open lacing.

Women's Derby Peep Toe Stiletto in Red

In modern times men call all of the above Oxfords regardless of lacing, and they often have a piece of leather stitched over the toe section, making them "Oxford caps."

Wingtip is the American term for a Brogue style men's shoe with the classic W pattern over the cap toe.

Men's Oxford Wingtip and a Women's Derby Wingtip in Distressed Brown by Me Too

Thus you can have a Wingtip Oxford, although a plain Oxford is considered more formal, but you can also have a Wingtip loafer with no lacing at all.

Spectator is a term used for any shoe with two colors in blocks following the cut of the shoe, whether tonal or contrasting, for men or women.

Derby Wingtip Spectator Open-Toe Pump in tones of grey. Spectator Pump w/ Strap in tones of black
Wingtip Spectator Pump in Black & White, Oxford Wingtip Spectator Stiletto Platform in Tones of Brown, Derby Spectator Pump in Distressed Cream & White

Spectators appeared first on men's Oxfords in England in the late 1860s, but had their heyday in the 1930s. For women, they were probably most popular in the 1950s.

So Oxford is the cut, Wingtip is the style, and Spectator is the color pattern.

  Shoe Guide  via Gentleman’s Essentials tumblr

Gail's Collection:

 The brown and cream are just painted versions of the cream.

Folding flats, not really wing tips, more just cap toes.

These ones are actually on the chopping block. They aren't leather and are basically falling apart at this juncture.

 Again these red and black ones were painted, I can't actually remember the starting colors.

The red ones are painted versions of the black and white. The red paint started to crack badly so they are now gone and have been replaced with the new ones from Shoes of Prey.

 My new Shoes of Prey, I will blog a bit more about this shopping experience in a future blog post.

Quote of the Day:
"Remember that all 'slang' is vulgar. It has become of late unfortunately prevalent, and we have known even ladies pride themselves on the saucy chique with which they adopt certain Americanisms, and other cant phrases of the day. Such habits cannot be too severely reprehended. They lower the tone of society and the standard of thought."
~ Etiquette for Gentlemen

You might also enjoy...

Gundry and Sons, shoemakers via London Street Views (includes Queen Victoria's wedding shoes).


Retro Rack is also on Facebook, where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

You can also visit the following shopping lists: Travel Dork, My Steampunk, My Wardrobe.


  1. i always wondered about those terms.

  2. I recently made the purchase of a new pair and it reminded me of my love for this shoe style.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW0rO1PjNW0


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